Karen’s debut as a choreographer

Two women in wheelchairs and one able-bodied woman dance on stage with a swirling blue backdrop

Today we’re heading over to the dance studio to learn about Karen Yates’ experience as a first-time choreographer at Matheny Arts Access.

Meet Karen

Karen is a nonverbal woman with cerebral palsy who only just started working with the Matheny Arts Access Program in 2023. Having never participated in an art program previously, Karen was immediately opened up to a whole new world of possibilities.

When Karen started working, her creative juices could not contain themselves. She started paining and creating dances with great ease and passion. She quickly became an enthusiastic artist who brought vibrant creative energy to every session she attended. As an artist, Karen isn’t held back by structure or rules. Instead, she creates her own by constantly experimenting with various tools and techniques.

Karen Takes to the Stage

In the fall of 2023, Karen was delighted to learn that her duet, “Mariah Carey Silk,” was selected to be part of the Full Circle 2023: Art Without Boundaries stage show. But despite her excitement, Karen was also fraught with nervousness. Not only would this be the first time the public would see her work, but it would be her first time performing on stage. 

However, once rehearsals began, Karen’s nerves instantly melted away when she met the dancers hired to perform her piece. Despite their communication challenges, Karen forged new friendships with her fellow dancers. It was a beautiful cross-section of the arts uniting people from all walks of life.

Anxiety was replaced by anticipation. This was Karen’s time to shine and to show the world what she could do. That she was more than just her diagnosis or her wheelchair. She was an artist, a dancer! And through dance, Karen gained a tremendous dose of confidence and continues to create beautiful works.

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