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Karen Peterson is the artistic director of Karen Peterson and Dancers, a company that brings professional dancers with and without disabilities together in the same piece of choreography, and on the same stage. It is a lofty goal in a society where the focus is often about seeking physical perfection. Peterson’s latest collaborative project takes a closer look at what is perceived as perfect in our physical and external world -- and what is not.
When Peterson was applying for funding over a year ago, the conversation went from funding to politics. “We had had so many discussions about things that were happening in the world, emotionally, socially and politically,” she says. “I felt it was calling for us to do a collaboration with video and with dance in response.” As a result, “Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray” was born. It will be premiered at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium on Thursday and Friday.
Peterson brought the idea of scrutiny to life with two other trusted choreographers, Katrina Weaver and Juan Maria Seller. The three each did a section of “Scrutiny” based on their personal interpretation or inspiration of what scrutiny meant to them.Without even realizing it, the choreographers were impacted by each other. Peterson credits Seller with being a major force in this piece, challenging the choreographers to venture into new territories. Peterson herself will be making a stage come-back in the section Seller created.
Weaver had a distinct vision for what scrutiny meant to her. “I was very interested in scrutinizing the body from a medical point of view. As I started rehearsals and working with the dancers, it took another shape and became a little more about gender issues and identity, about female issues and power in a male society.”
As part of a yearly foreign exchange program, Peterson will also be integrating two disabled women from Vienna, Austria into “Scrutiny.” The three choreographers traveled to Vienna to work with the women who will then join KPD for the performances. The two Austrian dancers were curious to investigate the ideas of power and control, especially as disabled women.
“To tie all of this together is the video that Maria (Lino) will present,” says Peterson. “Maria has been in every rehearsal and conversation from the beginning.”
Lino explains that Peterson encouraged her to speak out, to question if the concept remained clear and on track. “To me video is a way to emphasize the concept of the piece through working with the choreographers. We all work together. Video shows the audience the angles and the composition that you won’t see in a frontal performance.”
Working with a variety of abilities contains physical challenges that are not usual in a dance studio. “We’ve practiced a lot of contact improvisation, so we know how far to push the dancers, at what point they will fall,” says Peterson. “We’ve taken a lot more risk this year. We have a very tight group who really know each other and trust each other.
“We want the movement to come from the bodies, from a deep place, so it is a true kinetic response from the dancers’ own personal selves. I think you’ll be able to see that.”
Peterson has been working for more than 25 years in the field of mixed ability or physically integrated dance in Miami, and across the globe. “They’re having a whole conference this year in Kansas City on integrated dance. That truly shows the growth of the movement,” she says. “Thankfully, we have artistically and aesthetically moved up the ladder.”
The mixing of dance elements, the blending of abilities and the intense emotional impact makes “Scrutiny” a performance of athletes and artists in their fields and perhaps, to question the very idea of perfection.
“Miami/Vienna Dance Exchange” featuring the U.S. premiere of ”Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray,” with LizArt Productions and Karen Peterson and Dancers; Thursday, May 11 and Friday, May 12, at 8:00 pm ; Miami-Dade County Auditorium, OnStage Black Box theater, 2901 West Flagler Street, Miami; $20 general admission, $15 students and $10 seniors and people with disabilities, through Ticketmaster at tinyurl.com/ScrutinyMiami or in-person at the Auditorium box office. For more information:www.karenpetersondancers.org (305) 298-5879.
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