Leveraging the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S Consulate General in Toronto hosted “Wheelchair Tango” of the American DanceWheels Foundation as part of the cultural programming in PANAMANIA which took place during the Pan Am Games in July 2015. From July 21-22, Wheelchair Tango was featured as a part of the free PANAMANIA program series at Nathan Phillips Square and the group performed at the Pan Am Games closing ceremony on July 26, 2015. To welcome the dancers to Toronto, the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto held a cocktail reception honoring American DanceWheels Foundation (ADF) in PANAMANIA’s “Wheelchair Tango” at Cambria Gallery on July 20, 2015. U.S. Consul General Jim Dickmeyer, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David Charles Onley, and CEO of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee Saäd Rafi attended the reception and welcomed the dancers.
During the reception, American DanceWheels Foundation dancers shared their personal stories. Dancer Derrick Williamson discovered American DanceWheels when he participated in a study at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, California. During the six-week study, Williamson made lasting connections with fellow disabled dancers and able bodied dancers alike. Following the study, Derrick looked for ways to become more involved with the organization and to continue the amazing work they do. Derrick soon became a certified teacher, and started teaching other disabled people to dance. “You do not actually need an excuse to dance,” said Derrick during the reception. “There is no judgment in dance. You just watch and enjoy it”.
During her remarks, Artistic Director of ADF Aubree Marchione stated that Wheelchair Tango does more than improves the dancers’ strength and mobility skills. As dancer Ania Flatau noted, it builds harmony between able-bodied and disabled, promoting equality. The commitment and passion that Wheelchair Tango generates has encouraged some dancers to go around their way to train even over Skype.
More photos from Wheelchair Tango’s performances in Toronto are available on Flickr.