Jennifer's Heroes: Dancer, Ashley Sisti

By: Jennifer Black Email
By: Jennifer Black Email

March 25, 2010

This week's hero, Ashley Sisti, is a dancer. Although, she knows it's not the kind of dance you're used to seeing. Sisti, a University of Virginia graduate, will return to Charlottesville's Paramount Theater Friday to perform with the AXIS Dance Company.

AXIS is a San Francisco-based traveling dance group that performs all across the world. The group's goal is to present contemporary dance by artists with and without disabilities. AXIS will hold a public performance in Charlottesville this Friday, March 26 at 7:30pm, and Sisti just might steal the show.

As a young dancer, Sisti was head and shoulders above the rest.

"Her strength was her ability to adopt different styles of dance. She was trained classically, but she was also good at other things like jazz, modern, and contemporary," said Rose Pasquarello Beauch, Head of UVa Dance.

Sisti's former dance instructor at UVa. says she was always a versatile dancer. However, things changed just weeks before Sisti graduated from Virginia. She was throw off a horse and suffered a spinal cord injury that would put her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

"Before you worry about things like a piece of your costume falling off or loosing your shoe, that kind of malfunctioning," said Sisti.

Two years after finding out she would never walk again, Sisti has returned to Charlottesville to fill a void in her life; her desire to dance again.

"To know that other people are doing it and making a living doing it, it kind of encourages me to do other things because I haven't really reached out to adaptive sports, but now I think maybe I could," said Sisti.

Now, fitted with a permanent partner, Sisti finds the lack of control to be liberating. She admits to doing the Charlottesville show for herself, although she and her colleagues hope AXIS shows the audience that there's much more to movement than meets the eye.

"We believe that if you're in a body, you can dance and move. Because we get people who move so differently together, we get the opportunity to do movement that other dance companies can't do," said Judith Smith of the AXIS Dance Company.

This week's hero is a strong, young woman with guts and grace who's worth seeing on the big stage.

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