Monday, May 5, 2014

Some Good Sacred Memory Is a Saving Grace: Using InterPlay to collaborate, dance, heal

SISTERS, DREAMS, DANCE. These sisters, Hazel and Stella, participated with me in Lynn Hesse's performance piece, "Love in Full Life and Length." Wasn't the Sears catalog a source of some of our dreams for those of us who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's? (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for one good memory, for it is a saving grace! Hallelujah for sacred memories preserved from childhood. Hallelujah for creating and co-creating with others in community and healing through the creative arts! 

More than a year ago, I began my journey with InterPlay, and as "way leads on to way," I have found that major life paths have diverged and I am traveling a road "less traveled." On this journey, I have made new friends, and one of them a dancer, Lynn Hesse, invited me to perform in a "piece" of a larger body of her ongoing work.  I said, "Yes"! And it is making all the difference.
DANCING IN MEMORY OF HER FATHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP. Lynn Hesse warms up for "The Field" rehearsal of her piece, "Love in Full Life and Length," at Core, a dance studio in Decatur, Georgia. A critique followed our performance resulting in significant changes in the presentation of our content.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Last night, we performed our piece that Lynn has titled "Love in Full Life and Length." Our performance took place as part of something called "The Field," a format in which artists workshop their ideas and get critiques. My role with Lynn lasted 4-to-5 short minutes, but we spent more than 15 hours developing it using a form from InterPlay called "Side-by-Side Story." 

Our challenge was rehearsing shared memories about our fathers inside the "Side-by-Side Story," which is an improvisational form and supporting Lynn's 4-minute dance piece on behalf of her father. We had even "performed" our side-by-side stories twice in front of an audience, once for Asheville InterPlay in North Carolina and once for a "Fieldwork" critique in Decatur, Georgia. Our expressed memories preserved from our childhoods have evolved after each rehearsal and performance. What a "saving grace" dance is!
SISTERS IN SPIRIT AND DANCE. Lynn and I posed for a photo before our performance at Core. As you can see the younger of the two sisters photo-bombed us.  (photo by one of the sisters, Hazel and Stella)
What is the "saving grace" from these memories contextualized in the full length of our lives? Taking negative and positive memories--words--and embodying them in dance, play, and story (mine and Lynn's), consolidates, expresses, and transports them. Our mixed bag of childhood memories have transformed like caged white doves being released into the azure blue heavens, flapping their wings and crying joyously.

Last night's performance held at Emory University's Dance Studio at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts challenged me. I still feel that talking about my family, my father is a private affair. How can I tote out the painful memories and wounds to a wider public than my family and friends? We had a full audience!
TECHNICAL DETAILS. Lynn observes as the Tech Support guy marks the floor to insure that the blanket for the two sisters would be placed correctly for the performance. We also chose lighting and practiced getting on and off stage--and yes, bowing! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
But working on this performance "Love in Full Life and Length" has made my experiences clearer to me. The immense complexity of LOVE is beguiling. The legacy our fathers gave us is, in part, what their fathers and mothers gave them. My father did his best for me all the while dealing with his wounds from his childhood, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, and disappointing outcome of  a promising military career. Are a father's wounds, his daughter's wounds? My answer is a resounding "Yes." But I believe in the possibility of healing my wounds and in his too, even though he died 10 years ago. How?

Dancing on behalf of my father-daughter relationship repeatedly! 
GREEN ROOM EXPERIENCE. Emory Dance Director and Associate Professor Lori Teague (far right) prepares us for the beginning of the Fieldwork Showcase. It was very exciting to see performers warming up, eating, and communing! I sat quietly and went over the words I needed to say at the very beginning: "People talk a great deal about your education. But some good sacred memory from childhood, well perhaps that's the BEST education." (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

Dancing some of the good sacred memories repeatedly in developing material for our performance has already changed who I am in relation to my father and the rest of my life. Through movement and "re-storying" my past experiences, I have started to comprehend the love, courage, and good that my father gave me. I am now beginning to embody the many good sacred father memories while honoring his wounded body and soul. 

When I move in this father-daughter dance,  I also honor my childhood and the woman I am now. Performing "Love in Full Life and Length" with Lynn has been such an awesome odyssey. What a privilege to dance with another daughter in honor of our fathers,  ourselves, and love. I believe that we can heal our wounds.
FIELDWORK CRITIQUE. Post performance, members of "The Field" sit in front of audience members and other performers for a critique. Here Lynn Hesse is listening to a fellow "Fielder" on how he appreciated our side-by-side story! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

Sisters/Daughters through Dance
That's Coffee With Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me and tell me what is that one good memory you have that is a saving grace. How will you honor that memory? A dance? A poem? A picture?

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: I acknowledge Lynn Hesse for her depth of spirit and how she goes about crafting her work. Although I was a novice performer, she invited me to co-create with her. During our collaboration, I was struck by her dedication and persistence. At the age of 61, she is a graceful dancer, one who expresses her ideas in choreographed poetry. Thank you Lynn for your loving guidance and nurturing spirit. It was an honor to create and perform our father-daughter dances together. Thank you for the healing that has begun as a result of it. You are my Sister now!


  1. Thank you Ruth for this insightful blog about the 'dance' and what it is doing for your relationship with your father memories. It is going to be re read many times by me so I can gain some of that insight from you regarding the negative memories of my relationships with all members of my family...Perhaps it will bring some closer to things I want to put in the past for ever.

  2. Darlene we should skype some time and we can dance together on behalf of our memories! Thank you for letting me know that you found value in the "play" that I did with Lynn in transforming the memories of our fathers into something richer, complex, and healing.

  3. It has become clearer to me that trusting the process, believing that no matter what healing is possible, and affirming the good within are essential mantras for me. What we brought as an offering was ourselves, the legacies.One surprise for me was men connected with the piece on a gut. At the feedback session the audience shared what they saw and how it made them feel. A male audience member comment about Ruth and I speaking with two voices, but becoming one person on stage will forever be in my memory.

    Ruth, your willingness made the work of creating this piece a joy. I tried to talk myself out of doing the solo, but the ancestors insisted, and your courage to risk it all kept me on track. Love you, my creative sister, Lynn

    1. Dear Lynn, I am inhaling your words! "Healing is possible." "Affirming the good within." "Trusting the process."

      I love it that our voices were perceived as one story. Your crafting this piece was just awesome, and I see the value of "Field."

  4. So glad you got to do this Ruth. Dance is an interesting form of expression and is probably one of the most healing. It's serendipitous that you pose these questions today. On my way home from work I stopped at the grocery, bought some mini doughnuts. I was reminded of all the things Gramps used to put in his cereal for breakfast. He'd start with cereal, add any meat left over from the previous night's dinner, a crumbled piece of old doughnut, pour in some milk, add a teaspoon of mint jelly and top the whole thing off with a bit of wheat germ powder, I honestly believe that in some ways Gramps really enjoyed the Great Depression and his eating habits reflected it. Anyway, I have no idea how to turn that into a dance piece, but I will certainly honor Gramps memory by savouring my mini doughnuts,

    1. Dear Lunkhead, you seem to know a lot about the healing properties of dance. Do you dance?

      I cherish your story about your Gramps. Thank you so much for sharing.