by Dot Cannon
“You’re going to have some tough choices to make,” warned Aquarium of the Pacific festival coordinator Peter Martineau.
It was Saturday, Day One of the Aquarium’s thirteenth annual Festival of Human Abilities, in Long Beach. And Peter was absolutely right.
This annual celebration of artists with disabilities was packed with events no one wanted to miss. Performances, demonstrations and workshops were happening throughout the day.
And often, two or more interesting presentations were happening in two different places, at the same time.
Here were just a few of our favorites.
The morning started with a performance by the Love In Motion signing choir. They made both acting and performing songs in sign language look easy, especially in their moving interpretation of Alabama’s “Angels Among Us”.
Choir and audience alike had a good time with their festive interpretation of “Sleigh Ride”.
A high point of the morning was the Walk and Roll Dance Team’s free hip-hop dance lesson.
“Does everyone here like Justin Bieber?” asked instructor Chelsie Hill.
Organizing students in a circle, she went around and had each student improvise a move. Then the group put them all together in a routine.
But, the best part of the class was the freestyle dance.
Later that afternoon, the troupe wowed the crowd in the Great Hall, with a hip-hop dance performance.
Meanwhile, visual artists were showcasing their talents in the Great Hall, as well. Jasmin Amador (center) and Joel Castro (right) are two gifted painters…
…and Jonathan Alvarenga is an abstract photographer. In his work, he finds beauty in everyday scenes by using a different angle and perspective.
Further down in the Great Hall was an exhibit by Canine Companions for Independence.
This is ten-month old “Hayden”, whose training will include learning to turn off light switches as she’s trained to become either a therapy dog or a service animal to someone with a disability.
Musician Kodi Lee, who is both blind and autistic, performed a musical set that could rival some Grammy nominees.
And First Step Foundation creator Cody Unser demonstrated adaptive SCUBA diving. “Fish don’t discriminate; they can’t tell I’m paralyzed,” she said.
Cody will be the first person in a wheelchair to be inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame™, later this spring. She had the announcement with her, underwater!
She also seemed to have gained a new friend.
(The staffer with her explained that the fish are used to being fed by the divers. This ray, especially, wasn’t shy about asking! “I feel so loved!” Cody said.)
The day’s performances concluded with Per Se–a fusion band who perform all-original music. They’ve even written a song called, “Downtown Long Beach”!
Music, joy, exuberance and color were the themes for this thirteenth annual Festival of Human Abilities on Saturday. Day 2 of the Festival program starts at 9, Sunday morning, January 31st, at the Aquarium. Come if you can.