Gurney Elementary students enjoyed a performance by Dancing Wheels, a physically integrated dance company, on April 19.

Students at Gurney Elementary enjoyed a performance along with a pertinent lesson during an assembly on April 19 by Dancing Wheels, a physically integrated dance company that incorporates dancers with and without wheelchairs. 

The performers taught students that there are physical disabilities that can be seen and sensory and intellectual disabilities that cannot be seen.

“These all might limit someone from being able to partake in activities with their families, in their community, and school,” dancer DeMarco Sleeper said. He added that 90 percent of disabilities are invisible. “Although you may not see them, some people, family members, and friends have limitations. But no worries, because there are always people creating new adaptations and forms of accessibility for people with disabilities.”

Students learned about accessibility, and how different forms of accessibility – like ramps, push buttons, and wide doorways – can help accomplish tasks. 

The assembly is part of a larger theme of “courage” in the Chagrin Falls school system. 

The theme emphasizes for students coming back to school after the pandemic that they should be brave and embrace new things. 

Each month has a different theme. April’s is “the courage to take a risk and persist.”

“Right now, our world needs that message,” teacher Courtney Mooney said. “We’re all different, and that’s OK.”

Another theme she said Gurney students will learn in the coming weeks is that what makes them unique is what makes them special, Ms. Mooney said. 

“These dancers exemplify courage and are beautiful performers,” Principal Rachel Jones said. “It was especially fun when they taught students some of their dance moves.”

Dr. Jones added that as the area has seen an improvement in COVID-19, the school’s time has been freed up to do assemblies. This was the first assembly at Gurney in two years. 

She said that Dancing Wheels’ performance tied in perfectly with the theme of courage.

“We did talk a lot this semester about the courage to persist, face challenges, and take risks,” Dr. Jones said. “It’s a beautiful connection.”

Dancing Wheels Company was founded in Cleveland in 1980 by Mary Verdi-Fletcher, the first professional wheelchair dancer in the U.S. She was born with spina bifida and wanted to offer others with disabilities equal access into the world of dance.

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