Kris Lenzo asked Stephanie Clemens, director of the Academy of Movement and Music to consider building a wheelchair ramp so he could more easily watch his 3-year-old daughter dance.
The ramp was eventually built, but it came with a request. Lenzo was asked by Clemens to commemorate the event by doing a dance about disabilities with his daughter.
Lenzo rolled his eyes. He was the type of guy who danced maybe once a year, like at a wedding reception.
But he did the dance and even though his daughter eventually moved onto other pursuits, Lenzo kept dancing.
Lenzo, in fact, has danced "Ashes," in which he and a partner interpret loss and separation, 18 times now. He performed it as part of Momenta's recent "Dances for Autumn" recital.
Lenzo, 53, is suspended upside down from a rigging relatively unseen by the audience and conducts a series of muscular, storytelling lifts and holds. Lifting his partner, Anita Kenney, is not the hard part. Where a dancer with legs can use his feet to brace himself to relieve pressure, Lenzo's lower back, buttocks and hamstrings take all the strain of being suspended for nine minutes. Circulation is compromised.
But Lenzo, who lost his legs in a work accident at age 19, finds that dance is freeing and well worth the pain. He has danced in Chicago and St. Louis and teaches workshops on integrated dance.
"I didn't see this coming," Lenzo said of his development as a dancer. "I've really enjoyed doing it. Dancers are open-minded and creative. I like dance because you can push the envelope."