Counter Balance IV presented by Access Living and Momenta took its place as part of the Bodies of Work (BOW) eleven day Festival May 17th and 18th, 2013. It brilliantly integrated dance, poetry and spoken word, as it explored the intersection of disability, diversity and art. The festival continues with other (see more) performances,
I found the entire evening inspiring, breath taking and amazing. And I have wanted to go to the Access Living building for years. In all honesty, the various shapes and unusual movement took a bit a getting used to but after that it was simply a marvelous performance, creative and powerful. The performers were skilled and talented. How often are you likely to see a wheel chair deconstructed as an art form? This was a part of one of Kris Lenzo’s contribution, another with Anita Fillmore Kenney (a very skilled dancer) with accompaniment on electric guitar by Jamie Filmore, was lovely and whimsical. Amazing how Kris has taken his skill as a national champion in wheelchair basketball and wheelchair track and turned it to dance.
The first number was by Baraka de Soleil, who never revealed his face to the audience. It was unusual and haunting.
Lisa Bufano says of her work, “In my visual and performing work, the dominating theme is the visceral experience of alienation, embodied by creatures, real and imagined.” Watching her performance is an experience quite unlike seeing the pictures of her. I was on the edge of my seat, so involved. Lisa, who has performed all over the world, lives in Oakland and came to participate in the festival.
Alice Sheppard dances with both wheelchair and crutches, and her work challenges the assumption that assistive devices are compensatory. The power and energy of her movements was compelling. Alice got her start in dance in Oakland after many other careers, and is now a free-lance dancer.
The number performed by Ginger Lane in her wheelchair and Deb Goodman and Anita Fillmore Kenney (able bodied) was ethereal and deeply moving bringing tears to some of the audience.
And then, for something “completely different” there was Pennie Brinson who has been writing since she was a teenager and has written more than 100 poems, short stories, one-act plays, one novella and several songs including the one that closed the performance. She was absolutely charming as she moved to the poems and songs about dance and the signer that accompanied her spoken work provided an even greater dimension.
We are particularly excited about this year’s festival because of its focus on professional artists with disabilities whose work illuminates important issues and emerging aesthetics of our community as well as the larger arts Community," said Carrie Sandahl, Bodies of Work Director and Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
I believe that most audience members, many of whom were standing, left with a new perspective. I loved what my companion, Elyne, said, “Seeing the performance has really changed my life. I will never see a disabled person and think only of what they cannot do, rather I’ll think of what they CAN do.” I believe than many attendees of the various productions left with the same feeling. I believe the goal of the festival was accomplished.
The 2013 Bodies of Work Festival is a dynamic, international, 11-day celebration that explores the contributions of artists with disabilities, the contemporary contexts of disabled lives, and works that illuminate disability experiences. Bodies of Work first launched in 2006 as a unique cross-disciplinary event, and the festival continues to challenge and provoke with transformative work in theater, dance, literature, poetry, film, visual art, and sound performance. A variety of panel discussions held throughout the festival add fresh perspectives and thoughtful viewpoints.
Art Is A Risk. Take It.
Bodies of Work: A Network of Disability Art and Culture is part of the Department of Disability and Human Development at University of Illinois at Chicago
115 W Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60654
Photos: Sylvia Yu unless otherwise noted