Just a month ago, the Paralympic Games in Tokyo celebrated the ability of athletes to overcome their disabilities and physical limitations in sports ranging from cycling and swimming to basketball and tennis.
This week, the Forward Motion Physically Integrated Dance Festival and Conference in Miami will redefine dance and showcase companies, dancers and choreographers who are inclusive of those with and without disabilities, “exploring a new terrain of beauty, movement and performance.”
Produced by Florida’s own groundbreaking physically integrated dance pioneers, Karen Peterson and Dancers (KPD), the third annual festival will also mark the reopening of South Florida's performing arts season and feature some of the best dancers and companies of any kind, in performance, discussion and workshops.
“It's with much relief and a renewed sense of commitment that we are bringing Forward Motion back to South Florida this September, after more than a year of reduced contact with our audiences," explained Peterson, founder and artistic director. “Dancers and choreographers find beauty in the world — much needed right now — through the work we do, and that's especially true for those of us pushing the boundaries of physical differences to discover new vocabularies and possibilities.”
A highlight of the busy schedule will be the South Florida premiere of “Remember When,” a solo dance by gay choreographer Marc Brew, artistic director of AXIS Dance Company in Oakland, California, and performed by Miami-based wheelchair dancer Jesús Vidal de Leon, who is also gay.
Brew, an Australian ballet dancer who was paralyzed in an automobile accident 24 years ago in South Africa, described the piece as the story of “a dancer at the crossroads of life who actually doesn’t move. It’s a narrative through gesture and expression. It’s actually very complicated.”
For many performers, the accident would be devastating and Brew described it as a process: “I was 20 when the accident happened and I still identified as a dancer. I’m a very stubborn, determined person and will always be that [so I] got together with friends who were dancers and explored what I could do. Dance is not just about being on two legs. As a wheelchair user, it opened up to new possibilities … how I can use the restriction, working with other people as creative solutions.”
Vidal de Leon, 32, was a professional gymnast who was paralyzed in a floor exercise crash in 2014. A friend from KPD invited him to give the company a try and he loved it.
“I enjoy it because for once — and I would say on behalf of other wheelchair dancers — we don‘t think about our legs, what we can do or what we cannot do. We’re only thinking about the movement we can create, the expression we can give, the journey we can share,” Vidal de Leon explained.
Learning Brew’s choreography has not been easy, Vidal de Leon emphasized.
“Everybody is different and when it comes to disability, not everyone in a wheelchair has the same injury. The choreography was made by him, for him, so it’s a little hard to adapt choreography that was not meant for my body. We’re working together to make it about me. It’s a great piece because we have so much to relate to each other,” he said.
For more information and tickets, go to ForwardMotionMiami.com.