I Hope You Dance

I want to preface this blog by saying that I am not a dancer. I went to a week long summer dance camp when I was 6 or 7 years old and that is where my professional training ends. The only other dance I do is my crazy, cleaning dancing I do with my roommates when we decide to clean our rooms.

During the 2016 Oasis camp, I spent the early half of the week working with the Oasis staff and house moms assisting in a mindfulness workshop for them. However, that finished on Wednesday so that the moms could have some time off, which meant on Thursday I had no idea what to do with my afternoon time. I asked Amelia what I could help with and she tells me, “Everything is fine right now, why don’t you come with me to Kati’s large group dance class?”

My response inside my mind: “Uhhhh, no. No, I will not be coming to dance class. I will not be dancing at all, ever, in front of anyone in a dance class. So, definitely no. Thanks for asking, but no.”

Out of my mouth: “Yeah, sure! Why not?”

I had been doing the group dance we learned in large group every day, but that was a lot less intimidating than a class. No one would notice me in the huge group dance, but a class was smaller. I realize now I probably could have said no to Amelia and found something else to do, but I hate to turn down a new experience, so I went anyways.

Kati’s dance workshop was set up so that after every 4 counts, you’d have to come up with a new dance move. After the warm-up, the first activity started with 4 people creating different movements to lead the entire workshop. I bet you can guess who was picked to be one of those 4 people…

*hint hint – it was me*.

Now I know that dance is good for people. Dance and movement therapy is a growing field in psychology. According to Butler, Snook, and Buck (2015), “Community dance is capable of challenging perceptions of what is considered to be dance, and it enables an aesthetic to emerge where people can redefine who can and cannot dance and challenge notions of what dance is”. That quote is what Kati’s dance class was all about. It was not about being a skillful dancer, but about letting go and having fun.

I didn’t want to be the one everyone was watching, but I knew that if I let all my nerves show, it would set a tone for the girls to feel like they needed to feel self-conscious and awkward too. And it would have killed me to see them feel like they’re anything less than beautiful creations of God. Then, as I had that thought, I realized that I should be treating myself the same way. I’m God’s creation too. So I powered through my discomfort and I was embarrassing in the most fun way. I acted silly and I didn’t care what anyone thought. All I wanted was the girls thinking that they could dance and be silly too.

The next part of the workshop was in a group of 4 girls, each taking turns creating different moves on the count of 4. Then finally, we got partnered up one on one. The girl I partnered with seemed somewhat unsure of herself. She had the shy kind of smile that I recognized as apprehensive, but interested. I tried to give her my best look that said “I understand the nerves, but we can get through this together and manage to have fun too.” And we did. We laughed, danced, switched chairs quickly, and even accidentally ran into each other a few times.

Butler et al., looked at community dance in relation to cancer patients, but I think if they had expanded their study, they would have found similar results in girls like the ones at camp. They found that “…the simplicity of the gestures and movements offered a way of making something meaningful out of their shared journey” (2015). We might not be professional dancers, but we were having fun together. And after we finished I looked around, it wasn’t just me and my partner. All the girls were having fun and Kati was beaming with pride just watching them.

Am I going to drop everything and go join the nearest dance class or quit school to pursue becoming a prima ballerina? Definitely not. But will I take the joy and confidence I learned and apply that to other new and scary things? Yes, I like to think that I will. Even more importantly, I hope the girls take that with them too. Kati gave us 2 life lessons at the beginning of class. 1) Cry when you want to cry and 2) Ask questions when you don’t understand something. By the end of class, she’d taught us a third life lesson: Dance. Take the chance to try the things that seem scary at first. Later that evening I even tried to learn how to swing dance with some of the other volunteers. I haven’t nailed “The Pretzel” yet, but maybe with a little more practice! Being willing to take the risk of failing or looking silly in the spirit of joy is the most I could hope for any of us.  I named this blog after Lee Ann Womack’s song, I Hope You Dance, because it’s the epitome of what Kati taught us and what God hopes for us.

“Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance/

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance/

I hope you dance.”

-Lee Ann Womack

Potential in Poverty

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.

Matthew 5: 3-6

When you become an Athentikos team member for I AM ART, you are strongly encouraged to watch Athentikos’s documentary, Reparando. So, armed with my favorite pillow and blanket, I set up my laptop and sat on my bed with my roommate and we began watching. Neither of us really knew anything about Guatemala, so this was going to be an educational experience for the two of us. If you didn’t know, Guatemala suffered through a 36-year civil war, the longest in Latin American history. Their civil war lasted longer than I’ve been alive. As a result, Guatemala has been struggling to rebuild, which is quite a challenge when poverty levels are high. The most extreme examples of poverty are slums in “Zonas Rojas,” or “Red Zones,” where the crime rates are high and the standard of living is low. Reparando focuses on La Limonada, one of the largest slums in Central America, with an estimation of 60,000 inhabitants. The conditions in which people are living are horrible. There is violence, hunger, intense pollution — things that most of us could never even imagine. And some of the people living in those conditions are children. There are kids living in dangerous places, experiencing traumatic things, stuck in a cycle of poverty, all for a war they had nothing to do with.

A study done in 1994 by Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, and Klebanov looked at poverty’s impact on child development. They concluded, “Family income and poverty status are powerful determinants of the cognitive development and behavior of children” (Duncan et al., 1994). And unfortunately, nothing about that conclusion is surprising. Poverty-ridden areas are known for drugs, crime, and low standards for education. This information sounds hopeless, I know. No one wants to hear that there are children in these conditions. Casa Bernabé (House of Comfort) is an orphanage and Oasis Residential Home takes in girls who have been the victims of sexual abuse. The kids from Casa Bernabé and Oasis Residential Home have been in extremely rough conditions. There’s nothing easy about that.

Fortunately, coming from a difficult background isn’t a life sentence. Resilience is the ability to adapt to challenging or threatening circumstances and kids are notoriously resilient. But that doesn’t mean just hoping for the best. Change requires action. Athentikos is helping kids learn how to express themselves and process the world around them through creativity. This isn’t something that will instantly transform Guatemala. Our camps will not reverse the problems that their civil war caused. It’s not going to fix the world. But it will, in a unique and beautiful way, change their individual worlds. I read that proactive orientation is “taking initiative in one’s own life and believing in one’s own effectiveness” (Alvord & Grados, 2005). Immediately I thought, “that’s what Athentikos is doing.” We’re teaching these kids to believe in themselves and to see the possibilities that are available to them. We hear over and over again about how children are the future, so it’s important we treat them well. Their lives have not been easy but they have potential to create beautiful art and tell their stories.

If you want to watch Reparando, the incredible documentary I mentioned, you can rent it on the Athentikos website for $2 or purchase it for $10 (https://athentikos.com/reparando/). This documentary solidified my passion for going to Guatemala and it’s well worth it to see how the people of Guatemala are finding their potential in poverty.

View More: http://ameliajmoore.pass.us/iamart2014

It’s Not About Who’s Right

Myth  People belong in one of two categories. Left Brain: the logical, calculating, mathematically driven organizers; or Right Brain: the creative and free-flowing artists of the world.

Fact  That’s not how brains work. Though individual parts of the brain perform different functions, there is no evidence to support that we preferentially use one side over the other.

Athentikos is an organization that calls for “creatives,” which can be intimidating if every online quiz you’ve ever taken has declared you a “left-brainer.”  I personally like organizing things and using logic. I take notes during meetings just for the fun of it.  I’m what many would call a predominantly “left-brainer.” My strengths do not include a skill for artistry. I enjoy art, but you’re never going to find my work being sold at auction for a lot of money or hanging in a fancy building. Yet lately, when someone asks me about who I am, I’ve been telling them, “I’m a creative.” I might like taking organized notes, but they’re color coordinated and have doodles in the margins. I suspect I’m not the only person to be part of Athentikos that is not the conventional creative.

We can all be creative in our own ways. Every member of the Athentikos team is bringing their story to the table. It’s like a potluck meal that we’ve all been invited to partake in, a communion. You’re going to bring your own food and flavor and it’s going to be great. However, it’s not about the food, it’s about the community time spent enjoying the meal.

View More: http://ameliajmoore.pass.us/iamart2014If you’re planning on going to Guatemala and you really feel like you’ve found your identity as a creative, you can help us learn and explore a world you’re familiar with already. Thank you. If you’re planning on going to Guatemala and you’re not quite sure of yourself yet, you can bring new perspectives, new ideas, and challenge us all to grow. Thank you. If you’re not going to Guatemala or you’ve already been, you have the chance to share what Athentikos is doing with the people in your life. Thank you. Creativity is not for the haves and have-nots. It’s for the doers, the thinkers, the parents, the kids, the nine-to-fivers, the free spirits, the no-nonsensers. Creativity is for all of us. It might not be your thing right now, but it can be. We can help each other grow. That’s why we’re here.

Myth  If you aren’t artistically talented, it’s better to leave it to the professionals—the “right-brainers.”

Fact  Our society would not function successfully if it were full of identical people. Everyone has various strengths and skills that make them who they are.

I AM ART is about more than being able to paint a picture. It’s a celebration of authenticity. You don’t have to show off, you have to show up. God has called all of us to be part of this organization because we belong here. We serve a purpose. We are enough. It’s not about who is right and who is left or our skills and talents. Casa Bernabe and Oasis Residential Home are full of kids. They aren’t going to care how great we are at doing art or organizing or whether we identify as creatives. They’ll care about whether we like the color they chose for their picture, whether we laugh at their jokes or not, whether we listen to them. So let’s gather around the table with these kids, bring what we have, and enjoy communion together. All are welcome here.