I’m starving. How many times have you used this phrase? I’m guilty of using it myself. Why do I say guilty? Well because are we ever truly starving? Have we ever been consistently deprived of food or drink? There are many people in our world whose answer to those two questions is sadly yes. And I’ve often wondered how this must feel. I know I have felt what I would call ravenous and thought I could feel my stomach beginning to eat itself. But to be truly deprived of food for long periods of time…the stomach must really be nibbling away at itself, corroding, grinding…going from a largish, soft balloon-like container to a tiny, brittle shell-like one. What must this feel like?
Not only did this thought inspire a brief dance phrase, danced by the lovely Melissa Wilhoit Lugo, it also propels me to take what action I can to combat the injustice of hunger being suffered by the impoverished of our world. Sponsoring a child through WorldVision is one tangible way I can do that. I love that my mere $1/day will go directly to funding safe water, healthy food and education for a child that I can hear from personally. I encourage you to check out their website and see what you think. There are people fighting injustice, empowering the poor, feeding the hungry. Thank you WorldVision!
Posted in Charity, Choreography, Dance, Reflection | Leave a Comment »
You know those days right? The ones you just long to spend on the couch…and maybe you do. Well I’ve been thinking about my couch a lot lately. We’re about to purchase a new one (a much anticipated event), and I am already looking forward to lounging on it with a movie streaming on the television (if that will even be possible with a 7-month old in my care!), curling up on it with a book, taking a rest in the sunlight that streams through our windows…and just plain enjoying the (hopeful) coziness of it!
But recently, I saw an article in the Brooklyn Courier that put a new perspective on my couch. It was about an organization called You Gotta Believe. This organization exists to find adoptive parents for young people who will soon be aging out of the foster care system, in order to save them from potential homelessness. I learned on their website that over half of New York City’s homeless population have reported spending significant portions of their childhood in the foster care system and nearly 1,000 young people are discharged from foster care each year, many with nowhere to go to call home and no one supporting them. You Gotta Believe has a specific model they use in looking for parents for these young people, and I find their efforts inspiring.
Now, I know a couch in and of itself doesn’t equal safety. But this week I see it as a symbol of just that. A common object in a home, if you have one – a place to rest, laugh, cuddle and enjoy the company of those you live with. I’m very thankful for mine! And I’m lifting up in prayer all the young people aging out of foster care this year and the efforts underway to find them couches…I mean homes.
Enjoy this fun little dance, performed on my couch by Arletta Anderson.
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What are your shattered dreams? I’m assuming we all have one or two or three…we dream about so much when we are children, don’t we? What we will be, what we will look like, what life will look like…and not everything turns out like we pictured – some realities turn out better, there are surprises along the way, and some realities turn out, well, not that great while some pictures never even begin to materialize… And then our dreams also change and grow as we grow. Oh but the freedom to dream big dreams! To have a blank canvas ahead and paint wildly and freely…
I know for the little girl in me, dreaming is synonymous with breathing. That’s why I was so moved by a story I recently read in a newsletter from Le Pelican, a French bakery and school in Kabul, Afghanistan for Hazara children and their mothers. Jacques and Ariane Hiriart, the founders, wrote about a twelve-year-old little girl being taken from the school and entered into marriage with a man she is not allowed to refuse, in order to strengthen family ties in the Hazara tradition. One day she is playing and learning and dreaming of a future as a journalist or teacher, and the next she is forced into an adult relationship to spend her life making babies and submitting to her husband’s direction. How agonizing those tear-filled hugs they described must have been! How hard it must be to know this may still be the fate of the many other little girls now enjoying freedom in their education centers.
But I’m so encouraged by what Jacques and Ariane are doing, how they are quietly instilling hope into the Hazara community of Kabul. What began as a French bakery and cafe, where they trained young apprentices in the skills of the bakery trade, is now two educational centers where over 200 children and women come to be served lunch, to enjoy recreation and to learn skills and trades. Their newest project is a tailoring workshop, where the women whose husbands allow them to can learn to sew and be set up with accounts for earning income with their new ability. The children learn reading, writing and math…and they play. It’s a safe place for all of them to share secrets and to learn and yes, to dream…to look through a window and see opportunities.
I love how Jacques and Ariane wrote in their newsletter that it’s not forcing ideas into a culture that creates change, it’s providing space and resources to learn empowering skills that can turn windows into doors that future little girls can open…and step into possibilities they have had the freedom to dream about.
If you are moved by the work of Le Pelican and want to read more or contribute to their school, they can be contacted through Global Family. Following is a one minute dance phrase inspired by the idea of shattered dreams, which I’ve entitled Shattered Glass. It’s danced by Heidi Brewer to the sound of glass wind chimes in the stairwell of my apartment building. Enjoy!
Posted in Charity, Choreography, Dance, Reflection | Tagged Afghanistan, Arron Masters, bakery, Charity, children, Choreography, Dance, Dreams, education, glass, Global Family, Kabul, Service | Leave a Comment »
Do you love your home? I don’t…but I’m choosing to like it. As 2011 draws to its close tonight, I’m forcing myself to be thankful for my home, with its oppressive midday light and heat, the thunderous noise from the neighbors above, only one bedroom and all the unpredictable mishaps of living in a large building in NYC. You see, it also has the most amazing superintendent you could ask for, heat, light, space enough and running water…and an elevator to boot…luxury actually. Most of all it contains the two people I hold most dear on this earth, my husband and son.
I find myself thinking of all the people in this world without a home at all, or all the people in Brooklyn struggling to find affordable places to live. I find myself humbled by all I have and challenged to look outward, to be more of an advocate for others needs than consumed with my own wants. I find myself inspired by organizations such as Brooklyn Jubilee, who truly serve and fight for people in need of social and economic justice…for people in danger of unfairly losing their homes or benefits.
Brooklyn Jubilee began as a free legal clinic working alongside a food pantry, but it is obvious to me that it is not merely an organization dispensing advice, it is one loving individuals by meeting tangible needs. I was sincerely moved by a recent email the director, Sandhya Boyd, sent asking for a volunteer to personally accompany a client to the public assistance office in order to help her file some necessary papers that would return to her the benefits unfairly taken from her. You can read more details on the Brooklyn Jubilee Blog. But basically, because of Brooklyn Jubilee‘s help, most of this woman’s benefits are being returned and others are still being fought for, which means she will hopefully be able to remain in her home with her children and provide for them. Because of Brooklyn Jubilee‘s help, she will hopefully be able to call the roof over her head home and not fear eviction.
One year ago, I posted a little movement phrase danced by Ciara Collins-Atkins on my then stoop (entitled Yo-yos). I thought it a fitting dance for this post, as a stoop leads to the door of the home, the place with the roof I’m thankful for. And I’m thankful for all the stoops Brooklyn Jubilee is helping to preserve for those in need. Please visit their website, www.brooklynjubilee.org, to learn more and make a contribution, if you feel led to do so.
Happy New Year from my Stoop to yours!
Posted in Charity, Choreography, Dance, Reflection | Tagged Arron Masters, Brooklyn, Charity, Choreography, community, Dance, Home, Jubilee, Service, stoop | Leave a Comment »
I’m quite familiar with walking around with holes. Holes in my understanding due to experiences I’ve missed out on…like what it’s like to be cared for by a dad on this earth. Or holes in my spirit from hard-to-heal wounds…like being told as a child, “You’re just an ugly person. Unlikable.”
But I have no idea what it’s like to live with an actual hole.
Each year in Ethiopia 9,000 women are forced to live with a very real hole in their body. The kind of hole that leaves them incontinent. (It’s called fistula.) Not only this, but following the formation of this hole (during long, painful and obstructed labors) these women are also forced to live with the engulfing holes of grief and shameful rejection, since their babies die during the labor and then their husbands leave them and their communities shun them. Can you imagine this? I cannot.
My own labor was obstructed, with my umbilical cord wrapped twice around my son’s neck. But I had the most quality care you can imagine – in a hospital with a midwife, a team of physicians, my husband by my side. Two hours after an emergency c-section I was holding my sweet baby and in recovery, my husband still by my side.
The dance sketch I’m posting today is just the surface of the beginning of a movement idea inspired by the women in Ethiopia seeking healing from fistula. It doesn’t begin to do justice to the nightmare these women face, but I am thankful there ARE people out there bringing justice to it. And hope. Healing Hands of Joy is an organization working to give these women a second chance. Following the surgery that cures them, fistula patients can receive counseling to address the shame and empowering education and training to become an ambassador in their community to eradicate this condition. Please take some time to look into this very just cause and consider giving a donation to help them with their mission: http://healinghandsofjoy.com/
Healing Hands of Joy is working to give these women the closest thing to what we all want, right?
To be whole.
Posted in Charity, Choreography, Dance, Reflection | Tagged Arron Masters, Charity, Choreography, Dance, Ethiopia, Fistula, Healing, Hole, Joy, Service, Whole, Women | 1 Comment »
It’s hard to imagine the world without colors…colors give dimension, they give animation, beauty, even meaning…they are among the first things we learn to identify when we’re young…
Not long ago, my husband Mike performed in a showcase presentation of the musical The Giver, based on the novel by Lois Lowry, with music by Scott Murphy and lyrics by Nathan Christensen. The story takes place in a community where its people do not see in color, where sameness is valued above all else. I found the work of Scott and Nathan hauntingly beautiful and perfectly fitting the story, so I was inspired to create a little dance sketch to Colors, one of the songs in the musical. As you may have guessed, this song is sung by the main character in the story as he is discovering and naming colors.
I taught and filmed this little dance the day before I went into labor with my son. I suppose the song will have new meaning for me as I begin to see colors through the eyes of my little one as he grows…I hope you enjoy it. It’s danced by three of my favorite dancers: Arletta Anderson, Heidi Brewer and Elinor Evans. As previously mentioned, the music is by Scott Murphy and the lyrics by Nathan Christensen. Colors is sung by Matt Caplan.
Posted in Choreography, Dance, Reflection | Tagged Arron Masters, Baby, Birth, Choreography, Colors, Dance, Giver, Pregnancy | 1 Comment »
It’s stubborn, hope. Like relentless drops of water sliding down the glassy chambers of my heart, looking for a place to pool and soak into my bloodstream. In the seemingly dead times of life – because, let’s face it, no matter how much you love your day-to-day, there are dead times – I’m thankful for this promise that refuses to give up within me. The promise of redemption, of new life to come. As Andy writes to Red in The Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” Even when it is missing-in-action, lying dormant, hope is still there ready to awaken.
This is the movement inspired by these thoughts, danced bravely by Marissa Maislen in a narrow space by my friends’ front door.
Posted in Choreography, Dance, Reflection | Tagged Arron Masters, Choreography, Dance, hope, Shawshank Redemption | 1 Comment »