KPD is Florida’s only full-time dance organization that features choreography performed by dancers with and without disabilities and has been a role model for the artistic and disability communities in Miami Dade County for twenty – seven years. Under the dedicated direction of Artistic Director Karen Peterson, the company provides educational programming for students with special needs and provides inclusive rehearsal, performance and touring opportunities for adult professional dancers and choreographers with diverse abilities. KPD is the only organization south of Georgia that has a committed history of providing dance workshops, lecture demonstrations, and performances to thousands of audience members, teachers, therapists and special needs students interested in the physically integrated dance form. The organization provides a positive “can-do” role model for both the disability and dance communities through education and outreach and maintains a high quality of an artistic product.
Artistic Director and Founder of KPD, Karen Peterson has won multiple dance fellowship awards, two from the State and two from Miami Dade Cultural Affairs, for her choreographic vision. She shares her tradition and knowledge of contemporary, conservatory dance training with individuals, who despite their difference have a professional and artistic desire to create and perform. It is the collaborative and creative spirit within the two populations that makes this art form possible.
Since 1990, the company has presented an annual season of new ensemble work, performed by hundreds of dancers, created by multiple choreographers, at many venues; at its 50-seat home, Excello, in the Falls Industrial area, at the New World School of the Arts, at Florida International University’s VH100 Theater, at the Byron Carlyle Theater, at the Pinecrest Gardens amphitheater, at the Nova Southeastern University Theatre and at the “on stage” black box at the Miami Dade County Auditorium. The company also performs at smaller community venues in Miami to keep the message of “physically integrated dance” alive as a valid dance form available for the dance and disability communities.
Master Workshops and performances have been produced at various conferences, festivals and showcases on a local, national and international venue.
On a local level workshops have been held at the Lighthouse for the Blind, Shake-A-Leg, Post Polio Association, Easter Seals, Cerebral Palsy, AD Barnes Access Center, the Miami Children’s Museum, the Hope Center, Perdue Medical, Jackson Hospital, South Dade Cultural Arts Center, Aventura Arts Center and the City of Miami showcase for special needs. KPD has partnered with Very Special Arts and The Children’s Trust and has worked with over 5000 teens with special needs in the Dade Schools to research movement towards performance since 2006.
Committed to touring the company has also made an impact on a National level. The events include: New York City (“Mobility Junction Festival at Vineyard Theatre, NYC – 1997) Ohio (Oberlin College – 1996), Atlanta (The American Dance Therapists Annual Conference – 1993) and throughout Florida (West Palm, Key West, Orlando, Tampa, Naples, the King Center in Brevard County) for Very Special Arts Florida events held at museums, universities and rehabilitation centers.
The company has branched out internationally and has held residencies in Sao Paulo, Brazil (2001) and at the “Festival of Different Abilities” in Carpi, Italy (2002), at the Edinburgh “Fringe”, Scotland (2003), at the American Choreographers Showcase, in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain (2005), at Montenegrin National Theatre in Podgorica, Montenegro (2008) and at the Community Center in Trebinje, Bosnia for adults with and without disabilities. (2010). KPD also performed with national artists for the Very Special Arts International Conference at the Harman Shakespeare in Washington D.C. in 2010 and set a new work, in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2012 at the Sartre Theatre. Karen and her company worked with Hajde Da Dance in Belgrade, Serbia in 2013 to set a new dance work “Body Without Text” on 26 mixed ability dance artists, from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia, with a final performance in May 2013 in Belgrade. Five members from KPD performed repertory excerpts at “the Off Frame Festival” in Belgrade in 2013 and in 2014 and Ms. Peterson and Lize-Lotte Pitlo set an improvisational dance on seven members from the “CroiGlan” Dance Company, in Cork, Ireland.
KPD facilitated the Miami / Lisbon Dance Exchange with a new work entitled IDENTITY for eleven dance artists from Lisbon and Miami. The work was performed at the Lisbon Forum theatre (April 2016) after a seven-day residency and at Miami-Dade County Auditorium in May 2016 to a SOLD OUT audience.
In 2017, The company premiered Scrutiny – a full length, work for fourteen dancers, seven with disabilities on May 11, 12, 2017 at the Miami Dade County Auditorium. The work featured dance artists from the Miami/ Vienna Dance Project, LizArt as well as video artist, Maria Lino and choreographers Juan Maria Seller, Karen Peterson and Katrina Weaver.
Karen received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from the Mildred Levenson Dance Foundation, a Coldwell Bankers Cares Award, A Citizen Interested in the Arts Award, Cultural Exchange Fund APAP Travel Award and the company’s first John and James L Knight Foundation Challenge Award to support the company’s work in the Miami Dade Public Schools. She is a recipient of the 2015 American Red Cross-Cultural Award for Women and was named one of the “Queen of the Arts” by the Miami Herald in September 2014. KPD received $150,000 from the KNIGHTS ARTS CHALLENGE AWARD plus a two-year award from the National Endowment for the Arts for FORWARD MOTION, a two-year festival of physically integrated dance in 2018 and 2019.