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!

Beautiful Evening with Kairos at Loring Park WinterFest


It was a beautiful WinterFest at Loring Park Rec Center Thursday night. KAIROS dance™ led participatory dance with around 45 people, transported by the music of accordionist Mark Stillman. Ages ranged from -1 to 80+.

Folk Dances, Line Dances, Circle Dances, Spiral Dances all did their part in keeping spirits bright in the dark but not-too-chilly night~!
A Russian Troika Dance
Hava Nagila
Serbian Village Dance
improvised long sinuous grapevine line
3 concentric circle
A Capella rendition of “Oh How Lovely Is the Evening”

The planned 45 minute sharing somehow spilled over to almost twice that. Time flies when you’re having fun.

A fire outside and free horse and carriage ride around the lake made the hot cider taste especially good back in the warmth, music and neighborly dancing in the pavilion.

Winter’s not so bad when it gets off to such a high-spirited start!



Master Drummer Lights Up V.A. Dancing Heart Circle


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!



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