President & Founding Artistic Director of Dancing Wheels
In this day and age, it is hard to truly classify anyone as a pioneer, yet Mary Verdi-Fletcher embodies it in every sense of the word. Verdi-Fletcher, America’s first professional wheelchair dancer, has taken a field where disabilities were not accepted and worked endlessly to shatter stereotypes, change attitudes, bring hope, advocate for inclusion, and essentially be an agent of change. Having been born with spina bifida, she wanted to open the doors of opportunity for people with disabilities who wanted to pursue their goals on an equal ground with their non-disabled peers. This determination ultimately led her to found The Dancing Wheels Company in 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, which was specifically formed to employ professionally trained dancers, with and without disabilities. The Dancing Wheels Company have reached audiences of over 5 million people with awe-inspiring school assembly programs, workshops, residencies, and main stage concert performances worldwide. These extraordinary numbers represent normal citizens that are touched by Mary’s dream of making the arts accessible to all people of all abilities.