A Breakthrough Moment
Had you been with us in our Moving Well™ training at Winona Health one morning in the spring of 2015, you would have witnessed staff members weeping openly after one of our Dancing heart™ sessions in the community room on one of the hospital floors. They had just witnessed a wheelchair-bound client, “Jim”, who had spent months – isolated, silent and alone – suddenly speak and move with enthusiasm and heart during the dance and music theater enactment of a folk tale. And that evening, he and his wife were the first to arrive for our Intergenerational dance Hall™ in the front lobby of the hospital. It is these “come back to active life” transformations our work creates that keep us, and our collaborators, inspired and enthused.
“There is something quite moving about watching seventeen people of varying cultural and ethnic backgrounds, ages and skill levels creating enjoyable, entertaining and even profound dances together. It’s as if you’re watching a little working-model of patience, care and respect. And, you find yourself, for an hour or so, rediscovering your faith in humanity and believing that art can heal, that dance is ritual and world-making, and that a theater can be a sacred space.”
“Kairos embodies the commitment to vital involvement lifelong that the Vital Aging Network (VAN) espouses. I have seen the revitalizing power of artistic expression while ‘chair dancing’ with the ‘disabled’ elders in the adult day care program at the Southwest Senior Center. I have seen that dancing is the best route to wellness because it integrates physical, mental, social and emotional exercise. I have seen the power of Kairos to create community across generations, and across the distance from the stage to the audience.”
Janie began dancing with us at the Southwest Senior Center DayElder program in 2001. She said that she wasn’t much of a dancer when she was young. At the Kairos Dancing Heart™ playshops, Janie found she especially enjoyed the mirror dance and dancing with the school children. She compared dancing to going to church. One Dancing Heart day, she shared how she had surprised the folks in her church that Sunday. She had gone to the front of the sanctuary. “People were expecting me to sing. Instead I started dancing the mirror dance. I just closed my eyes and danced.” After performing with Kairos Dance™ one evening Janie said, “With every performance we make I feel better and better…It makes me so joyous that I can make people feel happy. At this age, I’ve still got something in there!”
Moses began dancing with Kairos as part of Kairos Dancing Heart™ at Walker Methodist Health Center Senior Club in 2003. At first Moses would take brief spins on the dance floor and sit down. Moses became a regular performer with Kairos Dance™ in 2005. In 2006 he joined us for our premiere at the Greater Harlem Nursing Home in New York City with saxophonist Irv Williams. Moses said his favorite kind of dance was a slow dance because he liked to dance close.
When we first met Helen, she would run away from us. She didn’t interact, and was very uncomfortable and nervous. Soon, she became more comfortable when we came to visit. She slowly became more involved and started dancing with us. We discovered she loved country music, so we brought it into the program. Now Helen is engaging others in our performances and in every aspect of her life.
“Life is like a library and we are all books in the library. We just need to take the time to read each other’s story.” When we first entered Diann’s life, she said, “Who would want to look at me dancing?” Now Diann is a confident performer who rehearses regularly, performs in New Jersey, and is helping others dance.
Ocie Mae passed on at the vibrant age of 91. We first met Ocie Mae at the Southwest Senior Center in 2001 through our Kairos Dancing Heart™ program. A born performer, she joined Kairos Dance™ as a company member in 2003, traveling with us to San Francisco and Philadelphia and charming audiences everywhere with her big heart and generous spirit. We miss her dearly and remember her story that lives on in Dances of the Heart: “God came to me and told me that I need to take care of the children and the elder people. When you do good, good will come back to you.”