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

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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!

~Allison~

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Master Drummer Lights Up V.A. Dancing Heart Circle

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Kevin Washington, a true dancer’s drummer, joined us at the VA Adult Day program on Thursday.

He set up his drums while we cleared a space to dance. We were inspired to DANCE our hearts out to Kevin’s lively and inventive playing.

Later, when we took a breather, he wove a multi-cultural history of percussion into story and rhythm, leading our 30+ band of drummers, tambourines, clavés and shakers into a wonderful and playful jam with everyone taking part, including staff and volunteers.

Kevin kept us playing together until some of us just had to get up and dance some more.

We really did create something together that could not have happened without each person be willing to play and contribute their own gift to the whole group!

Maria

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What Inspires You?

Ella Fitzgerald continues to inspire, especially at Wilder where, listening to her music, we each strolled across the circle in our own way.

Samantha had a little shoulder action, Brent made some turns and Barbara did a little soft shoe.

Everyone was up, everyone was laughing and everyone had attitude!

Dear Ella, I hope you know how much life happens when we turn your music on!

When you come here, we know we have not been forgotten

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Give to the Max Day is Thursday, November 15!!

On Thursday, November 15, every donation you make gives your favorite organization the chance to win even more money. Kairos Alive! is participating in GiveMN and will have the opportunity to double your dollars throughout the 24 hours. During Give to the Max Day, your gift makes a BIG difference.

I’m going to donate on Thursday in memory of my brother who loved life and lived it passionately, like all of us who are a part of Kairos Alive! and the dancing heart. The staff and volunteers at Kairos, the participants of Kairos’ programs and the staff at our partner facilities are full of passion about how the dancing heart can transform lives.
There are so many more people who can benefit from our programs but we need your help in time and donations to make the dancing heart a reality for these people.

Whatever you can give on GiveMN day will bring the joy of dance and creative storytelling to more of your grandparents, aunts and uncles, and others who are frail, have dementia, Parkinson’s disease or want to stay healthy mentally and physically by experiencing our vital, engaging program.

I have been a volunteer and Board member of Kairos Alive! for more than four years. I see the transformation in the lives of our participants and their families. We create community and well-being. We change attitudes about aging. We make a difference in the lives of the people we touch. One of our participants told me, “When you come here, we know we have not been forgotten”

Please help us reach more people with your contribution.

Thank you,
Faith Oremland

Star Spangled Banner

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My experience of singing the “Star Spangled Banner” has undergone a dramatic transformation from the time I sang it with fellow 8th graders in Ray School in Chicago. I danced as a young girl on the weekend with the young men who were freshly shorn recruits from the Great Lakes Naval Base because my Mom, Noma Genné was the Director of the Chicago YWCA – USO. Not much later my introduction to war came through the lens of Vietnam. I never could put together my experience of dancing with those friendly young men and the horrors of the war that I saw on television.

For the last year and a half I have had the privilege of sharing our KAIROS dancing heart™ program – dancing, singing telling stories and collaborating – with a group of retired soldiers from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force (Army Air Force) each week at the VA Adult Day Program in Richfield. With a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board – with funding from the Cultural Legacy Fund – and generous individual contributors to KAIROS ALIVE!, we were welcomed into this program that daily serves a number of veterans and their families.

In the beginning I was determined to get the veterans dancing: in their chairs, tapping their fingers, or even moving across the floor with a swing step or waltz because I knew it would have positive health outcomes, and most importantly, invite them back into the community circle again. Many of the men have far surpassed my expectations: we tap dance, waltz, twist and dance the Schottische; we have had our own “barn dances” and we have developed our own improvisational theater/music/dance work that is inventive and imaginative. “Don” dances with me smoothly and elegantly across the dance floor. “Bill” uses a chair for support. We share stories from our lives, we tell jokes and remember fun stuff and hard stuff. We create community through artistic expression together. We are making new memories together.

I am moved by what our friends have shared with us about their experience as soldiers: of being dropped, as a very young man, over German territory during World War II, losing friends, bringing home souvenirs from fighting in Korea and another quietly told story of returning from Korea on a stretcher, minus any mementos.

Sometimes we sing and walk/march together. Last week our artist friend from DC, Anthony Hyatt, was visiting and played fiddle for us. We “stepped” to “The Caissons Go Rolling Along”, “When Johnnie Comes Marching Home” and others. Then we stood arm and arm and sang the “Star Spangled Banner” together. We all hit the high notes, we knew the words: we sounded good; better than I have ever heard it sung. Then we sang “This Land is Your Land”. We sang the words with feeling: we all love our country, we love this world and we are grateful that, in our own way, we have helped create a more welcoming place to be.

Thank you to these dear men and their families who have been willing to show, in their own way, how much they care about us – and this beautiful world that we live in.

– Maria, 11/11/12