February 19, 2014 —
LOCH SHELDRAKE, NY — There is a connection between a movie based on wheelchair ballroom dancing and Sullivan County, and that connection is Janet Carrus. She is one of the producers of the film “Musical Chairs,” and the Carrus Institute at the Center for Discovery is named after her and her late husband Gerry.
In an email, Carrus said her relationship started with a visit in 1999. She wrote, “After touring the center, Gerry and I were so impressed with the cutting-edge philosophy that the center had towards disabilities. What stood out for me the most was the emphasis the center placed on each individual resident’s potential regardless of their limitations. Since my first visit and through the years, I have continued to support the center’s vision in various ways.”
Carrus has a long history of activities in charities benefitting the disabled, and she is also an ardent ballroom dance enthusiast. Her activism lead to the idea of creating a film around the phenomenon of wheelchair ballroom dancing, an activity long popular in Europe and Asia, but which is only now developing a wider following in the United States.
“Musical Chairs” will be screened at the Seelig Theater in Sullivan County Community College on February 22, at 7 p.m., and Carrus will be on hand for a discussion after the screening.
A press release says, “The movie is about Armando, a Bronx-bred Latino who aspires to be a dancer but whose only way in is as a handyman at a Manhattan dance studio, and Mia, an Upper East Side princess who is the studio’s star performer. Though worlds apart, their shared passion for dance promises to bring them together until a tragic accident changes Mia’s life forever, and she finds herself wheelchair-bound at a rehab facility, with her dreams of a dance career shattered.
“Fortunately, Armando has enough dreams for both of them and, when he hears about a wheelchair ballroom dance competition that will soon be held in New York, he sees a way to return something to Mia that she thinks is lost forever. At first she is reluctant—wheelchair dancing, though highly popular overseas, is something she never even knew existed. But, with the help of several other residents at the rehab center, Armando organizes an intense training program that will bring them all center stage and in the spotlight.”
The leading roles are played by newcomers Leah Pipes and E.J. Bonilla.
The movie was directed by Susan Seidelman of “Desperately Seeking Susan” fame. Carrus said, “Susan has succeeded in conveying the struggles we all face, both able-bodied and disabled, making our way, whether through life or on the dance floor. She has a real talent for embracing people in all their diversity and making them real, believable and acceptable.”