Dancers with disabilities tackle political and physical ‘Scrutiny’

Dancers Robert Seller (left) and John Beauregard (center in chair) with choreographers Katrina Weaver (middle) and Juan Maria Seller (right) of “Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray,” an integrated dance performance making its Miami debut at the Miami-Dade Auditorium on Thursday, May 11.

A beautiful woman leaps and twirls across a stage. Her long limbs reveal toned muscles as she gracefully dances, each movement technical yet impressive in its appearance of effortlessness.

It’s the vision that inspires John Beauregard, one of 14 members of the mixed-ability Karen Peterson and Dancers who will perform Thursday and Friday at Miami-Dade County Auditorium.

“It’s important to me because that’s what I think I’m doing. When I’m on stage and I’m dancing — the perfect able-bodied dancer, that’s what I see,” said Beauregard, who is neither a woman nor technically trained.

The troupe will perform “Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray,” an international production choreographed by Karen Peterson, who found the inspiration for the piece several years ago when “everyone was scrutinizing everything when it comes to politics and news.”

“And we said why don’t we create something about that? We all know it’s not going away,” said Peterson, founder of the nonprofit Karen Peterson and Dancers.

But beyond its political nature, “Scrutiny” challenges what it means to be a professional dancer. The archetype of being accepted into the profession was most recently shattered by Misty Copeland in 2015, when she was named a principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre — becoming the first African-American to do so in the company’s 75-year history.

Peterson, who was classically trained at the Boston Conservatory, has explored the relationship between performance art and the bodies of dancers for 26 years. Her work, collaborating with performers with disabilities, has moved audiences to redefine their perceptions of diversity in dance.

Impeccable mobility is not required to produce a great performance, Peterson said.

“I’ve always been interested in difference and how difference can be powerful on stage. I’m really not interested in perfect technical dancers who weigh 120 pounds,” she said. “I really believe the connection with each other is much more powerful than a lot of dance technique.”

Peterson’s style of stripping dance down to its raw emotions while elevating the talents of unconventional dancers was appealing to Beauregard, who was paralyzed after falling from a house 34 years ago. For 17 years, Beauregard said, he felt a lot of rejection from his own body, likening life in his wheelchair to trying to lift someone else’s leg with his brain.

Then he attended one of Peterson’s dance classes. He hasn’t stopped dancing since. Beauregard said Peterson’s troupe forces a space for inclusion in dance.

“I’m not positive it has a place, but we put it in there,” Beauregard said. “Some people can say very easily ‘Oh, that’s not dancing.’ [But] I am included. I put myself in there.”

IF YOU GO

When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Where: Miami-Dade Auditorium Black Box, 2901 W. Flagler St.
Tickets: $20 at tinyurl.com/scrutinymiami

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