Acclaimed Miami-based dance pioneer, Karen Peterson, and her mixed-ability KPD Dancers are back in South Florida this week to highlight their Fourth Annual Forward Motion Dance Festival and Conference of Physically Integrated Dance (FM4).
The shows will feature the KPD ensemble and another troupe, Full Radius Dance. Both groups focus on the work of disabled and non-disabled performers, joining together on stage to craft unusual and entertaining pieces.
FM4 performances will be held today, Oct. 27 and Friday, Oct. 28, both at 7:30 p.m. at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 West Flagler St. in Miami. A workshop and conference will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Koubek Center, 2705 SW 3rd St., Miami.
In addition to presenting the work of KPD and Full Radius dance, the three-day activity displays the work of choreographer Victoria Marks who has created several premieres for this production. Cameron Basden, director of Miami Dance Hub, will facilitate the workshop conversation along with a slew of prominent figures in the dance community.
“Forward Motion is one of the first festivals and conferences anywhere in the world displaying physically integrated dance companies and choreography,” said Peterson, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory and artistic director of Karen Peterson Dance.
“We’re pushing the boundaries of physical differences to discover new vocabularies and possibilities within the physically integrated dance form,” she said. This groundbreaking contemporary dance technique, she said, which includes performers both with and without disabilities, on stage and in the audience – “challenges artistic and societal perceptions of what defines physical beauty and beautiful movement.”
FM4 Workshop at Koubek 2
KPD takes the stage in a new work crafted by acclaimed choreographer Marks, a Herb Alpert Award winner and Guggenheim and Rauschenberg Fellow. Bay Area composer, musician and dancer ONIKHO will present original music and live vocals, joining forces with five KPD dancers to perform with both mobility devices and static dining room chairs.
Full Radius Dance presents two works at this week’s shows. The first is a series of excerpts from their latest work examining the fantasy novels “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter and Wendy” and “The Wizard of Oz” through a disability-centric lens.
Another piece from this Atlanta-based dance company includes “Undercurrents,” which embodies tides of movement where partnerships are created and washed away, where subtle shifts create dramatic effects and hidden feelings and impulses run below the surface.
Peterson has been a leader of “mixed-ability” dance since 1990 and under her direction, KPD has represented the State of Florida at conferences and festivals in New York City, Atlanta, Cleveland, Brazil, Italy, Scotland, Spain, Bosnia and Montenegro.
KPD toured the state in 2007, presenting shows in Tampa, Key West, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach and performing at The Harman Theatre in Washington D.C. for the VSA International Conference in June 2010.
Peterson also directs the “Talent Showcase,” a 15-week residency program, now in its seventh year, for 200 Miami Dade students with special needs. KPD developed a community concert with students with disabilities in Trebinje, Bosnia in 2010, created “dance (4) 4” which was presented at the Sartre Theatre in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May 2012 and worked with 26 dance artists from “HajdeDa” in Belgrade, Serbia in May of 2013.
She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from the Mildred Levenson Dance Foundation, a Coldwell Banker Cares Award, A Citizen Interested in the Arts Award, Cultural Exchange Fund APAP Travel Award and its first John and James L. Knight Foundation Challenge Award in 2012 to support the company’s work in the Miami Dade Public Schools.
This past March, Peterson was chosen as a Boston Conservatory at Berklee Alumni Achievement Awards winner for her “lifetime arts contributions to society and the dance industry.” At the awards ceremony at Berklee College in Boston, she spoke about her journey in the physically integrated dance field, detailed how she mentored young dance students on a selected educational panel session and audiotaped her oral history for archival and podcast purposes.
KPD, Dancing Wheels and Heidi Latsky Dance completed a nationwide performance festival tour entitled “Beyond Barriers, Boundaries & Belief” in June 2022, which traveled from Cleveland, Ohio, at the Allen Theatre, to Brooklyn, N.Y. at the Mark Morris Space and culminated in Miami at the Miami Light Box.
The physically integrated dance artists shared their performances and teachings in three cities across the country to enthusiastic and engaged audiences. Produced by Mary Verdi-Fletcher of Dancing Wheels, “the field is growing and there is a plethora of talent that deserves exposure and support,” said Peterson. “The time is now to seize the opportunity to tour.”
Victoria Marks is a professor of choreography in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, where she has been teaching since 1995. Before taking that job, she lived in London, where for 3 ½ years she worked on her own choreographic projects and served as head of choreography at London Contemporary Dance School, a conservatory for the training of professional dance artists in Europe.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, she started the Victoria Marks Performance Company in New York. In 1987 and 1988 she went to London on a Fulbright Fellowship in choreography. She returned to London again in 1992 to run the choreography program at the London School of Contemporary Dance where she began making works for individual artists.
Marks began her work with mixed-ability dancers in 1992 when Margaret Williams, who heads a dance troupe in England called CandoCo., asked her to create a dance for the camera for her mixed-ability company.
The West Coast choreographer said she hoped “to change the audiences’ view of disabilities by portraying them as sexy, smart, funny and powerful.”
Her work forces the audience to rethink society’s aesthetic expectations on dance, challenging the audience to explore the possibilities in theatrical dancing involving disabled bodies. Marks said she loves “creating movements that communicate ideas and change peoples’ perspectives.”
FM4, Adam Eckstat, Sun Young Park, Marjorie Burnett, Karen Peterson, Shawn Buller, Piece by Victoria Marks, KPD 2022, Photo by Lisa Nalvinjpg