And They Danced!
Here's what we did in 2015. Stay tuned for more information on 2016.
Walk and Roll Dance Team Presents!
Friday, March 6: 2:00 – 2:30 pm
What do you get when you take seven talented young dancers whose zest for life outpaces any challenges that come their way, including the life-altering events that put them on wheels?
You get the Walk and Roll Dance Team . And you can see them in hip-hopping, blood-pumping action at Abilities Expo!
In the tradition of wheelchair dancing troupes like Colours~n~Motion and AXIS Dance Company, the Walk and Roll Dance Team (Formerly Known as Team Hotwheelz) is revolutionizing the world of dance and dispelling antiquated notions of what it is to be a dancer. Their success and rising fame echo the sentiments of wheelchair dancer and Abilities Expo veteran Auti Angel when she says, "Dance is a state of mind and an attitude, not just a physical motion."
Led by Chelsie Hill, co-founder of the Walk and Roll Dance Team and featured character on the Sundance channel's hit docu-series Push Girls, the dancers were initially drawn to each other by their injuries, but continue to flourish and inspire because of their indomitable spirits and love of dance.
Hill's fellow dancers hail from coast to coast and include Maria Gast, Katie Estrella, Kaitlyn Staten, Kimberly Torreliza, Edna Serrano and Ali Stroker. You may know Stroker from Oxygen's The Glee Project where she was a finalist in the summer of 2012.
"These are all girls I've met the last two years since being injured," said Hill. "These girls have gone through some pretty traumatic things like their injuries, but they have all switched it around to being completely positive. We all love to dance, so we decided to start a team with all seven of us. It's pretty cool."
The Walk and Roll Dance Team is presented by the Walk and Roll Foundation, which Hill founded with her father after she was paralyzed in an alcohol-related automobile accident. The mission of the foundation is to "help spinal cord injury survivors recreate their dreams, develop their talents and abilities, and live a full life within their reach."
Don't miss your chance to not only watch the Walk and Roll Dance Team tear up the dance floor, but also learn a couple hot, hip-hop moves yourself! The Team looking forward to meeting you at Abilities Expo!
AUTI ANGEL's "FreeStyle Dance Workshop"
Saturday, March 7: 2:00 – 2:30 pm
Presented by Auti Angel, Abilities Expo "Dancebassador"
As the Abilities Expo's "Dancebassador," Auti Angel is committed to keep Wheelchair Dancing as the popular activity it has become, while turning it into the sport it deserves to be. Auti Angel is the pioneer of Wheelchair Hip-Hop Dancing and has inspired others to unite in this movement. She is the founder of Colours~N~Motion Dance Crew with partner Mia Schaikewitz and former dance crew members Chelsie Hill, Katie Estrella, Kaitlyn Staten and Ali Stroker who have since ventured on to form the amazing Walk and Roll Dance Team.
Auti states, "I am so honored to have been given a gift that I can share with others. When I first got injured in 1992, there wasn't anyone I could look to in helping me get back to what I loved doing; and that was DANCE! But once a dancer, always a dancer...so I taught myself how to make my wheelchair work for me as a part of my expression. I then decided to teach others how to do the same while coaching them to express their own inner greatness!"
Auti will start by sharing a dance demonstration with attendees, but then it's YOUR turn to play with some moves as she leads you in her all inclusive FreeStyle Dance Workshop, featuring music spun by DJ STRETCH BOOGIE.
Attendees of all ages and mobility levels are welcome to learn fun dance moves they can take away to use wherever their hearts desire. Auti teaches everyone that dancing crosses the boundaries of age, gender, and physical ability; and includes individuals using both manual and power wheelchairs.
You don't want to miss this unique demonstration and a chance to dance your heart out! Who knows, you might even get the opportunity to be a Backup Dancer during a surprise performance by Auti with her new hit song "PARTY OF THE YEAR!" due to be released on her debut album this summer.
Learn more at AUTIANGEL.COM.
Wheelchair Social Dancing
Sunday, March 8: 12:00 – 1:00 pm
Learn wheelchair dancing from the first organization to offer classes in Southern California!
First, sit back and enjoy two great dance routines including A Group tango Dance, a smooth Foxtrot and a fiery Salsa. Then it's your turn to learn some steps! Join our newest dance member G-lo (4yrs old) and Kiki (6yrs old) as they lead our all-inclusive hip-hop routine. Attendees of all ages and mobility levels are welcome to join us to learn some steps and put together a Flash Mob performance! Able-bodied individuals are welcomed! Wheelchair Dancing crosses the boundaries of age, gender, and physical ability and includes individuals using manual or power chairs with varying levels of ability.
Learn more at www.wheelchairdancers.org.
"I Won't Give Up" a Dance Performance and Workshop
Sunday, March 8: 2:00 – 2:30 pm
Presented by Dancers Donna Russo, Tara Nicole Hughes, and Kelleia Sheerin, Concept and Choreography by Tam Warner
Donna Russo was a professional dancer for 20 years. Still is, despite her FSH Muscular Dystrophy. Her I Won't Give Up video has lit up YouTube in the last year and her subsequent Abilities Expo performances were a hit. The dance number is inspiring and, as anyone who saw it at the Los Angeles show can attest, incredibly moving. (Read: It was tough to find a dry eye in the audience.) Choreographed by Tam Warner, I Won't Give Up also featured the talented Tara Hughes and Kelleia Sheerin, who acted as Donna's alter egos, performing the graceful dance moves to the full range of motion that Donna can no longer achieve.
The Video, from Donna's Angle
Our video grew from a seed planted in a Dance Workshop series. The "Soul Dance Workshop" consisted of a small group of seasoned dancers under the leadership and mentorship of Dancer/Choreographer Tam Warner.
As participants we wrote and moved based on life and dance experiences with each week bringing a new topic assignment. These topics would be explored through writing and dance and allowed us to discover who we had become. The group talked about loss, loss of loved ones and loss of ourselves as young dancers. We delved into how we felt about performing to an audience and asked ourselves how we can bring some of that passion back into our lives.
The workshop ended but what we discussed in our sessions stuck in my mind like a relentless song that plays over and over. The song would not stop!
Tam had come up with the concept of using other dancers to help me with movement. At the time of the workshop, I had more movement ability but had trouble raising my arms. My legs had mobility but were easily fatigued!
This idea of angel dancers coming to help me stuck in my mind. I wanted to do this movement with other dancers. Tam, with the concept and skilled choreography, was the woman I needed to complete this project.
Neither of us knew the challenges we were to face. Tam began to have serious health issues, which resulted in a quintuple bypass open-heart surgery. After a tough recovery she was diagnosed with a vascular disease, which was shutting down her system. For this she underwent angioplasty, surgically implanted stents and more to save her eyesight and left arm. After many hospitalizations, she is living each day as a gift and we are lucky she is with us.
Through the challenges, we managed to create this video and share it with others. Our hope is to speak, dance and share our passion despite challenges as we adapt to life and its surprises.
All About the Players
Tara Nicole Hughes
Classically-trained, Broadway-honed and the premier protégé of the legendary Rob Marshall, Tara Nicole Hughes has emerged as Hollywood's go-to choreographer and movement coach for film, TV and commercials. Hughes has worked on every major musical film over the last decade including Chicago, Rent, The Terminal, Nine, Rock of Ages and Burlesque. Her latest is as choreographer for the Al Pacino film Imagined.
As warm, patient and inspiring as she is talented, Hughes has a particular gift for creating a safe and energizing work environment for actors who may be intimidated by movement. As a result she's worked with some of the most brilliant of our time including Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Tobey Maguire, Catherine Zeta Jones and Kate Hudson as well as with major music stars including Cher, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Fergie and Idina Menzel. She recently worked with Faith Hill on a series of NBC Sunday Night Football promo commercials.
Her television credits include choreographing for Trophy Wife, Raising Hope and The Middle. As a dancer, she's performed on everything from The Academy Awards and Glee to Grey's Anatomy, The Neighbors and Ally McBeal among others. Learn more at www.taranicolehughes.com.
Donna Russo has danced since the age of 10. She started out with tap and ballet, and then got into modern and jazz dance. She was diagnosed with Turner syndrome at a young age which affected her growth. She graduated Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania with a BA in Dance, and always wanted to be a ballet dancer, but was too short according to ballet companies she auditioned for.
Due to her stature, she frequently received specialty roles, playing elves, aliens, dolls, monsters and munchkins. She was cast as Alvin in Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Magic Camera, and had roles in Austin Powers: Gold Member, Passions and Power Rangers.
It was not until seven years ago that she became aware of her FSH Muscular Dystrophy. It's a serious condition that has affected her ability to move, but Donna keeps a very positive outlook on life:
"I am lucky that I had been able to dance for a long time. I think dancing helped keep my muscles active and strong for a while. I'm so lucky to have performed and felt the connection of dancing to an audience for a long time!"
Kelleia is a wild-west born American actor/dancer/director/choreographer. Equal parts performer and creator, Kelleia is a rare talent who has carved out a career telling bewitching, quick-silvered stories of people on the verge of the either a break down or a break through. From dancing as an absurd Scottish Tart in Eric Idle's live radio-play "What About Dick?" to portraying the sizzling hot Tempest Storm—brilliant Burlesque Star of her time—alongside Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin in last years' Gangster Squad, from originating a role on Broadway in Urban Cowboy to choreographing and assisting on myriad shows, plays & musicals, Kelleia has built her reputation on an inherent understanding of the work, a respect for the unpredictable, the 10,000 hours of a professional, and the ability to solve anything. Learn more at www.kelleia.com.
Tam Warner has been directing and choreographing productions since 1984. Her vast array of talent ranges from live theater production, to film and video, theme parks, business theater, special events and concerts. Tam is a much sought-after Director/Choreographer and Disney submitted her work for an Emmy nomination when she choreographed the world premier of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Her work has been seen at Radio City Music Hall in New York, at the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, the Shrine Auditorium, the Universal Amphitheater, El Capitan Theater and as far away as China and Japan. She has worked with such diverse stars as Billy Crystal, James Earl Jones, Elton John, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Faith Hill, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sebella, and even a headless corpse in Evil Dead Part II.
Tam's theater background includes the musicals Damn Yankees, Carousel, April Ann, Once Upon A Mattress, Finian's Rainbow, USA and an acclaimed production of Lil Abner among others. She has also worked in children's theater directing productions of The Three Little Pigs, Winnie the Pooh with Peter Dennis, The Monkey King for the Children's Theater of Taiwan as well as touring productions of Disney's children's shows including Cinderella, Snow White and Lady and the Tramp. UCLA tapped her to teach both theater dance and audition workshops as has Disney and many local LA studios.
As a director, Tam is well prepared to oversee all areas of production. Her extensive dance and choreographic background gives her the ability to stage seamlessly and with focus. She has expert knowledge in routining music and has worked with many of the best. This list includes Bill Conti, Elliot Lawrence, Tom Bahler, Don Harper, Gordon Goodwin and Andrew Lippa. She also has worked with other sought-after artists in their fields like lighting designers Ken Billington, John Osbourne, Brian Gale and Jason Kantrowitz; set designers David Mitchell, Rick Goodwin, Clare Graham and Ken Foy; costume designers William Ivey Long, Pete Menefee, Allyah and Glynn Kelly among others. Tam also has background in stage magic having worked with David Copperfield for many years.
Business Theater is another area of expertise for Tam. The client can rest assured that their attendees will receive the company message in an entertaining, creative and enthusiastic way. Some of the top companies she has worked for are Sony, Chevron, Pepsi, Burger King, Mattel, Infiniti, Best Western, Arco, Compaq, Sun Microsystems and Anheuser Busch. Many of these productions include fully scripted book shows, which involve a wide array of talent from actors to singers, dancers to aerialists, martial artists, stuntmen, celebrities and more.
Tam directed the opening and closing ceremonies for the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2001. This was declared the most exciting, well-organized and beautiful ceremonies ever by the Shriver family and the Olympic organizing committee.
She has staged and directed the opening ceremonies for Women's World Cup in Washington D.C. She followed that with shows for the Disney Channel, John Deere, adidas, RSA, CSC, Sony, Disney Shareholders, Longaberger and the annual Volkswagen meeting.
More recently Tam directed The Legend Of Mythica for Tokyo Disney Seas which has been honored with a THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Currently Tam is preparing to direct the opening segment for the annual RSA meeting in San Francisco. To see her reels, visit http://vimeo.com/user1507644.
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