I had to look up the word Grit, the title of the recent piece presented by Karen Peterson and Dancers. It’s not that I didn’t know what the word meant, but wondered how it was to be put to use in a dance piece. Struggle, the fight for a place in the world and fear were all played out in this one hour dance.
For those of you who don’t know, Karen Peterson and Dancers have been presenting integrated dance for 25 years in South Florida. Her company consists of trained dancers and dance artists (those with mixed ability). Peterson refers to all her dancers as Dance Artists. Lest you think that being in a wheelchair means you can’t dance, I’ve got news for you.
John Beauregard and Shawn Buller are both confined to wheelchairs. They are daring and aggressive and fierce as they careen around the stage. There is beauty in their upper bodies as they fend off other dancers. Leaning and swerving, their movement is as interesting as the able bodied dancers. When Beauregard is thrown out of his wheelchair, you hold your breath until he moves again, by rolling across the floor and into the wings.
There was a duet with Beauregard and one of the dancers. She flew at him and landed upside down in an arm stand, then into his lap and then she balanced on the wheel chair in opposition to him.
In another section, two women fought on a mat seemingly as gorillas, a daring heartfelt piece about standing ones ground.
The lighting by Gary Lund gave focus to the various movement sections, highlighting each piece. The sound score was interesting as well: some recorded sounds and some live, like the use of sandpaper as a threat by the dancers.
The multimedia work by Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez that was projected on the back wall was less effective and sometimes took focus from the dance pieces. Much of it didn’t seem to fit the title Grit and some of the pictures were even out of focus.
This company has toured worldwide with their integrated dance and their mix-ability dancers. The next time they have a performance, take a look at them. Their work is impressive.