Full Radius Dance redefines the art form

The physically integrated modern dance company celebrates its 25th year

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This month, the Atlanta-based, physically integrated modern dance company Full Radius Dance celebrates its 25th anniversary. The troupe incorporates both able-bodied and differently abled people, who all work together to expand the definition of what it means to be a performing dancer. “Twenty-five years is just the beginning,” says Full Radius Dance Artistic Director Douglas Scott. “Full Radius Dance is redefining dance and will continue to be modern dance pioneers.” The company's upcoming performance, Silver, will take place on March 10-11 at 7 Stages Theatre.

Scott talked with CL about how the dance company has evolved over the decades, its legacy, and what he wants people to take away from the performance.

How has Full Radius evolved since its creation?

The most notable evolution was a transformation from a company of professional dancers without disabilities to a physically integrated (dancers with and without disabilities) professional company.

The company, originally known as Dance Force, began in 1991. In 1993, I began teaching classes for dancers with physical disabilities. I was immediately intrigued by these bodies that weren't traditional to dance. Did that negate their artistry? No, not at all. In 1995, I began actively exploring physically integrated choreography. In 1998, Dance Force was rebranded as Full Radius Dance.

The creative vision has solidified throughout the years. Full Radius Dance is committed to presenting works grounded in our pioneering technique, innovative partnering, and in a philosophy that no dancer is highlighted simply because they are disabled or non-disabled. We portray each dancer as an equal to each other.

What was the brainstorming process to celebrate this legacy?

It was difficult for me to accept the idea of having a legacy, to have created dance works worthy of reviving. An artist can't live in the past. It's always about the next dance, the next exploration of the newest idea. I came to understand that the past works are the steps in the journey to the new work. I took a look back over the years, and well over 50 dances, and chose works that were relevant to the evolution of the company in regard to emotional and physical content — works that could be interpreted by the current company members without sacrificing the original intent.

What are the most common misconceptions about choreographing for those with disabilities?

Dance is the most ableist of the arts. I posit that the widespread opinion is that one must have the perfect body to be a professional dancer. For instance, what springs to mind when I mention 'ballet body'? I'll wager that you envision someone who is slim, with a long neck, long torso, long legs, long arms and high insteps.

Many people feel that bodies that don't fit this image can't be professional dancers. Therefore, the work of Full Radius Dance must be therapeutic rather than artistic. The use of dance must have curative values rather than art being valuable as art without a moral or utilitarian function.

In Full Radius Dance, we toss this preconceived idea in a vital, exciting way with each performance. We pursue art for art's sake. Our work has value and meaning beyond the integration of dancers with and without disabilities.

What do you want attendees to take away from this performance?

We hope audiences have an emotional investment in the dance works we present and that they form a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationships with others.

Silver. $20-$25. Times vary. Fri., Mar. 10 - Sat., Mar. 11. 7 Stages Theatre, 1105 Euclid Ave. N.E., 404-523-7647, fullradiusdance.org.

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