This year's Albuquerque Folk Festival featured one of the most unique dance performances I have ever seen.
The Buen Viaje Dancers are a group of dancers with mixed levels of ability, featuring dancers from one to 80 years old. Some of the dancers have cognitive or physical restraints, but you would never use the word "disabled" to describe these amazing artists. Buen Viaje's dance style is interactive and community based, which means it is intended to involve the audience in the dance process.
One of the pieces I saw paired the dancers with audience members. This was my favorite component of their performance. The two groups came together seamlessly to create a picture that reminded me of a Picasso painting. I became engrossed in the movements that were modern and improv-like, with dancers weaving in and out, forming patterns on high, medium and low levels.
Involving the audience also is a positive experience for all the participants. It brings members of the community that would never come in contact with either dance or people with physical and mental restrictions the chance to do both. Everyone there seemed to share a love for each other and for dance.
Bill Morrison has been dancing with Buen Viaje for 17 years. He said he started because he wanted to see what dance is all about. Morrison added that working with others, whether or not they have disabilities, is fun and hilarious.
Bill Zimer, a volunteer who works with the group, said dancing allows people who are movement-restricted and who normally cannot get out much, the chance for interaction. Zimer has worked with people with spinal cord injuries and finds dance to be one of the most useful treatments.
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Audra Gendoso came from California to work with the group. She said one facet of the company that makes Buen Viaje different is that the participants have input into the choreography. Gendoso says the Very Special Arts Building is about to undergo some changes, adding a theater with a stage so the group can have more performances at the facility.
Since the group was founded in 1984, the company has been featured in two nationally distributed videos, one of which won a Rocky Mountain Emmy for a piece called "Opening Doors: Dancing with Disabilities."
The group also has performed in two international festivals and co-sponsored the Therapeutic Recreation Program with the City of Albuquerque. They also offer classes and workshops to the students in public schools.
Buen Viaje currently has openings for dancers, teachers and volunteers who are interested in their program. Ameri Corps offers paid positions for individuals interested in working with the Very Special Arts Program. This program includes a theater company and a studio arts facility.
For more information please contact them at 345-2872 or visit their Web site at www.vsartsnm.org.
Buen Viaje's next performance will be at the Ghost Ranch in Abiqui, N.M., in October.