A dancer with a leg injury. A dance student adverse to touch.
These are the two unlikely characters in Invisible Theatre’s upcoming “Dancing Lessons.”
This romantic comedy by Mark St. Germain is a story of two people from completely different worlds who each have difficulty connecting with others. Ever is a professor with Asperger’s syndrome who wants to learn how to dance to survive an upcoming awards dinner. Senga is a Broadway dancer suffering from a potentially career-ending injury who agrees to help him.
The play is about the evolution of an unexpected relationship. As the characters begin to discover a deeper connection to each other, they also make important discoveries about themselves.
Susan Claassen, Invisible Theatre’s artistic managing director and the director of this production, said this is a story that everyone can relate to as it attempts to break barriers and capture some of our most vulnerable human traits.
“I think the play encourages us to be open to the possibilities that are all around us, and if we look below the surface, we can find things that will resonate deeply and affect us in the most profound ways,” she said.
As a special-education teacher for over 35 years, Claassen has worked with many children who are on the autism spectrum and hopes that “Dancing Lessons” will open people’s minds about what it means to have a disability.
“In this play, we realize that labels in the greater scheme of things are really meaningless,” Claassen said. “When you hear that somebody has Asperger’s, you can get a preconceived notion.”
Claassen says she and the actors studied Asperger’s syndrome so they could create an accurate on-stage representation. She said Asperger’s manifests much differently from person to person, so it was important for them to create a character that was completely honest.
Claassen hopes that people within the community, whether they are on the autism spectrum or not, will be able to see themselves within these characters and be inspired.
“I know with all my quirky behaviors, when I see something onstage that I can relate to, I love it,” she said. “No matter what the theme, when you see yourself up there, it’s a very valuable experience.”
“Dancing Lessons” illustrates the deep impact that people can have on each other. Together, the characters find their rhythm, not just on the dance floor, but within themselves.
Jasmine Demers is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticing at the Star.
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