Karen Kobel, 36, Vancouver, BC, Canada says she has been creative since being able to walk and talk, claiming to have lived in her imagination as a child. From creating dances to helping her Father who was a wood-shop teacher.
“It is who I am, I am an artist through and through.”
Karen tells stories and communicates through dance and has been dancing for the past 33 years, teaching for the past 20 years and performing. With a BFA in Dance Performance from East Carolina University.
“I have had the opportunity to perform for various artists such as Mia Michaels, Jay Norman, Marjon Van Grunsven, Tomi Galaska, Mary Carbonaro, Peter Grey Terhune Presents on the Regal Princess and Crown Princess Cruise ships, Madora, and other local artists.”
We at ASLI chose Karen for her amazing energy and message through dance, it was this statement that caught our eye most:
“It was tough to keep this art as my way of being in a society that portrays success through money, material things, and appearance. I knew in my heart and in my soul I had to stay true to me as hard as it would be, by believing in my path regardless of failure I have been able to accomplish some really awesome and amazing things!”
This statement is how the founding members of ASLI have felt and everyday we fight to break down these social norms and the need for conformity in a capitalist world, with the only goal being of monetary value. When we read this a sigh of relief was felt, in knowing we are not alone and that across the pound from us in Canada, Karen is on this mission too. So we jumped at the chance to include her and hear more about this inspiring woman and artist.
What motivated you to deal with the subject female energy in your art?
“I have chosen Women/female energy as a focus because so many of us are so scared to actually own the fact that we as women have a very sacred bond, we have a mutual make up of sorts, we also on a regular basis have been very self conscious, scared, intimidated, embarrassed by these very things to discuss them, to talk about what is happening, what we are experiencing, feeling or going through because they seem to be brought up as a weakness or excuses. From there I have witnessed first hand how many women hold inside the pain of an experience, and specifically a past rape, sexual assault, encounter or even being molested or bullied. And the reason why I talk about this is because of my past experience of date rape. A way of healing such a traumatic experience was to start talking about it. The more I talked about it the more women opened up about how it also happened it to them and the statistic is hauntingly true. 1 in 4 have been raped or have had some type of sexual encounter that is considered assault. And to hear about violence against women really hits close to home for family members and friends who have been through this. So many women fear opening up about this because of the fear that man has set in their mind about something worse happening if they tell someone. Just crazy how many never speak.”
Tell us why you chose this submission?
“To be honest, a friend of mine on Facebook tagged me in your link for this and it was literally a day before your cut off and I knew I needed to get my email in ASAP! Art for healing is where it is at, through and through. I truly believe in what Art Saves Lives is supporting and I want to help make this happen in more places!”
Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?
“Dance is my passion. It always has been. Once I grew confident and courageous to know it was something I was good at, that people understood and were drawn to watch and listen and care for I knew this was how I could share, heal, and create community. I could also show others they too could dance it out to heal. Dancing for hope and healing.”
What is your process when creating?
“When I choreograph a dance I always look at what audience I am creating for, what is the event, what does the space look like and feel like that I will be dancing in. The song I choose will reflect that as well, the clothes I wear, the make up, and choreography is set with room for improv because I always need to feel the energy of those watching the dance and the room itself as well as the song. Different emotions are going to come up with different lyrics and different people in the room. I love dancing from a very intuitive place rather than just from inside my head. As I live to describe my style, “I dance from my GUTS. My SOUL.””
Who are you influenced by?
“What inspired you and your art? Maya Angelou has always inspired me with her strength, her core values, her quotes especially. She was just such a passionate speaker, human and woman. Mia Michaels. . . Need I say more. A woman with passion and I was so fortunate to have met her and worked with her at a young age to really make me understand the deeper layers of the dance. As she best put it, dance is not about the “high kicks” or the leaps, it is about the FIRE. Dance from the FIRE. Find your FIRE. Get the heck out of this college and find your FIRE and DANCE. I pushed myself through and graduated a semester early. I was able to get my first professional dance gigs ASAP and move on with that FIRE.”
What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
“I am for sure a feminist. I always have been. From a very young age my insides knew exactly where I was going and working with women to create a safe and non intimidating environment for women to come together to share, co create, and heal was always my dream. So feminism to me is the coming together of not only women but men to create this equality that we are still striving to see EVERYWHERE. And even in North America where things seem to have become more equal we are still sadly reminded that so many still believe this is a man’s world.”
What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?
“I have been given the opportunity to move freely every day in my body. I dance. I teach dance. I teach Pilates. I also paint and play the cello. I have been given the opportunity to experience first hand the benefits of art therapy and have created some amazing pieces just through meditation and movement and bringing that to the canvas. I have been able to go into public schools where the “arts” have been cut due to budgets and curriculum changes. I have watched hockey players in gym class learn for the first time what and where their “core” is through Pilates based workouts that will directly help them better their skills on the ice. I have taught dance to gifted children as well as in public schools and the smiles on kids faces after moving freely in a space is amazing. Going back to class afterwards is more rewarding because they have been able to rest their minds and use their bodies which allows them to get back to work and focus that much better after getting the blood flow running through the body.”
Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?
“I do feel that in many cases women still have to conform. It is a constant struggle for women to understand that they themselves are their own leaders. Not a magazine saying what’s in and what’s out, even in fashion or hair. I have had the same hair cut for like 5 years. This is my hair cut. I got this! But that is hard for many women to do. We see the trends. We see the body types on the front page. We see the outfits many wear to get what they want. Beat the line ups in their fancy pants or dresses or something like that. Rock that business suit in the board meeting because that is what the office dress code is. What if I rolled in there in my lululemon pants, with my lap top, and spread sheets ready to go for the big presentation? I would have the information ready to go like nobody’s business, but would they take me “seriously?” When I wear my lululemon pants to teach Pilates they take me seriously. When I wear jeans to teach pilates they take me seriously as well and when I roll in there in a sundress they do too. I haven’t rolled in there yet in a business suit, but now I am curious how that would go down. . . Hmmm.”
Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?
“No. . . I don’t think we are quite there yet. . . It is 2015 and we have come a decent amount of the way, but we are no where near equal. I have a part time serving position as well as being a dancer, dance teacher, pilates teacher and advocate for my events and passions. Within this industry through conversations with customers I have had the opportunity to have been a part of these chats, mostly by those who may say some things they shouldn’t be saying to a server let alone a woman. Oh yes my friends. . . . We hear it all. And it sometimes is AMAZING what we as humans allow to Fall out of our Mouths rather than keeping certain comments as our inside voice.”
What causes and world issues are you passionate about,campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?
“Violence against women. Anti Bullying. Mental Wellness and Mental Health Awareness. Living Positive Kenya where I work with women with HIV.”
What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?
“It literally means exactly what it says. Art really does save lives. I made a trip to Kenya in Fall 2013 where I taught the very basics of dance and Pilates to women who are living with HIV. Many of these ladies are suicidal and spend so much time in their heads, thinking, contemplating the what if’s of life, where they are heading, what will the future hold, the stresses of their every day lives and still trying to support their kids and babies as single moms. Allowing themselves to move through space with simple stretches and dance moves allowed them to really get out of their minds and into their bodies, to feel and experience that adrenaline and energy we all take for granted for being able to feel on a more regular basis. These ladies are also given the chance to learn a skill which more often than not is some form of craft which they turn into their own business: sewing, making jewellery, bags, and so much more.”
How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?
“My bigger picture is to get back to Kenya in the next couple of years to teach the ladies and their children more dance and teach them how to teach what I teach as well as Pilates and meditation. I feel that empowering those who would not normally have those chances and opportunities gives them the freedom and independence needed to move forward in life with less stress, creating jobs for those who don’t have.”
What are your goals as with your art?
“I am working on a teacher certification program as well as looking for my own studio space to welcome those who want to create, heal, move, and restore. I am also working on a talk or lecture series for teenage girls and women in regards to respecting our bodies, what’s acceptable and not in regards to boundaries with men and teenage boys. Making it a comfortable, safe and effective space for everyone to be open to receiving this sort of chat and also to give their input into the topic.”
What is your next project or piece that you are working on?
“I am currently working on a dance for my adult dancers from the Shadbolt Centre of Performing Arts who have a show coming up in June. I am also working on a piece for a show I am in May 9th at the Rickshaw. And I am also working on growing a baby! My piece for May 9th will revolve around this beautiful life growing. My new learning, just when I thought I learned the great Buddha’s noble truth about attachment and letting go, I will be learning my body all over again. I have had the same body it seems for as long as I can remember. . . . Well since the age of 12 or 13 that is. Now, it is out of my hands and the cool thing is I get to embrace learning how to let go all over again, but this time the outcome will be a beautiful new life at the end of the process.”
Find out more about Karen Kobel: