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CLEVELAND– For nearly four decades, a Cleveland institution has been celebrating the spirit of dance and not letting adversity get in its way.

The Dancing Wheels Company, one of the most premiere arts and disabilities organizations in the nation, unites the talents of dancers with and without disabilities.

Its founder, Mary Verdi-Fletcher, is the first professional wheelchair dancer in the United States. Born with spina bifida, her mother was a dancer and father a musician.

“And I had a great love of music and dance, and so I started to experiment with non-disabled partners and saw that there really was a brilliant way of bringing together the standing and sitting dancer in a unique art form,” Verdi-Fletcher said.

Mary’s physically integrated dance company is now in its 39th year and auditions dancers from around the world.

Sara Lawrence-Sucato has been with the company for 14-years.

“From lecture performances to main stage performances to even guest appearances, audiences are always mind-blown from seeing what we can do,” Lawrence-Sucato said.

The company does 50 to 70 performances every year, not only here in the United States, but worldwide. They’re rehearsing right now for a very special performance next month in China.

“This is the first time that we’re going to be part of a festival and it’s a new festival too because it’s featuring disabled artists as well,” Verdi-Fletcher said.

The company uses its performances to enhance public awareness of disability issues and to promote social change in the field of arts and beyond; and the world is continuing to take notice.

“I’ve found that having this company and being able to do a mix of it, is really broadening people’s minds in terms of what is possible,” Verdi-Fletcher said.