In 2015, Rodgers collaborated with choreographers Kristin Fieseler Alexander, of Annex Dance, and Jonathan Tabbort and Stephen Gabriel, of Ballet Evolution Charleston, for a physically integrated performance. From left: Cathy Cabaniss, Julie DeLizza, Rodgers. Photo by Adam Chandler Photography, courtesy of Rodgers

Life changed for Marka Danielle Rodgers four years ago when a driver ran a red light and T-boned her car. The crash left her an incomplete quadriplegic (meaning she still has some nerve function below the point of injury), but it hasn't stopped her from teaching ballet. Now, she leads class from her wheelchair, using hand and arm motions to explain each combination. She talks through corrections and verbalizes even the tiny technical details that are often just easily shown. When she does leave her chair, she leads floor barre–like exercises on the ground. Then she gets back in her chair.

Rodgers, who worked with Ailey II in the late 1970s, has regained much mobility and strength in her arms and upper torso since the accident. In addition to teaching ballet at several dance studios in the Charleston, South Carolina, area, she leads a total-body strengthening and wellness regimen she calls Ultimate Physicality. And while teaching from a wheelchair poses quite a few limitations, in some ways, those limitations have enhanced her teaching.

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