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Paralyzed Navy Veteran Propelled into Dance

Dwayne Scheuneman is a Navy veteran who was paralyzed after a diving accident.  But thanks to his drive and determination, he has become a successful wheelchair athlete – most recently winning four gold medals and three silver medals in track and field at the 2013 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Despite his athletic success, Scheuneman is more comfortable on the dance floor than the racetrack. But it opens him up to some friendly teasing from other veterans.

“In the beginning, I did get a lot of razzing being a dancer at the veterans’ games. But at the end, everyone respected it when I was running around with my four gold medals,” Scheuneman said.

For him, dance is not a competition. It is a collaboration.

Yet, it did get a little competitive during the creation of the dance piece, “Propel,” featuring Scheuneman and three other male dancers.

“It’s like an all-male piece and it really shows the strength of all the men in the company,” said Leymis Bolanos Wilmott, choreographer of “Propel.” “And it almost became like this little competition amongst the guys in the company and Dwayne as we were creating the piece.”

Belanos Wilmott, artistic director of Fuzion Dance Artists, created the piece last year for her company and Scheuneman.

Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
Dancers Jahrel Thompson, Dwayne Scheuneman, Rolando Cabrera and Benjamin Howe listen to instructions from choreographer Lemis Bolanos Wilmott.

“The piece is very physical and I think it’s very strong, but I think it also shows different moments where they’re encouraging someone else to propel – or maybe someone’s stuck and encouraging them to move forward,” Bolanos Wilmott said.

“Propel” is a mixture of athleticism and grace --- break dance and modern dance. At one point, a performer leaps over Scheuneman in his chair - at another - Scheuneman is lifted, his wheelchair and all. The male dancers, Jahrel Thompson, Benjamin Howe and Rolando Cabrera are equally fluid and as fast as Scheuneman in his chair.

REVolutions Dance, Scheuneman’s company, is presenting “Synergy,” the evening of modern dance which includes other works like a duet choreographed by Carolina Garcia Serpa and her husband. It’s their first major work together and she’s excited to share the bill with a wheelchair dancer.

“What it brings to the audience is the opening of the mind,” Garcia Serpa said. “It’s amazing how limited people’s minds are as far as what people can actually do. The moment I say I danced with a man in a wheelchair they’re like – that’s a contradiction … movement is movement.”

The Moving Current Dance Collective is the third company contributing to the production.

“Synergy” will be performed Saturday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m. at the Hillsborough Community College Performing Arts Building, Palm Ave. and 15th St., Ybor City.


Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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