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Dancing Wheels’ ‘Making Memories: A Journey through Dementia’ by The Dancing Wheels Company & School

The Dancing Wheels two-day immersive program combines performance art with dementia education.
The Dancing Wheels Company in “Three 4 Ann” choreographed by Mark Tomasic

What is Making Memories: A Journey through Dementia all about? 

In an effort to increase the understanding and recognition of diseases related to dementia and Alzheimer’s, The Dancing Wheels Company & School joined forces with hospitals, memory care facilities, facilities for aging adults, and individual caregivers to present Making Memories: A Journey through Dementia in January of 2023, at the Breen Center for the Arts in Cleveland, Ohio. The event is part performance, part presentation in an immersive, multimedia program with speakers, video documentary, live dancing, and an informational audience talk back. 

Leading up to the event, Dancing Wheels Company dancers and teaching artists took part in presentations by professionals in the Alzheimer’s/dementia field Carole Klingler (A Dementia Friendly LIFE), LaBena Fleming (author of I Love You Always), and Mary Schwarz (Alzheimer’s Association, Beachwood, OH) as well as in training sessions lead by Artistic Advisor Mark Tomasic and Director of Education Sara Lawrence-Sucato. The Dancing Wheels Company also conducted movement-based classes at A Dementia Friendly LIFE’s Memory Cafés in Northeast Ohio engaging people living with dementia and their caregivers to connect and interact through shared creative and artistic experiences. As an organization, Dancing Wheels is committed to building programming that addresses equality and human rights through transformational artistic practice, outreach, and performance. Mary Verdi-Fletcher, President & Founding Artistic Director, describes the performance as “an opportunity to offer comfort and knowledge and to provide a haven in which caregivers and patients will not feel isolated as they go through their journey.”

What is the inspiration behind Making Memories: A Journey through Dementia

Dancing Wheels commissioned LA-based choreographer Mark Tomasic to create a new work. Tomasic has created several acclaimed works for the company over the years, but his proposal for this work spoke volumes to Verdi-Fletcher. Tomasic proposed the creation of a dance based on the effects of dementia on his parents—his mother, Ann, who lived with dementia, and his father, Joe, who served as a caregiver to his wife in the last years of their lives—and family. His new work “Proof” serves as a testament to the enduring love his parents shared and to the strength, resilience, and patience of caregivers.

Members of the Dancing Wheels Company lead movement-based classes engaging people living with dementia and their caregivers to connect and interact through shared creative and artistic experiences. Photos courtesy of Dancing Wheels Company.

What effect does Making Memories: A Journey through Dementia hope to have?

Dancing Wheels hopes to create a connection between its dancers and dance teaching artists and people in the audience who―themselves or their loved one―are currently, or may be in the future, coping with the effects of memory loss. Making Memories: A Journey through Dementia serves as a platform to deliver hope and assurance to people living with dementia and their caregivers in knowing that they are not alone.

How has the work been received? 

Audiences were inspired by Tomasic’s tribute to his parents and were grateful for the merging of various areas of expertise into one program. 

Find more from The Dancing Wheels Company on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

What is a Spotlight?

The Dementia Arts Spotlight promotes visual and performing artists who are grappling with dementia through original work or innovative arts programs. The Spotlight—in a Q&A format where artists describe the details and significance of their work or program—connects each artist to the Dementia Spring community. Find examples of prior Dementia Arts Spotlights here. Know of an artist whose work should be Spotlighted? Send them this link!

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