Breaking down the barriers Committees in Annapolis, Kings gathering input, assessing facilities
KIRK STARRATT ANNAPOLIS VALLEY REGISTER Kirk.firstname.lastname@example.org
For society to be truly inclusive, everyone has to be considered, says the chairman of a committee advising Annapolis County on accessibility planning. Annapolis County Accessibility Advisory Committee chairman John Smith, who uses a wheelchair, said an attitudinal shift in society where people want to make changes to improve accessibility is, in some ways, “half the battle.” Smith said accessibility for all, on every level, helps build community and increase engagement and involvement in all facets of society. He said perhaps the greatest challenge he encounters is parking. It’s important to educate people they shouldn’t be parking in spots designated for those with mobility issues unless they need to. “Many times, you can see that parking spaces are taken by individuals who maybe didn’t need the parking space, or are using a sign that doesn’t really belong to them,” Smith said. He said education is important so that people understand why a counter would have to be so low for him to be able to access services, for example. The advisory committee provides advice to Annapolis County council on identifying, preventing and eliminating barriers to people with disabilities in municipal programs, services, initiatives and facilities. “We have a dedicated committee of volunteers who are hoping to make the County of Annapolis as barrier-free as possible through our recommendations to council,” Smith said. He began refining his skills, taking the adult ballet class and learning from many of the company’s other dancers, including his daughter. “This is my first year truly dancing,” Ward said. “While I always respected the ability of the dancers, I just so much more appreciate it right now.” Ward said he has always been a competitive athlete, participating in marathons, ironman triathlons and other sports. However, he has never had to work so hard physically as he has in preparation for his dancing role. He said other parents involved with Cadance have stepped up to take adult ballet classes and become dancers, sharing The Nutcracker experience with their children. “We’ve all been inspired by the kids, and it really is a privilege to be a part of this cast,” Ward said. Aries started taking lessons with Cadance Academy eight or nine years ago. She said she loves the performance aspect of dance and appreciates that Cadance isn’t a competitive school. She said it’s like being part of a large family. It can be challenging to put everything together, but once everything falls into place, they can go on stage and perform their roles seamlessly without overthinking it. AN EVOLVING PRODUCTION Aries has been teaching and assisting other dancers for about four years. In addition to her performing roles, she will do some of the choreography in this production. She said putting the fight scene together has been a lot of fun. Aries has been mixing some of the already established choreography with some new moves. Jess said it would be worth attending the show just to see the MacDonalds dancing together. Jess said it is always thinking of ways to improve the show, making it as professional as possible. It has been staging the production since 2006, keeping elements of the choreography that the company loves while adding new elements. As the production evolves, it remains fresh and unique, even for those who may have attended the show for years. Jess said they have had people worldwide who have seen many different versions of The Nutcracker tell them the Cadance production is their favourite. She believes this is because of the love and passion demonstrated by the performers. “We have little, tiny kids up to grandparents. They’re all dancing together, and it’s just so heartwarming.” WELL WORTH THE EFFORT Jess said there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into preparing for the production. However, seeing it come alive on stage reminds her why they do it. There are other productions of The Nutcracker that won’t be going ahead this year due to the pandemic. Jess said they’ve put the necessary COVID-19 protocols in place to ensure safe production. What makes this year’s production so special to her is that there is perhaps no better time for it. “Yes, we are considered non-essential, but for our wellbeing and that sense of community, we need this,” Jess said. She said Cadance’s production of The Nutcracker is special because it has so many people contributing to its success, and everyone works so well together. The assistance provided by volunteers, donors, sponsors, the technical crew and theatre staff plays a big role in making the production a success. Over the years, Cadance has become aware of the controversy surrounding cultural dances included in The Nutcracker such as the Arabian, Spanish, Russian and Chinese. Jess said Cadance Academy aims to eliminate any possibility of stereotyping with regard to varying cultures. This year, it decided to rename and rework some of the pieces to ensure the performers, crew and audience members continue to feel respected and included and are comfortable with all aspects of the show.