Sunday, December 5, 2010

Remembrance Story

Last night was hands down one of the most touching performing experiences I have ever had. Just being invited to be part of Rowan Tree's Annual Candlelight Remembrance Event was an honor and an even greater honor to actually meet and perform for this seemingly tight knit community. Rowan Tree Foundation was founded by a woman (Corinne O'Flynn) who lost her first baby in the first few hours of her life. Rowan was born with trisomy, which they didn't know about until she was born. After experiencing that trauma, she found a community of people in the Denver-Metro area who had gone through similar experiences of losing a child (either pre-natally or as an infant), and founded Rowan Tree Foundation. It is a community of people who get together to support one another through these types of losses. I was blown away by the level of encouragement and love this group of people eminated to each other, and to Kevin and I last night.
  Around 6:30 pm, Kevin and I got to the church where the reception was being held. The group that would be watching our performance was already at the candlelight event, held annually at a park across the street. There is a statue of an angel in the park, which represents something precious to parents who have lost children. I was not able to attend the event because I had to set up our space and warm up before the performance. I would have loved to attend, hopefully I will be able to next year. After we got into the church, we warmed up a bit, got into costume, and put together our "set": A small couch at the back of the space (which was a wide space in the lobby, with even a beautiful Christmas tree at the back!), and a chair with a white scarf draped over it to represent what we had lost (the name of the piece is called "that which was lost"). Then, we set up the ipod speakers and did a sound check. Finally we tried a couple lifts we'd be doing in the piece before people started arriving. Right off the bat I experienced encouragement from a little girl (probably around 8 years old)-- when she saw me in my costume (a simple black dress) she said to me, "You look BEAUTIFUL!" How precious!
  As people started arriving around 7:15, I was able to meet a few of the board members of Rowan Tree Foundation. As Kevin and I continued to warm up in the hall behind the lobby where we would be peforming, Corinne (the one who I had been communicating with the whole time about the event) found us, introduced herself, and immediately gave us both hugs. She told us we'd be performing in a few minutes, after people had gotten their hot chocolate and cookies, etc., and that she'd be introducing us to the group. We could see people pouring in the doors and getting in line for refreshments. There were so many kids there, and whole families. It was so cool to see families that had been through this type of loss coming together and honoring their children together at such a healing event.
  Then it was time to perform. We walked out and stood in front of the group of people (around 150) as Corinne introduced us, and that we'd be performing a piece based on a loss I'd experienced. She said I had channeled my grief into choreography and that we'd been performing the piece around the Denver area at grief support groups. I took the mic and explained a little about what the piece meant to me, and Kevin did the same. Then we walked back and prepared to enter to perform.
  The seven minutes in which we perform the piece are always like another world to me--  I always throw myself completely into the emotions involved in the loss I experienced almost 2.5 years ago-- shock, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, reconstruction, healing. I still think about the technique of the steps but more often I am concentrating on portraying the emotions and connecting with Kevin in a real way. Something really special and precious happens to me in these several minutes, my heart is being taken through the motions of the loss once again and I am often near tears-- real ones. Last night was no exception. As I went through the different stages and as Kevin walked and danced beside me in them, a little healing bubble was created for me and hopefully for those watching. Something happens when you really understand the depth of someone else's pain-- especially if you can relate totally to that pain. As we danced the room was totally silent except for the music (and this was even more amazing considering the sheer number of small children who were there).
  When we were done the applause seemed to go on and on-- we don't normally do a classical curtsy or bow, but both of us acknowledged the applause with a little casual bow and acknowledged each other as they were clapping for us. Then we exited stage left to create a bit of closure to the piece.
  Afterward there were many individuals and couples that came up to us and thanked us for coming and performing. Several of them had tears in their eyes as they thanked us, and told us it was beautiful and very moving. This blows me away-- performing the piece has a huge effect on me personally of course (because it is my story), but whenever people tell me it made them cry or I see tears after we perform,  it is so incredibly touching and exciting as well. It tells me that our dancing and our performance as a whole was done in an honest and real way, otherwise it would not have had any effect at all on them (especially when they've gone through a similar loss themselves, they know what it is like to feel these things). Corinne later told me that "there was hardly a dry eye in the place." Another woman told me that she was sobbing throughout the piece.
  Several kids came up and said "I liked your dancing!" which was so cute. One little boy in particular came up and said "I liked your dance. Alot." I said, "Oh thank you! Which part did you like best?" He looked straight at me and lifted his leg to the side, almost spilling his hot chocolate. I said, "Oh, you liked it when we did that move?" He nodded, lifted his leg to the side again, almost spilling his hot chocolate two or three more times in the process. So cute and funny!

                                          (Corinne and I at the reception)

                                         (Part of our "set"-- and kids zooming around and having fun after the event)

 We stayed for a bit and had some hot chocolate and cookies. I was so impressed by the way everyone in the room seemed to know and love each other. Kids were zooming around and playing and families/people were standing around and talking and laughing for quite a while. This tells me that community, and sharing each others' grief, and supporting others through hard times of loss creates a healing atmosphere. In this type of atmosphere and environment, tears can be changed into smiles and laughter if we bear each others burdens. It was touching to see so many kids at the event as well, especially because of the nature of many of the losses they've experienced. I am so grateful to Corinne and those at Rowan Tree Foudation for allowing Kevin and I to be part of this special community for at least one night.