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To Dance is to Live & Scarface


Dear Kim:

I am intrigued by your new drawing titled, "Ever wonder why you go 70 mpg and never move?"

Did you mean miles per hour?

(Kim: Yes. But it is funny, after hearing a great radio program about Einstein today.)

And then you have these Adam and Eve figures. Are you suggesting that something about what—gender? history? the fact and limitations of our bodies? God help us, original sin? makes it difficult for us to progress or make changes?

(Kim: Before the Garden of Eden we could do no wrong. Now we know right from wrong.)

Are you suggesting that or disagreeing?

Please tell me more.

It also seems like a drawing about rushing.

(Kim: I went out today to do some errands. Everyone was rushing, tailgating, long lines. It was a nightmare. I love this quote by Wordsworth, "Getting and spending we lay waste our powers. Little we know of nature that is ours.)

Yesterday certainly was a rushing day for me. A performance of our own, lunch with you, a friend's performance, a neighbor's holiday party and then a 65th birthday party.

Several days social activity compressed into one. I tried to stay focused in each activity but it was a bit hard. I am tired this morning.

Thanks so much for coming to see our performance of the DisAbility Project for the Girl Scouts at Maryville yesterday.

It is a tremendous amount of work to put something like that together. To partner with an organization for the first time in which we are checking out each other's cultures. A large organization with a lot of checks and balances and their own speed.

And to bring such a large group of the performers to the show. Especially some of our folks with cognitive disabilities. They require additional attention and assistance so they can remember where they are trying to go and be reminded to focus.

(Kim: What you are doing with the actors, and what you did for the Girl Scouts was heroic...and effective.)

Whenever possible, I prefer to bring a large group as it gives more people a chance to participate and also shows a wider range of personalities and challenges to the audience. But it is much more work that way and I need to make sure I have sufficient staff or volunteers to support that choice.

I am curious what you thought about the performance.

(Kim: I saw it as extremely engaging education (edutainment?)

Did you have an expectation?

(Kim: Since I saw it before, I wasn't too surprised. But I loved the way the kids interacted.)

Was it what you expected?

What struck you the most about the performance?

(Kim: The openness of the actors about their disability. It reminded me how important it is to focus on what one can do, as opposed to what one can't do.)

About the endeavor?

(Kim: As I mentioned at lunch. Most of us aren't trained at educating all but the best students. What struck me was how this was such a good model for so many different subjects.)

We often suggest that kids draw a memorable moment or exchange from a performance and they often draw us dancing.

I think that to dance is to live. Someone famous must have said that. And if they didn't, I just did. Movement suggests a kind of life force to me. If you watch most animals or young children, they are almost always moving in some capacity.

(Kim: I was never a dancer. Though I liked being close to girls so much in high school that I'd dance every dance. Have not really danced since.)

I, of course, think everyone can dance, regardless of`or perhaps because of their physicality. You can dance if you are paralyzed. You just do it in a different way, your own way. And that is fine. I once met a guy who was completely paralyzed from the neck down. He danced with his tongue and with his eyes.

(Kim: A wonderful image.)

I loved many things about the show yesterday. The unselfconscious readiness with which the girls were ready to participate. When I taught them a song, they were ready to sing. When I invited them to dance, they practically all wanted to come on stage.

But a pivotal moment was when one little girl asked if we had ever been called names. Of course, we have. So when I asked in Socratic fashion, if they had ever been called names, almost all of these really beautiful, really smart little girls raised their hands.

Ouch.

I love the possibilities of the live moment. And the ability to identify an important live moment as a teaching and learning and collective moment. So if there was a "most," at yesterday's performance for me, I most loved the moment where I asked them to take a pledge with me that we would never call someone a mean name. That we would never let someone call us a mean name. And perhaps most importantly, we would never let other kids call someone else a mean name.

(Kim: That was quick thinking on your part. If I was evaluating the performance as a class, I'd make it glowing.)

And if we saw that happening, we would tell the other kid(s) to stop or let a teacher or parent or girl scout leader or another adult we trust know what was going on and ask for their help.

I had not planned that moment but it totally seemed called for. And that is why I love theatre. At least the kind we do. Because it is live and only semi scripted and allows for the possibilities of real exchange and real transformation.

I was called scarface as a little girl of seven because I had my face torn open by a dog.

How about you?

(Kim: There was a lot of pain for me being a kid. I had trouble learning to speak, trouble getting by in a competitive school. But I always loved to work with my hands...and I loved art from the age of 12 to this moment (without ever losing that love for a minute).

Later,

Joan

Saturday, Dec 10, 2005

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