Festival of the Arts to feature 'Dancing Wheels' and 'I am Kenny J'

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 | 6:20 p.m. CDT; updated 6:45 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — An all-dance day will be new to Columbia’s Festival of the Arts in September.

In its 17th year, the festival will be held on Boone County’s Courthouse Square at the north end of Eighth Street and surrounding streets. The two-day event will feature multiple stages for performances, almost 50 artists’ booths and other activities for attendees.

Past festivals have included three stages as well as the artists’ booths: the Courthouse Square Stage, the Children’s Stage and the Literary Stage. However, this year, the courthouse stage will have an “all dance all day” theme, said festival coordinator Kay McCarthy. Two new dance-oriented performances will be presented, including “Dancing Wheels.”

Based in Cleveland, “Dancing Wheels” describes itself as a dance company that features disabled dancers alongside able-bodied dancers. Founded in 1980, the company integrates wheelchair dancers with traditional ballet movements and dancers.

“It is something so unique and different,” McCarthy said. “People don’t think of handicapped people being able to participate in dance.”

Also planned is an interactive rhythm and blues line-dancing show, put on by “I am Kenny J Productions.” Based in Burlington, N.J., the troupe integrates audience involvement and teaches simple dance moves.

Missouri’s first poet laureate, Walter Bargen, will read from the Literary Stage. Although Bargen read at last year’s festival, McCarthy expects attendance at his readings to increase because he was named poet laureate since then.

The free festival takes place Sept. 27 and 28.

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