Let’s Dance


by Gary Oftedahl

For almost 40 years, I’ve labored in the health care industry, working as a physician committed to improving the health of the patients I cared for.  My efforts were directed to addressing the health needs of those I saw……but with a focus on a medical  model. Several years ago, I became associated with the Kairos Alive group, and began to  realize that I had a narrow, limited focus on what would improve the health and well being of those around me.  Recently “retired” from my formal role in the health care industry, I was persuaded to take on the role of Board Chair for Kairos Alive. Initially I planned on limiting my support to helping them connect with those I knew from my past health care experiences, but primarily serving as a catalyst for supporting their work in using dance, music, stories, and movement to improve the well being of the citizens they cared for.  While initially primarily involved with elderly residents of various long term care facilities, they persisted in their efforts to convince me their work applied to all. Oh, and they continued to encourage me to participate in one of their Dance  Hall experiences,  sharing in the joy and excitement they told me they brought to those attending such events.  After much prodding, I agreed to travel to the VA Center in south Minneapolis, and participate with them in bringing their energy, passion, joy, and engagement to residents and patients across the VA Center. As I walked into the room, I saw (at least from my initial reaction) a quiet, reserved group of people, some slumped over in their chairs, with often glum, sad looks dominating the room.   “Oh, boy, do we have a challenge tonight!” crossed through my mind. Ninety minutes later, everything had changed.   To the accompaniment of a small instrumental group, and the energy of the Kairos Alive staff, I was dancing, singing, perspiring, and watching a room come alive, with smiles, upraised voices, dancing (both while seated, while dancing, and in some cases through mobile wheelchairs), and smiles of joy and memories permeating the room, both from the residents, but also from those of us lucky enough to be a part of this experience. It left me with a feeling I’ve rarely experienced, a fulfillment, a sense of really making a difference, in ways I’d not expected.  I’m more committed than ever to supporting the Kairos Alive approach in bringing joy and wellbeing to those in our community, but not just through my role as Board chair.  Come on, let’s dance, it’s an amazing opportunity to give back to the community in which we live.  See you at the next Dance Hall, I hope. GaryO_normal


Sky Above Clouds


Beautiful seeing Maria with Wendy Miller at the #2015CreativeAge Conference in Washington D.C.

Wendy is the Artist/Writer/Teacher/Expressive Arts Therapist longtime colleague & marriage partner of our beloved mentor, Dr. Gene Cohen.

Wendy’s new book, “Sky Above Clouds”, which she began with Dr. Cohen before he passed, will come out in late 2015 from Oxford University Press.

We eagerly await “Sky Above Clouds” The title alludes to a Georgia O”Keeffe painting which shares the feeling the mature mind can develop with the neurological tendancy to see the sunny side of the street.

We’re delighted to learn that Wendy is including Minnesota in her upcoming book tour.

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Happy Spring! We’re Back!

Today on this first day of Spring I hope that you find a moment to take a deep breath, exhale and imagine something that you love. We at Kairos Alive! love to dance! Research tells us that moving is good for you and dancing is even better.

Try a a spring jig!

take care,


Summer Performance Series

Summer Performance Series

Minnehaha Park Bandshell, June 20, 2013

Kairos 157

Kairos 172

Kairos 218

Kairos 222

Kairos 209

There’s Nothing Like People Coming Together – Art Makes People

We’ve been working on gathering fantastic art for the very first KAIROS ALIVE! Art Sale and Silent Auction. Please join us, Thursday June 13, 5-7 pm at the Loring Park Community Arts Center.

St. Mark’s Cathedral is graciously allowing us to use their parking lot. We’re in conversation with Twin Town Pedicabs to help shuttle people to Loring Park.

Here is a partial list of artists’ work you will find:

Susan Armington, Heidi Arneson, Lisa Arnold, Darin Back, Linda Bergh, Karl Bethke, Savita Bettaglio, Judith Brin Ingber, Sandy Brown Wyeth, Laura Crosby, Barbara DaCosta, Sally Dixon, Laura Drabant, Louise Erdrich, John Falls, David Goldes, Nancy Goldstein, Walter Griffin, Cynthia Harms – Marcel Mouly signed lithograph, Kate Heegaard Hartfiel, Hopi Foundation Artists, Jack Jaglo, Catherine L. Johnson, Madeleine Lowry, Sandra Menefee Taylor, Faith Oremland, Tammy Ortegon, Doug Padilla, Traudi Pawlowski, Lindalee Soderstrom, Steven Guy Solberg, Richard Stryker, Sarah Thorton, Sara Tucker, Patrice Tullai, Eva Two Crow, Diane Wilson, Rochelle Woldorsky

RSVP at info@kairosalive.org

We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

Mask by Eva Two Crow

Mosaic by Lisa Arnold

Depending on Each Other, Remembering Those Who Helped Us Get Here


This week the Dancing Heart sessions at the V.A. Day Program sites focused on our interdependance and those we depended on to get where we are today. We worked with the imagery of trees and how they shelter us and gift us in so many ways. Their fruit, their sap, their branches, and even eventually a stump to sit on. How they give us oxygen which is like the gift of freedom some people gave us. We stood together as a forest, keeping in mind the great gifting trees that fell before us. We said some of their names aloud. We thank each veteran.

The Rain Falls On Everybody’s Shoulders

When I walked through the door and got a hug-at-first-glance I knew this could be an especially open-hearted dancing heart™ session. I took a quick glance at site staff to make sure it was ok boundary-wise. Some people are so immediate in their feelings that a hug-at-first-sight is not complex. She had probably heard that we were coming to share dance & music & story and was simply happy about it!

We started the session with a high-kinetic dance song, ‘Shake, Rattle, & Roll’. The group of 20 or so was all in. Not much coaxing needed for this unique and emotionally responsive group. Sensing that the energy high was almost too much, we simmered down with an A Capella lullaby-like song which took its time and included the name of each person in the circle.

Now a sense of group unity had been achieved. We moved on to a story about a tree, a 500-year old tree. Our kinesthetic genius, Jesse, danced the tree’s branches, roots and quivering leaves. Everybody in the circle joined the movements in a wonderful chorus of gestural support. The people loved the tree. The tree loved the people.

The narrative took its course along the circle of life, bringing us back to where we were here and now. The session wound up with a real live ‘Soul Train’. The near-chaotic enthusiasm of the beginning had transformed to a harmonized whole. A sweet bald-headed woman said she had something to say. We handed her the mike and quieted the room.

“The rain falls on everybody’s shoulders. Sometimes they will help you.”

& is that not exactly how things are?

– Peter

On Being a KAIROS alive! dancing heart Volunteer

Allison at Wilder

Here are some beautiful words from KAIROS alive! dancing heart volunteer Allison who works with us at Wilder’s Adult Day & Memory Care programs:

A few years ago, I saw KAIROS perform at Loring Park. I was curious and didn’t know what to expect. When they began to dance, tears came rolling down my face. I saw people who usually would not be dancing together, or dancing at all – older adults and young children and those in between. I could see that each dancer was enjoying every moment, regardless of their ability or range of motion. It touched my heart. The dancers themselves sent the message that dance is for everyone, no matter how much or how little you’re able to physically move. It had special meaning for me because in the past, I had danced with ease. But years of injuries, physical pain and personal issues had brought me to a place where I could barely move at all. Watching them gave me hope and inspiration. At the end of the performance, they asked the audience to join in a circle dance. My heart led me to stand and be part of it. I’m so glad I did.

I now volunteer twice a month with dancing heart sessions at Wilder in St. Paul. By singing, dancing and telling stories with this vibrant group of older adults, I’ve made heartfelt connections and truly receive much more than I give. Whether I’m holding someone’s hand, chatting with them before or after the session, or simply being part of the group, I have the opportunity to acknowledge and experience the beauty and love that’s in all of us. It’s so rewarding to see a person who is at first shy and reserved start to sing, move and laugh with the group. I feel honored to be able to help foster vitality and health in the lives of these very special people.

The authenticity and creativity of the older adults, teaching artists and other volunteers shines through in each session. One of the older adults gave me this wisdom when I first met her: “Don’t let anyone steal your joy.” Indeed, I’ve found that I carry the joy from volunteering with me into the rest of my life. I often catch myself singing the songs “Breathing In, Breathing Out” and “Great Big Love” when I’m at home going about daily tasks like cooking or laundry. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to volunteer – it is both a pleasure and a gift to my spirit!



Great Big Love: The Story of a Song by Barbara McAfee

Every Dancing Heart Program ends with the same song, “Great Big Love,” composed by Lauren Anthony and me when she was about 12 years old. It’s Lauren’s voice you hear singing along with me on the recording. I recently told the story of how it came to be written to Kairos Alive! founder and director, Maria Genne’.

Though Maria and I have been close friends for many years, she had never heard the story of how the song came to be. She invited me share it here as a tribute to the ways that creative work intersects with the mysteries of life, death, friendship, and celebration.

It is 1996. I am seated at the piano in a southwest Minneapolis church with group of people gathered for a fundraiser. I’m not sure if I will be able to sing. My heart is shattered from the sudden loss of a 17-year-old friend, Kirsten Bergh, who died in a car accident. I’m also grieving her mother’s serious injury and the death of Kirsten’s friend, Nina, who was also in the accident.

I managed to get through the songs I’ve prepared. When the program is over, I’m sitting at the piano bench when a nine-year-old girl with huge brown eyes plops down next to me. I recognize her as the daughter of friends from the church, but don’t recall having much interaction with her before.

Now I am not a kid magnet. I like children a lot, but they don’t come and attach themselves to me like they do to so many other people with that gift. But here was Lauren – gazing up at me with loving admiration.

Her mom, Terri, called me a few days later with this report: “We have a major Barbara McAfee Fan Club going over here at my house. Lauren listens to your Britches CD every morning before school and every night before she goes to sleep. How about that?”

When I hung up the phone, I started pondering why this girl was so showing up so strongly in my life. I recalled that shortly after Kirsten died, I went over to her home and let myself in. (Her mom and housemates were all in New York where the accident took place.) There was only one thing pinned to Kirsten’s bulletin board in her room: “If you can’t be with the one you love, Honey, love the one you’re with” from the song by Stephen Stills.

I began to wonder if Kirsten was at work somehow, directing me to open my heart to this new girl-child the way I’d opened it to her.

Lauren’s parents and I decided that we should honor our connection by getting us together from time to time, so Lauren and I started getting together now and again for voice lessons. (I’m a voice coach)

We did a lot of singing together. And talked a lot. And enjoyed each other. Soon our friendship extended beyond voice lessons to include dinners at Noodles, walks around the neighborhood, and time hanging out at my apartment. When her parents were going through a difficult divorce, sometimes our “lesson” would shift into cuddle time.

During one lesson, we began talking about our extraordinary friendship, which name “soul mother” and “soul daughter”. Out of that conversation, the song “Great Big Love” was born. We wrote it side by side on the piano bench, laughing and shedding tears of gratitude.


Now Lauren is grown up and living in Milwaukee with her partner and his two children. She’s got her degree and is one of those big-hearted, very smart young women who is a gift to all who know her.

We marvel at how our little song – and the love that is behind it – continues to spread in the world through the Dancing Heart program. Every time it is sung, I imagine Kirsten smiling in heaven and Lauren feeling a little shiver of joy in Milwaukee.

“Who can explain this Great Big Love?”
Hope this link to the song works. – Lynnea

Kairos Performing again with One Voice Mixed Chorus 1/26/13


Our collaboration began in 2005 when Kairos Dance shared stage and energy with One Voice at Hamline University’s sold-out Sundin Hall for the Building Bridges concert. As One Voice Artistic Director Jane Ramseyer Miller said, in 2005 about Kairos and One Voice, "both groups share commitment to diversity and personal expression." Several One Voice singers danced with Kairos for some time after that!

In 2008, we collaborated at St. Paul's History Theater to celebrate One Voice's 20th Anniversary.

Kairos Dance is proud to continue our ongoing collaboration for their “We Are One Voice – 25th Anniversary Concert” on January 26, 2013 at 3 and 7:30 pm at the Cowles Center.

Kairos Alive! is happy to join the entire State of Minnesota in celebrating 25 years of One Voice Mixed Chorus heart, soul, and song.


Love of joy and beauty are part of that mix as well!