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February 3, 2010 > Dance is life and life is for all

Dance is life and life is for all

By Julie Grabowski

Fremont resident Kari Ann Owen believes in the power of dance. As Artistic Director of Theatre Engage, contemporary history and social justice are explored through plays comic and tragic, as well as satirical. But it is dance that reaches into the depths of a being, shining the light of hope, strength, and healing into every dark and broken avenue.

A survivor of violence, Owen's years of studying and performing modern dance has helped her overcome a painful past of rejection and hatred of her own body. "Frequently victims of abuse blame themselves and take out their anger on their bodies. My experience and that of many others teaches that the road of healing is to embrace one's body in movement, as well as one's mind and soul," says Owen.

Along with classes in adolescence, Owen's dance education includes five years of study in Berkeley and San Francisco with notable instructors Jocelyne Danchik, and Martha Graham soloist and UC Berkeley Dance Department co-founder Marni Thomas Wood, as well as performances at the Moscone Center, Fort Mason Arts Center, and UC Berkeley.

She is currently involved in a spoken word/modern dance project with instructor Renee Meiffren that expresses grief and the longing for a relationship with a mother who was a co-perpetrator of incest. The objective in her works is "to accept the unacceptable and diminish the horror of the memories of parental and sibling rejection and abuse." Owen says working in dance deepens her own experience as a survivor who has triumphed over self-destructive impulses. Beginning February 6, a new dance project extends the healing opportunity to others.

Offered through Theatre Engage and held at Fusion Dance Project in Hayward, Owen's class is dedicated to the expression of deep emotions and healing. A Modern Dance Class for Survivors of Violence and Anyone Making Peace with Their Body is a six-week course that meets for an hour every Saturday afternoon. There is an eight student maximum and no previous dance experience is needed, only the willingness to learn the techniques of modern dance. "Dance allows the body, informed by the mind and heart, to uncurl and open itself up to being heard, seen, understood and empathetically understood," explains Owen. "When married to dance technique, the aesthetic result can be a deeply moving experience for dancer and audience, which is a triumph over violence. The dance teacher, the dance student, the dance class and the audience become partners in healing."

Interested students need to call and reserve a place in the class, and be prepared to share a story, poem, thought, or piece of music; anything that expresses a deep feeling that can be expressed in dance. Class time consists of breathing and stretching exercises employing a spoken word, floor exercises, helping students express the meaning of the individual pieces they have brought, and concludes with a breathe, cool down and students sharing a positive response about their dance experience. A production piece is possible at the end of the six weeks if students are interested. "I hope this class will provide a sense of positive presence in one's body, one's heart and soul and also in the community," Owen says. "And a sense of pride in learning new dance skills."

When a person experiences violence, both mind and body often shut down, leading to deep mental and physical injury says Owen. Suppression of grief and pain can cause stiffness in the body, and have been discussed as factors in the early and sudden diagnoses of heart disease and cancer. Instead of trying to bury and ignore the past in order to survive, Owen calls those who have suffered trauma to expel hurt, hatred, and rejection through the movement of dance, to reclaim life and the self and proclaim, "I am here and I belong."

The class is open to all ages and will continue to be offered in the future. There is a fee of $15 per student. For more information or to reserve a place, call Kari Ann Owen at (510) 860-8188.

A Modern Dance Class for Survivors of Violence
Starting February 6
Saturdays, 3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Fusion Dance Project
22461 Foothill Blvd., Hayward
(510) 860-8188

$15 per student

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