Full Radius Dance: Turning tradition on its head

Photo Credit: Bubba Carr
(From left to right) Ashlee Jo Ramsey-Borunov, Peter L. Trojic in his wheelchair and Courtney Michelle McClendon of Full Radius Dance are in a posed studio portrait. Ramsey-Borunov and McClendon hold onto Trojic’s hands as he executes a front tilt with his footplate touching the floor and his wheels off the floor. Trojic and McClendon are both clad in cherry-red shirts — three-quarter length sleeves and sleeveless, respectively — and black leggings. Ramsey-Borunov has a deep blue shirt with three-quarter length sleeves paired with black leggings.

June 22, 2022
Volume 3 Issue 3
By: Leo Briggs and Olivia Subero

Meet Full Radius Dance

“Your body is perfect, your body has undiscovered movement, your body can experience dance.” The words roll off the tongue like a mantra for Douglas Scott, founder and artistic director of Full Radius Dance. This is one of the company’s statements of purpose, and much like Scott’s body of work, it reveals his dedication to reshaping the way we talk about dance in the modern world. His company deconstructs widely-held standards in Western dance and places accessibility at the center of its mission. 

This approach has served Full Radius Dance well over its tenure of 32 years in Atlanta. They maintain a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule, touring around the world with their work. In 2014, Scott was recognized with a Governor’s Award for the Arts & Humanities for his “lifetime commitment to the arts in Georgia.” His 2018 work “Tapestry” is archived in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library.

Scott and his dancers have done shows in a variety of cities, stretching from Madrid to Miami. In addition to their regular season, Full Radius Dance produces and hosts the annual Modern Atlanta Dance (MAD) Festival, which spotlights emerging and mid-career choreographers in the city. The festival, which has been ongoing since 1993, is just one of the ways Full Radius Dance infuses their core values into their company’s programming. Scott leads by example in shaping the Atlanta dance landscape as a welcoming place for everyone. This year, the MAD Festival took place June 10-11.

How Full Radius Dance Got its Start

Photo Credit: Bubba Carr
Douglas Scott is Full Radius Dance’s founder and artistic director. Since 1992, he has added a fresh perspective to the dance community through his company of disabled and nondisabled dancers. Scott is wearing a short-sleeved, bright red shirt and black glasses as he looks into the camera with a confident smile.

In 1992, Douglas attended a conference centered around bringing the arts to different populations. One session centered around teaching dancers with disabilities. Already a professional dancer and the artistic director of a modern dance company, Scott discovered his passion.

“We believe that there is artistic and physical parity between disabled and non-disabled people,” says Scott. The disabled are equal to their non-disabled counterparts. There’s nothing inspirational about how a disabled body moves across the stage just because it is a disabled body.  It’s plain and simple: a dance meant to express emotion and evoke feelings in the viewer. 

For centuries, Western aestheticism and European beauty standards have influenced the dancing community. The art has been viewed through a white, non-disabled, heteronormative lens, further limiting the opportunity for true artistic expression. Aspiring dancers who were non-white, cisgender or disabled were socially condemned. This lack of inclusivity helped Scott understand his goal. He wanted to expand the world of dance to include all bodies — bodies that did not fit the limiting standards that have been constantly pushed even in modern-day dance circles.

Full Radius Dance is radical, making a statement about society’s conception of the dancing body. “[Disability] is not something to be hidden or something to be cured,” says Scott. “I have found great choreographic potential and excitement working with bodies that are so different and exploring the movement possibilities that come from it.”

The Body of Work and its Choreographic Processes

For Scott, a new piece of choreography may live inside his head for years before it starts to become a reality. He works from a place of emotional intent rather than narrative structure. For his most recent work, “Undercurrents,” Scott was inspired by the forces that subconsciously shape our identities and relationships. Reading poetry together became an important part of the rehearsal process. 

“I always work in a collaborative-style process, and my dancers are always credited for everything they contribute to the work,” says Scott about his choreographic process. For “Undercurrents,” he focused on letting the work develop naturally, without worrying too much about self-imposed deadlines.

For his next work, Scott is dreaming big. “Usually, I start with a big dream and then pare it down after budget concerns, technical concerns and time concerns.” Now, Scott says, he is creating from a place of abundance. Full Radius Dance’s new project examines three classic children’s stories, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland from a disability lens. The company is collaborating with three additional disabled artists — a writer, a composer and a visual artist — to add a fresh look and deeper perspective to these stories.

Photo Credit: Neil Dent
(From left to right) Matthew Smith, seated in his wheelchair, lifts Julianna Feracota in the air on his left shoulder. Smith is clad in a sleeveless, turquoise shirt and black pants, and Feracota is wearing black pants and a long-sleeved, deep burgundy shirt. She is smiling confidently as she strikes an airborne pose. Full Radius Dance incorporates disabled and non-disabled dancers into the choreographic process.

The Future of Full Radius Dance

As an artistic director, Scott believes that his dancers come first. “From the start, I knew that if I didn’t value my dancers, nobody else was going to,” he says. “And of course, that began with paying my dancers. I had to pay them for rehearsals and performances.”

According to Scott, Full Radius Dance only accepts paid performances to ensure their dancers can support themselves and their families. He never shied away from the realities of running a dance company, such as discussing funding. When he was first starting out, Scott sacrificed his own salary to pay his dancers. Thanks to careful fiscal management and exhaustive fundraising, dancers can be paid consistently for their work.

The most important thing to Scott is leaving behind a legacy. His striking and emotional choreographic processes are the lasting impressions he wants to leave on his audiences. “I want to be remembered for our technique,” Scott says. “We are one of very few physically integrated dance companies in the country, and we are working on codifying our specific technique through the written word and video. Our technique is unique because it can be transposed into a floor, seated or standing embodiment. Most techniques don’t have this accessibility or flexibility. We’ve already thought through the accessibility concerns, and the dancer can focus on just dancing.”

When it comes to Full Radius Dance’s future, Scott shares a different perspective. “I don’t want to buy into the idea that something can last forever,” he says. “Funders want to know what your plans are for the next five years. My response to that is, funding me for one year isn’t enough? You want to know that I’m going to be worth funding for the next five years?”

Photo Credit: Walter Apps

Laura (Leo) Briggs is an Atlanta-based dance artist. They received a B.A. in Dance & Movement Studies from Emory University in 2019. As a performer, Laura has worked with Nathan Griswold of Fly on a Wall, Okwae A. Miller and Artists, and Benji Stevenson. Their latest independent work, Search History, premiered at Fall for Fall Dance Festival in August 2020. A collaborative duet with artist Ethan Brasseaux, Search History investigates the uniquely queer experience of discovering one’s history and culture on the Internet.

More from Leo: Dancing down memory lane: Celebrating 60 years of Beacon Dance and Decatur City Dance, Patton White brings tranquility, grounding, openness for all bodies on Facebook Live, The body as a political vessel: a conversation with Okwae A. Miller

Courtesy of Olivia Subero
Olivia Subero is posing with her violin and bow in hand. She’s wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and has her hair pulled back as she smiles for the camera.

Olivia Subero is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and editor. With three years of writing and editing experience; Olivia also has a year of freelance writing experience. During my college years, she has worked with businesses and entrepreneurs to create website content, with article-writing as her specialty. Olivia’s writing is featured in online publications such as Comic Book Resources, Visionary Artistry Magazine, and The Peak. She has written and edited pieces ranging from indie musicians to “Top 10” lists; some are even educational, like her “9 Common Japanese Honorifics in Anime, Explained.”

Her love of writing started in childhood, just after learning to read. English was her favorite subject in school, and she loved reading all kinds of literature, from biographies to folktales. Olivia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Kennesaw State University with two minors in Professional Writing and Japanese. At the moment, she is pursuing her Master’s degree in Professional Writing with a concentration in Creative Writing.

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