The definition of inclusive: Including the specified extremes or limits as well as the area between them.
“Inclusive dance has taken a huge step in artistic recognition on a national and international level over the last 30 years because of the giant leaps in dance training and choreography.” says Karen Peterson of Karen Peterson and Dancers.
To that end, the Forward Motion Festival, the first encompassing inclusive dance festival, will be held in Miami, a city that embraces inspirational visuals and propels important and necessary dialogue. The four-day event taking place from Wednesday, Sept. 26 through Saturday, Sept. 29 will host discussions, workshops, classes and multiple interactive events to culminate in performances each evening by leading contemporary inclusive dance companies known throughout the world.
The event has been curated by Peterson with two year support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and first time support by the National Endowment for the Arts. Peterson feels that this festival is a culmination and recognition of her life’s work. Here, she will showcase world renowned, inclusive dance companies that “will make a person think twice about the labeling of 'disabled,' she says.
Peterson founded KPD, her physically integrated dance company, in 1990 with the idea that dance is for everyone and, through movement, the human spirit can be elevated regardless of perceived or real barriers. Her thought was a simple, inclusive one. Over the course of 29 years, through the work of her company, her determination, and a pioneering spirit, Peterson has educated and inspired audiences to create a dialogue that blurs the lines and indeed, opens the perspective of what defines physical beauty and beautiful movement.
“This dance form has developed from a social, therapeutic, political movement in the early 1990’s to an exciting, physical dance form that has just begun to spread its wings.” Peterson said. “Some of the most physical and talented diverse dancers in the world will show you how the artistry is first and the advocacy second during this festival.”
The concept of seeing an integrated dance company still carries a stigma. With this Festival, Peterson hopes to address and perhaps, alleviate, preconceived notions and to have audience members think more deeply about the art form.
“People are uncomfortable with what they do not know.” she said. “Everyone needs an open mind to look at something new. KPD is radically different from other companies yet still seeks to tell stories that are honest, real, diverse and connect on a human level.”
Education is one factor that can help grow and promote integration awareness. The panel discussions throughout the festival will put disability front and center on the table and engage the community in a conversation that is often difficult to have. The discussions will include speakers from participating dance companies as well as guests in an open dialogue that focuses on moving forward into an integrated future and beyond. Topics will include how people with disabilities are represented in the arts and media, social issues of inclusion and equality, and as an added bonus, a movement workshop will be open to all.
Peterson said, “I want people to hear the point of view of a dancer with a disability. How do we get rid of the labels? How does the audience talk about what they see? How do choreographers talk about what they make? Where does physically integrated dance fit in the whole spectrum of contemporary dance at this time in our society?”
London based, “Candoco” one of the world’s top inclusive contemporary dance companies, will join the roster of performers and discussion panelists. KPD worked with “Candoco" in London during their five day International Lab to share language and movement skills. The results will take place during the opening night reception at the Miami Light Box when three London and two Miami dancers reveal their collaborative movement creation. This international project, a culmination of Peterson’s ten international exchange projects since 2002, is a telling example of how movement crosses geographical borders, politics, language, religion and most importantly, physical abilities.
Charlotte Darbyshire, the co-artistic director of “Candoco Dance Company,” is very excited to be part of this high profile conference to join the wider international communities. The company’s work has serious undertones, in terms of its social and political ambition for developing the art form and contributing to the more inclusive world.
“One of the strengths of “Candoco" is to present a broad range of repertory from very experimental to commercial with all of it aiming to enrich and challenge the art form.” Darbyshire said.
She has seen, first hand, the growth of integrated dance over the past 30 years.
“Now, I’m very pleased to say that we’re one of many companies with very diverse approaches to the art form with outstanding performers. Even the notion of disability is being stretched. It is so exciting to see a whole new generation of disabled choreographers and teachers.”
Also performing will be inclusive contemporary dance company, San Francisco based, “Axis.” under the direction of Marc Brew. A highly trained classical dancer who works with dance companies the world over, Brew became paralyzed from the waist down in his early 20s, leading him to discover inclusive dance in a more personal level.
“Axis” is known for their edgy and powerful work and is a leader in the field of integrated dance.
Asked what audiences would take away from the “Axis”performance, Brew quickly said, ” I think I just want to blow their minds! I want them to see how exciting this work is and what diversity can do to enrich the art form. To create new possibilities for performers and for audiences.”
“There is something so wonderful about us all coming together for this Festival.” Brew continued. “Even though we all work in integrated dance, we all work in different ways and we’re all very different.”
Concluding the roster of performers and panelists will be “REVolution Dance” based in Tampa, Florida, founded in 2005 by Dwayne Scheuneman, and the host company, “Karen Peterson and Dancers.”
“The focus of bringing people together and not dividing one another is needed now more than ever in our society.” said Peterson. “Our shared common language, not pity or empathy, is the key to the success of integrated dance. I hope this festival brings a sense of goodwill, human kindness, generosity of spirit, as well as fantastic dancing and really interesting choreography.”
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