Dancing Through Disability: Panel

July 30, 2020
Dancing Through Disability: Panel

Join us in a panel discussion in honor of the 30th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Disability Pride Month.

The panel will be moderated by Paige Fraser, a professional dancer and Scoliosis advocate, and the founder of The Paige Fraser Foundation. 

This panel will include professional dancers, choreographers, and educators that are breaking the stereotypes surrounding the disabled dancer. Learn more about the panelists below.

The panels will air in HD on BronxNet channel 67 Optimum/ 2133 FiOS in the Bronx and online at bronxnet.tv on the following days and times:

Heidi Latsky (Panelist) – Scoliosis Advocate 

Heidi’s 35-year dance career began in Canada, continued with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and culminated in 2001 when she founded her company Heidi Latsky Dance (HLD). A critically acclaimed and influential leader in the physically integrated dance field, Latsky has toured internationally and been presented at institutions like American Dance Festival, Joyce Theater, Whitney Museum, Cooper Hewitt, National Portrait Gallery, High Line, ICA Boston. Most recently, the company was featured at Lincoln Center for the 75th Anniversary of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. Her keynote speeches have impacted venues like Harvard University, Arts for All Abilities, Barnard College, Maxine Green Institute, Chicago Humanities Festival and APAP. She has presented at TEDxWOMEN and a feature on her work GIMP (2008) was nominated for an Emmy. Learn more on her website.

Samantha Figgins (Panelist) – Hearing Impaired 

Figgins began her dance training at Duke Ellington School of the Arts and at Dance Theatre of Harlem. She continued her education at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance. Upon graduating cum laude, Ms. Figgins joined Complexions Contemporary Ballet. While there she was featured both on the cover of Dance Spirit magazine and in Pointe magazine’s “10 Careers to Watch” in 2013. She has worked with Beyoncé and can be seen in the film Enemy Within and Bolden! She joined Alvin Ailey in 2014. Since joining she has performed at the NMAAHC(2017) and at TEDtalk(2019). Watch her interivew with ELLE.

Merry Lynn Morris - MFA, PhD (Panelist) – Scoliosis 

Merry is a dance educator and choreographer. She serves as the Assistant Director for the University of South Florida Dance Program and has served as a faculty member for over twenty years. She holds an MFA degree in Dance Performance and Choreography and a PhD in Dance Studies. She began exploring the area of integrated/inclusive dance in 2002, and as caregiver to a disabled father over a 21-year period, her interest and awareness in disability needs has been ever-present. She has developed collaborative projects with engineers to invent new mobility devices for use in and outside of dance and has created integrated/inclusive dance curriculum. She collaborates frequently with Arts4All Florida, a statewide arts and disability organization, works with local integrated/inclusive dance programs and serves in Dance/USA’s Deaf and Disability Affinity Group. She has earned five U.S. Patents and her research scholarship appears in the Journal of Technology and Innovation, Medical Problems of Performing Artists, Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation, Research in Dance Education, Medical Science Educator and the Journal of Dance Education. Morris is active in the area of performing arts medicine and is co-editor and a contributing author to the book, Perspectives in Performing Arts Medicine Practice A Multidisciplinary Approach. As a dancer with scoliosis, hypermobility and chronic injury issues, Morris is familiar with some of the challenges dancers may face and she is invested in teaching practices that support health and longevity. Watch her TEDx Talk.

Sydney Maguder (Panelist) – Mental Health Advocate 

Sydney is a professional ballet dancer, singer, actor and writer. Credits include: The Wiz (Boston, MA), and Panic! The Musical (New York, NY).  She was recently featured in Katy Pyle’s “Giselle of Loneliness” at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2018 Gala, and appeared in Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She has performed works by Paul Taylor, George Balanchine, Marius Petipa, Kevin Wynn, Diane Coburn Bruning and many many more. Proudly Autistic, she uses social media as a platform to speak out about neurodiversity, mental health, and forward reform in the performing arts world.  She’s been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, DanceSpirit Magazine, Health Magazine, BuzzFeed, Teen Vogue, The Mighty, and The Huffington Post. She lives in Manhattan with her wife and their beloved dog. 
Read her interview at Dance Spirit.

Paige Fraser (Host) – Scoliosis Advocate 

Paige is originally from the Bronx, NY. As a child she trained at Ballet Atlantic Academy under the direction of Leslie Otto. She went on to continue training at Professional Performing Arts High School which had a dance program tied to the Ailey School. Ms. Fraser attended Dominican University/Alonzo King's Lines Ballet and later transferred/graduated Cum Laude from Fordham University/Alvin Ailey BFA in 2012.

Ms. Fraser was a member of Ailey II for the 2011-2013. In 2013 she became a founding dancer of Visceral Dance Chicago where she danced 6 seasons. She has guested with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater; and has danced for Ruth Page Civic Ballet and world acclaimed works by Randy Duncan in "Dance For Life Chicago" (2014-2019). Ms. Fraser has appeared in Beyonce's "Bow Down" 2013 tour opener video and in V Magazine's holiday video featuring model Chanel Iman. She has been featured in Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher, Essence, Lucky, and graced the 2016 cover of both Revolution Dancewear and Streetwise Chicago. She can be seen dancing in season 3 of Empire. Her story was featured by ELLE for "The Movement Series". She was the principal dancer in an international commercial with Intel "Experience Amazing", as well as a segment with ESPN Latin America. Ms. Fraser made her musical theatre debut in "West Side Story" at the Lyric Opera in Chicago (Spring 2019). She is currently on tour with The Lion King. 

Ms. Fraser has received a steady stream of recognition over the last few years; from winning a Princess Grace Award (2016) and Dance Magazine’s 25 To Watch (2017), and a Fordham University 20 in their 20's. In 2019 she was named one of "Chicago's Best New Artists" by People Maven. She is a two time 3 Arts Award nominee (2018 & 2019). She finds joy in teaching and giving back. She has taught several workshops all over the world (Haiti, Jamaica, and Europe). She has choreographed winning works for elite competitions such as Youth America Grand Prix and NYCDA, and professional works which were presented at LinksHall, Atheneum Theatre, and Northwestern University Dance Department. 

Ms. Fraser is a proud advocate for those living with Scoliosis. In 2017 she founded The Paige Fraser Foundation, a non- profit that aims to bring awareness to dancers with/without disabilities and provide a safe space for them to reach their full potential. In 2017 she performed at the FOCOS 10th Anniversary Gala in honor of Mayor Bloomberg and all he has done to support those with complex spinal deformities. She embraces what she has overcome and continues to raise awareness through dance. In 2020 she spoke to the students at Purdue University.