The disabled dancers in their electric wheelchairs glide across the stage with dynamic precision. The non-disabled dancers crawl offstage on all fours with rugged determination. And both groups alternate in a dogged display of athleticism and counterbalance that will many times blur the line between “disabled” and “abled” performer. Indeed, for nearly two decades AXIS Dance Company has been challenging notions of dance with their physically integrated pieces created through—and performed by—the collaboration of dancers with and without disabilities. In their Chicago debut this weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Art, AXIS performs pieces ranging in tone from fast-paced and furious to haunting and introspective, and featuring the music and choreography of internationally renowned dance-artists Meredith Monk and Bill T. Jones, respectively. But don’t expect dance “about disability.” Rather, anticipate an innovative dance repertoire that discovers the unexpected power of dancing with disabilities—the emotional intensity of the ground-level gamboling of a body propelled by its arms and not its legs or the kinetic grace and speed of an otherwise lumbering wheelchair—and incorporates it into mainstream choreography that is universally affecting in both its storytelling and abstractions. A post-show discussion with the artists follows Friday’s performance. (F.O. Almeida)
AXIS Dance Company performs at MCA Theatre, 220 East Chicago, (312)397-4010, through April 24.