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Insight Into the Evolution of Karen Peterson’s ‘GRIT’

Posted By Josie Gulliksen
May 23, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Insight Into the Evolution of Karen Peterson’s ‘GRIT’

At the opening night performance of “GRIT” by Karen Peterson and Dancers on May 15, audience members were treated to an insightful post-show panel discussion about the evolution of this powerful piece. The multi-media screen presentation, strength of the physically challenged wheelchair dancers, and dramatic lighting sequences by Gary Lund all added to the raw emotion of the show.

Art Consultant Jenni Person, who served as the evening’s moderator, lead the post-show discussion because “discourse is such an important part and result of creative practice. It’s like an extension of the work itself,” she said. For this particular piece, she said, it’s evolution has become an integral part of the piece itself, “and it is an honor to be involved in exploring that evolution with the community and creators.”

That creator is Artistic Director Karen Peterson, who collaborated with her dancers in bringing the piece to its finished form and for the first time presented it in its entirety.

Peterson spoke about how it was first work-shopped in Belgrade, Serbia at the Off Frame Festival in December, 2013, and then further developed for the Pinecrest Gardens Amphitheatre performance three months ago in February. In March the piece was layered with the addition of video artist Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez.

“We invited her to complement, support, and refocus the dance — then gave ourselves eight months to make a 45-minute dance with many changes and revisions. Half of the material from the beginning was thrown out or redeveloped,” Peterson said.

They also lost three dancers, along the way creating a solid group of six who were invested in the creative process and willing to push themselves and put in the research time. “I feel this current KPD group is committed to the vision of pushing ‘mixed-ability’ even further into a new direction and this makes me feel very satisfied,” she said.

Person echoed that sentiment and “how wheelchair dancers are not dealt with daintily, but challenged physically, which in this piece is particularly important.”

The black box space at Miami-Dade County Auditorium lent itself to the aforementioned dramatic lighting and was a major factor in showing the dancer’s expressions and emotions. “I love the intimacy of the audience and the technical tools that are available for lighting and video in this space,” Peterson said.

The troupe celebrates its 25th anniversary in spring 2015 and has a roster of guest artists planned to mark the occasion.

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