Applauding Generosity at the Abilities Arts Festival

Mark Brose and Sahara Morimoto perform Peggy’s choreography Geometry of the Circle at the 2011 Abilities Arts Festival. Photo by John Lauener.

Abilities Arts Festival, the magnificent Toronto organization that fosters, promotes and presents work in every medium by disabled artists is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and I was present for the season launch at the Toronto Archives on September 20.

Multi-talented, wild and wacky performer, creator and educator, Jan Derbyshire, was announced as the inaugural Sharon Wolfe Artist-in-Residence, and individuals crucial to the founding and flourishing of Abilities Arts, (Sharon Wolfe among them), were honoured for their passionate contributions. It was my very great pleasure to join executive director Rina Fraticelli in presenting an award of recognition to an extraordinary young woman who had just forged a relationship with Abilities Arts through an extraordinary act of generosity.

Peggy with Remi Waxman on opening night of the Abilities Arts Festival.

Remi Waxman is a Toronto teenager with a passion for dance and a tremendous sensitivity to issues around disability. Planning the celebration of her Bat Mitzvah she wondered if there might be an organization that combined those interests, and looking on-line she discovered Abilities Arts. Just a year earlier I had collaborated with Abilities Arts to present The Neat Strange Music of Ahmed Hassan, a retrospective celebration of my late husband, and the music he had created for a spectacular array of Canadian choreographers. Disabled due to multiple sclerosis, Ahmed created and thrived in the hyperkinetic, physically virtuosic dance world. He brought together the passions and concerns of a young person he had never met. Remi Waxman dedicated her Bat Mitzvah to making a contribution to Abilities Arts, passing on the gifts from her family and friends as a donation of nearly $5000.

Peggy performs Sanctum at the 2011 Abilities Arts Festival, part of The Neat Strange Music of Ahmed Hassan. Photo by John Lauener.

This inspired leap of imagination, through which personal good fortune became a gift to the wider world, is a testament to Remi’s compassion and generosity. What a thrill it was to meet this magnificent young woman!



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