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The Perils Of War Through Dance - Karen Peterson Dancers Present 'Warmamas'

Going to a dance performance usually contains a rather preconceived idea of what the show will entail. The type of company or dancers, the work that is being presented, the choreographer, and the collaborators all add to what is expected. As much as you might try to be completely open, that little idea of expectation still creeps in.

When seeing Karen Peterson and Dancers (KPD), the mixed ability contemporary company, it is not without a notion of what will be presented. The performance entitled “Warmamas: A Performance” was a surprise. Even having attended a rehearsal to watch a run-through was not ample preparation for the intense actuality of the live performance.

The weekend performance on Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5, at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse was a heavy and engaging, sometimes uncomfortably realistic look at the devastation of war as it affects relationships, families, friends and society who are left behind. The show included moments of intimate tenderness and raw beauty in the projections by collaborator, Maria Lino. The strongest take away from this performance was that it wasn’t a dance performance at all, but rather a thick, impactful and eye-opening experience that left an enduring imprint.

In the beginning, the audience heard that in war "no news is good news." Many who are "left behind" feel that way. But, eventually, in war, there is news. The dance was based on stories from Warmamas, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization directed and founded by Patricia Figueroa Sowers, that documents the stories of mothers who have had children in the military during a time of war.

The dimly lit atmosphere was thick with emotions as the company sat around a table reaching, touching, and groping for each other’s hands as the audience watched on the full screen. The envelope containing life or death information was passed around as if no one really wanted to know the contents, but had to know the outcome. The movements were random and human. When someone collapsed on the floor, it was real and comprehensible.

There was a military quality as the piece progressed. Sharp lines and box like turns added an angular quality to the hand gestures and signs that were taken from actually military signals. It could have been a game until it wasn’t. This was a realistic battle of how much could be withstood. The dancers were hiding, ducking, climbing and were at war.

The "nightmare" section reminded us that returning from war is not a simple adjustment. Twitches and convulsions are just a small part of the post traumatic stress disorder that is experienced by so many.

One of the strongest visuals was seeing a long list of war casualties while a baby’s laughter was heard in the background. It was said that, "in a war, nobody wins."

Two men, one in a wheelchair, had a complex duet combining weight shifts, floor work and acrobatics. The men could have been friends, colleagues or lovers, but it didn’t matter. Their relationship was one of trust and deep kinship.

A tango section, implied a circle of life that kept going and going, in a routine that was consistent, even though nothing was really consistent when one of your children was at war. Canons of simple every day movements became intricate and meaningful as the entire group went through their daily paces over and over.

The 50 minute piece ended quietly with death. Two couples showing two aspects of war. Two women, or mothers, spiraled freely on chairs. They could walk, but in this moment, they didn’t. They were free from not knowing, free from waiting, but carried a beautiful sadness in the reality of truth. The other couple was the two men; one had died. In a war, nobody wins. There was stillness as the final lights dimmed. It seemed that everyone in the audience had been touched in some way.

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