Last May I attended a performance by UNBOUND Dance Company, a dance company in Columbia. The program, The Divine Art of Survival, was comprised of dances choreographed from essays by survivors of various challenges. There was the story of a 29 year-old woman, newly diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. The story of an abused pregnant woman who went on to birth then lose her daughter – 4 days later. A company of shrouded women told the story of widowhood. A dancer danced her personal struggles with epilepsy. We watched a woman say good-bye as her mother took final breaths, and a family watching their mother and wife slowly walk back and forth through and eventually close the door of Alzheimer’s. Ten essays in all were preformed and they were amazing. The Upton Trio accompanied the dancers and the live music added to the power of the performance.
One of the essays was written by a friend and fellow writer, Ginny Padgett. Ginny is the current President of the Board for the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop – SCWW. Part of her story includes an alter-ego, Trixie Delight, whose costume is a sexy, bright red dress. When I first met Ginny she wasn’t wearing a bright red dress, but she was driving her cherry-red scooter. Ginny has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a disease that affects the parts of the nervous system which controls movement and balance. It was not lost on any of us that her story of limited mobility was being told through dance.
Three dancers portrayed Ginny at progressively deteriorating stages of her disease – the first wearing a bright red dress. The second dancer’s dress was red with white streaks and finally the white dress with red streaks. It was unbelievable how the dancers mirrored Ginny’s spastic movements and yet made them appear graceful as they danced with cane, then walker then wheelchair. Today’s A Writer’s Window is open to Ginny’s.
“My life is an open book . . . The human spirit, driven by the need for creative expression, is a powerful force. During the almost 40 years of trying to lead my life in spite of the limitations of FA, there have been few times I wanted to give up and just be done with it. But every time an energy from somewhere deep within me, or outside of me, propelled me to pick myself up and find a better, richer way to live – not an easy thing. Art has saved my life more than once, in more than one way.” Ginny Padgett
This is Kim again. I’ve used artwork as inspiration for poetry. I know others have used it for prose – The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier comes to mind. But taking words and re-birthing them into dance intrigues me. Which comes first, the music or the choreography? How do you convey strong emotions through graceful movement? I asked Caroline Lewis-Jones, one of the artistic directors of UNBOUND and she graciously answered my questions of how Art Begets Art. Our interview about The Divine Art of Survival is here Field Trip.