B.F.A. (Hons), Dance, York University
Karen Kaeja, choreographer, dancer, and educator, is a 2009 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Outstanding Performance. Co-artistic director of Kaeja d’Dance with Allen Kaeja since 1990, she performs and choreographs for stage and film. She is an Honours B.F.A. graduate of York University, distinguished in three Encyclopedias: The Canadian Encyclopedia, the Canadian Who’s Who Encyclopedia, and the Encyclopedia of Theatre Dance in Canada. She has won the 2012 Canadian Dance Assembly “I Love Dance” Community Award for her invention of Porch View Dances, the Moving Pictures Best Performance Award, and a Paul D. Fleck Fellowship for innovation; she was nominated for the 10th Annual American Choreography Award, and the 2006 Banff World Television Award, and recently for Newfoundland’s Achievement in Community Excellence Award for her residency activity at Memorial University of Newfoundland/Dance NL. The Kaejas were finalists for the 2011 NOW Magazine Best Local Choreographer Award, the 2012 Canadian Dance Assembly “I Love Dance” Innovation Award, and the 2013 TD Arts Diversity Award.
Kaeja has participated in creation residencies, and has been commissioned and presented by dancers, festivals, and performance series nationally and internationally, including Banff (three times), Canada Dance Festival (eight times), DanceWorks, Dancing On The Edge (Vancouver), Dusk Dances (six times), Jasmyn Fyffe, the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival (four times), L’Agora de la danse (Montreal), LiveArts (Halifax), Mocean Dance (Halifax), the School of TDT, Sylvie Bouchard, Tangente (Montreal), Vancouver East Cultural Centre, and the Yukon Arts Centre.
She and her work have appeared in England, India, Israel, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United States, and Venezuela. Celebrated as “one of this country’s top ten dance artists” and “a champion of contact dance” (NOW Magazine), she is “one of Toronto’s top improvisers” (Toronto Life Magazine). She has danced in hundreds of performances created by exceptional dance artists including Peter Bingham, Susie Burpee, Marie-Josée Chartier, Denise Fujiwara, Randy Glynn, Maxine Heppner, Allen Kaeja, Claudia Moore, Kathleen Rea, Tedd Robinson, Jessica Runge, and Holly Small.
Kaeja is on faculty at Brock University, and for over 20 years at the School of TDT. Her teaching and academic presentations on Touch – an avenue to move through trauma, reach symposiums, festivals, and universities across North America. She is instrumental in the development of Kaeja Elevations, a keystone of Kaeja practice. The Kaejas’ EXPRESS DANCE: Educators’ Resource for Teaching Dance consolidates their hands-on dance approach. Karen Kaeja mentors up-and-coming artists; as well, she co-founded the aLOFT Project, Cloud 9, Estrogen, the Festival of Interactive Physics, and Kd’D2, and she instigates a multitude of community projects.
Kaeja has appeared in television documentaries that have been screened in over 400 festivals worldwide, including the Gemini-nominated Bravo! Freedom documentary series, as well as 19 films for CBC, BRAVO!, and Bravo!FACT, garnering international awards and a Gemini nomination for Asylum of Spoons. Many of these films are housed in the permanent collection of Yad Vashem, Israel, and the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Her own film, Mika’s Alley, toured through South America and to the American Dance Festival. Bridging public with performance arts, she engages in participatory arts practices, conceiving large-scale, site-specific performance events that integrate new public communities. She is the innovator behind the critically acclaimed Porch View Dances, Bird’s Eye View, and Stable Dances. She was the first Artist in Residence at the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival, 2012, and in 2014 she was Memorial University of Newfoundland/Dance NL’s first dancer-in-residence for six weeks of creation, writing, teaching, and dance film/photo projects. Her creative enquiry focuses on life’s imperfections – those places where destabilization, awkward interfaces, and the effort to attain are seen for their humbling beauty.