To dance on a stage, most people would probably say that one must not only be well-trained, but able to do just that: dance.
The training part should be a given, of course, but the ability of who can dance and how to dance is always much more complex, rewarding, and surprising. That, and much more, is what dancers with disabilities can offer audiences who see them in events like South Florida's own annual "danceAble" project.
Produced and presented by Tigertail Productions and Florida Dance Association along with Inkub8, "danceAble" enables people, whether with disabilities or not, to view dance as a powerful force and an essential, vital art form in our lives.
Witness that for yourself from Thursday through Saturday, when Miami-based choreographer, dancer, performance artist and director of the Inkub8 creative workspace (now in its third year) Heather Maloney, along with award-winning guest choreographer, filmmaker and UCLA professor Victoria Marks, embark on danceAble 2013.
Marks will lead off on Thursday with "Action Conversation," an interactive workshop on the politics of citizenship, on differences, and on the "other," and will present several short films on the two days following the workshop. Maloney will debut a work commissioned by Tigertail and Florida Dance Association, unquiet |body, on Friday and Saturday as well.
Both artists have known each other for some time now, admired and followed each other's careers, and have explored the ways in which disabilities can offer a completely unique and varied vision on life and on dance.
"From the perspective of a choreographer, my job is to work with the body, and every body has different capacities, regardless of the differences," says Maloney, a 34-year-old Virginia native who came to Miami to study at the New World School of the Arts, then spent some time in New York City before returning to South Florida in 2006.
"We are also working with movement and the emotional content of that... It's a process of discovering what possibilities exist," considers Maloney, who in unquiet |body once again choreographed for John Beauregard, who dances in a wheelchair.
"This is my third project with him," adds Maloney.
For Beauregard, who's collaborated with danceAble from its beginnings, dance liberates him from his physical confines. "That [danceAble] was probably my first workshop," says Beauregard, who will dance in Maloney's piece with Joanne Barrett. "I've been paralyzed for like 29 years. I've always been with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and we've done some great things," continues Beauregard. "But the dance.... The dance, overwhelmingly, is the biggest influence on my physical body. It's magical to me. It's taught me to listen to my body, and learn so much about it."
Learning about different aspects of our bodies, of our aging, of our humanity, is something that also comes through in the three short films by choreographer Marks -- Outside In, Men, and Veterans -- that will be featured at danceAble. All three are works done with Margaret Williams, a U.K.-based film director and longtime collaborator of Marks.
"I like to challenge this idea of disability because, who's to say what it is? Very often the concept of a disability is determined by our social landscape," Marks says, speaking from Los Angeles.
"Outside In is a project we did a long time ago, in 1993, with the Candoco Dance Company, which is an integrated dance company that includes dancers with and without disabilities," says the 2005 Guggenheim winner and Fulbright scholar who led her Victoria Marks Performance Company in the 1980s, worked for three-and-half years as head of choreography at the London Contemporary Dance School, and in 1995 began teaching choreography at UCLA.
"The second film in that series is Men, and that one was done in the Canadian Rockies with a group of elderly men. And then the third one, Veterans, was a project working with a group of veterans who had put themselves in a combat-rehab program and were together for long time," explains Marks.
Whether through the medium of film, as with these short films, or in the dance pieces she creates, Marks sees the power to deliver a transformative message to audiences. "This is really about how we comport ourselves, with one another. I've thought a lot about that, and I come to it through dancing," Marks adds. "It would be great if I thought anything I made changed the way people thought and felt. I do feel like I work towards that. It is conscious in my mind, but I also feel that work really exists on a person to person level."
"danceAble 2013" takes place at Inkub8, 2021 NW 1st Pl., Miami. The workshop/discussion costs $10, on Thursday from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.; concerts cost $20 on Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Call 305-324-4377 or go to tigertail.org.
--Juan Carlos Pérez-Duthie, artburstmiami.com