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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Calendar > Arts and Culture

From life to screen, and back

By Anya Tikka - reporter/photographer

By: Anya Tikka | Democrat
Janet Carrus, who's herself a ballroom dancer, stands in the hall leading to the theater where the movie she produced with Joey Dedio was shown.
LOCH SHELDRAKE — Janet Carrus, the producer of the movie “Musical Chairs,” has a passion for equal opportunities for the disabled, and puts her financial resources behind her efforts to pursue it.
“It's not that you see disabilities, you see the person. It has to change. People first. It's about inclusion. They should have complete inclusion,” she said before a recent screening of “Musical Chairs,” at SUNY Sullivan's Seelig Theatre.

The story of a young dancer who has a terrible accident and winds up in a wheelchair takes that view. It was directed by Susan Seidelman, whose 1985 film “Desperately Seeking Susan” helped make Madonna a superstar.
“Musical Chairs” is for anyone who enjoys dancing and care about people. And if you don't dance and just want to see a good movie, it's for you too.
It depicts wheelchair ballroom dancing, popular in Europe and Asia, but which hasn't yet caught on in the United States. This is something Carrus hopes to change.
“My long term dream is to have the first wheelchair dancing competition like what they do in Europe in Hurleyville,” said Carrus.
She's working with The Center for Discovery towards that end.
“My foundation is funding the new Dance and Arts Center in Hurleyville (with the Center). It's going to have a movie theater, dance studios, and a ballroom,” she explained.
The Manhattan resident first visited The Center for Discovery in Harris in the late nineties with her late husband Gerry, and decided to come back and they funded the Carrus Institute there.
In fact, she helped initiate the wheelchair dance classes at the Center, although now it has two dance therapy instructors, Sherma Williams and Christine Ertola who both came to the showing at SUNY.
Carrus continued, “I'm committed to the Center. We connected through mutual friends, and I was impressed with their approach, a new way of seeing disabilities.”
Carrus talked about how her consciousness was raised and passion was sparked.
“I think having grown up in the time period back in the sixties when women's rights started taking the forefront, I was sick and tired to be told you can't do that because you're a woman,” she explained. “I am identifying with them. We're different in all sorts of ways, and sexism, racism, ageism are the major things that have been addressed.”
She added, “People with disabilities are one of the last [areas of discrimination]. I think to be told you can't do it because you are [disabled]… is ridiculous.”
This is Carrus' first involvement with a movie, and it was natural that the subject was dancing – she's a pro amateur ballroom dancer herself.
”I conceived the story, hired a writer, hired everything that I needed, and funded the whole thing,” she recounted.
A mother of three and grandmother of six, she was aided in her filmmaking by her oldest granddaughter Chloe.
Carrus has been submitting the film to many movie festivals, and although there were many rejections with the “standard polite rejection slip” – she is still waiting to hear from festivals, including one based in Beijing.
“Basically there's not enough sex scenes and violence, although they don't say it,” Carrus said. “I've screened this in Hawaii, Tokyo, Chile, numerous places in the states, including New York, California, Arizona, and Massachusetts. I've had many screenings for non-profits. The reception has always been overwhelmingly positive and people are confused why this has not made it to the big screen.”
The formal opening was in March 2012, and unfortunately the distributor decided to open it the same week as the popular “The Hunger Games.”
“These are just road blocks,” Carrus said. “It's not always about the work. The reception I get from the audiences, they can fully see themselves in a positive light.”
She went on to describe in detail the plans for a future center in Hurleyville, working with The Center for Discovery.
“The plans are in place, and have been submitted to the town for the necessary permits, plus the New York State Government has this new program, Start-up New York. We're trying to revitalize Hurleyville. We envision it as an all-inclusive community.

About the movie
“Musical Chairs” is a romantic story of how a young dancer suddenly loses the use of her legs in a freak accident, and then regains her ability to dance even when confined to a wheelchair, along with her sense of purpose and love with the help of her dance partner who remains her devoted friend and helper, and eventually becomes her lover.
The couple also helps others in the same position with dancing lessons that culminate in a Wheelchair Dancing Competition.
“Effervescent! Seidelman's feel for setting and character is truly spectacular.” – Time Out New York
“Susan Seidelman still knows how to capture the chaotic magic of New York.” – The Village Voice
“A terrific film full of life, heart, music and fantastic dancing. A movie that just makes you feel good. See it!” – Boxoffice
For more about the movie, visit www.musicalchairsthefilm.com.

The Carrus Institute
The Carrus Institute is designed as a resource for families and staff and many others. It serves as a community center as well as a place to convene and bring in others to inform and be informed by the work of The Center. It was funded by an extraordinarily generous gift from Gerald and Janet Carrus.
The Institute includes four components: Conference center, Family/ Staff Wellness, Staff Training Center, and Thanksgiving Farm Table Café – at this small, bright restaurant Department of Nourishment Arts (DNA) chefs craft meals made from organic and whole foods grown in The Center's Thanksgiving Farm fields and pastures. The Wellness Center is a gym full of cardio machines, free weights and nautilus systems overseen by a licensed personal trainer. On the upper level of The Carrus Institute wellness classes such as Zumba, Spinning, Yoga, Bootcamp and others are offered.






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