Movement like you’ve never seen before – A look into the 2nd Annual Forward Motion Physically Integrated Dance Festival & Conference

From time to time we come across art and artists that just take our breath away. I’ve always been a fan of ballet. I would be remiss also if I  didn’t share with you that as a young girl I had the privilege of experience cultural dance and ballet. Perhaps this is why I have so much appreciation for this form of art that I felt in awe when I discovered the physically impaired were part of an excellent league of performers touring the world and leaving an impact on their audience around the world.

Kinetic Light work Under Momentum,  Photographer NHayim Heron, dancers L-R Alice Sheppard & Laurel Laswon

This week, FORWARD MOTION,  Miami’s International Physically Integrated Dance Festival and Conference will be taking place for a second year on September 25th through the 28th in Miami, and it’s one of the first festivals and conferences anywhere in the world showcasing groundbreaking physically integrated dance companies and choreography.

We had  the privilege of getting to know one of its main organizers, Karen Perterson, whose excellent reputation precedes her, Founder, Artistic Director, Choreographer. She trained as a dancer so needless to say that dance was always in her blood, she graduated from  the Boston Conservatory, became co-artistic director of Momentum and then  started her own organization in 1990. She received many awards from Miami Dade Department of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs for her physically integrated choreography. Through a conversation with Karen we’ve gotten to know a little bit more about what she has in store for the near future:

Heidi Latsky Dance # 2 _Unfinished_ Photographer Peter Yesley, L-R Jerron Herman & Meredith Fages.

CREATIV:
I actually read about the organization and I think you’re doing something wonderful. You’ll have to forgive me, it’s actually the first time that I’ve ever encountered such unique, extraordinary and inspirational form of art.

KAREN:
Thank you.

CREATIV:
You’ll have to tell me the very first time that you put on your show. Did you think that you would have any obstacles on presenting it to the world, or how did it feel?

KAREN:
Well, the first time I created a trio with a woman who had multiple sclerosis and she used a wheelchair. I was interested in collaborations and I was interested in her story about her life. So she was the inspiration for the dance that I made. And you know, over the time, the past 30 years the dance form disability dance has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the country and throughout the world. So this festival is a sort of an annual festival conference to show where the dance form is at right now.

CREATIV:
Your physically challenged dancers don’t feel like they are different from any other dancers. So for me it was really mind boggling and just extraordinary. Putting on a show like that, for people who let’s say have never seen something like that, what message do you want them to take out of it?

KAREN:
Well, often the message is that people and the dancers with disabilities, I mean they train and they work in the studio the same amount of hours as able body dancers. They’re both training and they’re focused and their participation in the process, even though it’s just they have different difficulties, their commitment just to do the same to the dance form. I mean most, many audience members go away being sort of moved and inspired just to see you know how dance organizations choreography integrated with members of all abilities.

CREATIV:
I mean I’ve taken a few ballet classes when I was a kid but I have to say is grueling. So I can only imagine, you know, what they go through in terms of, you know, rehearsals and stuff like that. So do you feel that you’re ready for next week’s performance or how are you preparing for this?

Heidi Latsky Dance #1 _Unfinished_ Photographer Peter Yesley, L-R Jerron Herman & Meredith Fages

KAREN:
Well we are ready, I mean the dance were presenting. They’ve worked on this dance for five months. We know we’ve worked with, committed to part time hours. Dancers are on a salary. This is more like a social community group. All the trips that you see are, you know, they’re professionally driven, meaning they get paid for rehearses, paid for performance, every dancer that comes to Miami they’re getting paid as a professional dance company. But we’re all ready, everything’s in place. Totally organized.

CREATIV:
Awesome. Awesome. So since you’ve created such an empire, do you feel that you’ve reached the apex of your career or do you still think that you still have some creativity left for the world?

KAREN:
I need a little break after this. I still feel like there is more for me to say. I mean, I am also interested in sharing the, that I have done past sharing the responsibilities with another person as a choreographer or as a director. And so I would say I yeah, no.

CREATIV:
Just the other day I was reading about how you won the best dance company from the Miami New Times. Congratulations, by the way. So how did it feel when you actually won this award?

KAREN:
Thank you. Yeah, I did such an accolade. That’s very nice, I mean, the good news from there were no accolades and then there has been years when there are bad reviews. The part about it is that just sticking to it for so many years, keeping my focus intact and I just happened to get lucky to deal with a nice group of dancers. So, yeah. Yeah.

CREATIV:
That’s good. That’s good. Now, let’s say, you know, you get one of those bad reviews. Do you just shrug your shoulders and say, you know what, it’s whatever we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. Or do you think that it affected you in any way?

KAREN:
Well, I’m at this stage of the game doing and I just keep doing the work and Miami doesn’t really have the, Oh, I don’t know. Miami doesn’t have a broad all dance community and we are out here working together. We’ve been trying to put one foot in front of the next day by day. And so the reviews really for me at this point doesn’t really make that much difference.

CREATIV:
Got it. Got it. Well, I always like to offer some inspirational words to, let’s say, you know, people who read our magazine and to let them feel inspired. So would you like to share an inspirational moment with us?

KAREN:
Oh, lets see. An inspirational moment. I can say one. One thing that we do is we’ll set up the years to be, we give a survey to the audience members and we asked them to describe the performance in three words and how would you describe the performance? And they list three words and the words are always just so encouraging. And after their thing, because I don’t really have a chance to get to speak to the audience members and they come and they see the dance and they leave. But the surveys should be the true indication that people, the audience should walk away being changed in some way. Being inspired about how all abilities can work together through the language of movement.

CREATIV:
Yes. Yes, exactly. And I’m pretty sure, the little girls and boys that are physically challenged in their young age can look at you and say, you know what, I could actually do this when I grow up.

KAREN:
I think in today’s world there’s more and more opportunities for people with disabilities to expand their horizons physically and intellectually and academically. I mean the passing of the ADA laws in 1990. There’s been so many opportunities with people who have disabilities and dance and performance. It’s one of them.

CREATIV:
You  are absolutely right with the advancement of technology these days, we can only improve on that, certainly.

The dance companies and individuals participating in the second annual Forward Motion Physically Integrated Dance Festival & Conference, taking place in Miami from September 25 through the 28, 2019, include Step Change Dance, Kinetic Light, Heidi Latsky Dance, Karen Peterson and Dancers. They are part of an exciting and growing approach to performance that is inclusive of those with and without disabilities and seeks to redefine dance vocabulary and the way in which choreographers use the human body. Produced by Florida’s own groundbreaking integrated dance pioneers, Karen Peterson and Dancers (KPD) (named “Best Dance Company” in Miami by the New Times for 2019), this second festival promises to be even more exciting than last year’s first edition, featuring some of the best dance companies of any kind, in performance, in discussion and holding workshops.

To get more information about tickets and schedule visit https://www.forwardmotionmiami.com/

 

 

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