18 Mar No Assumptions, Please!
Dance with me – for World Down Syndrome Day
Hi everyone, next Monday is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), which always falls on 21st March, like the 3 copies of chromosome 21 in Down Syndrome. In my January blog I wrote about the project I was doing, ‘Dance with me’, and how it came to be. Today I’ll tell you what happened after that. I hope you have watched the video already: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo7F9gM0q7o
But before that, a memory. In my last year of high school, my school decided to celebrate WDSD asking students to wear mismatched socks. When it came to the day, I wore my mismatched socks like everybody else but in my case I rolled my socks into my shoes so that they wouldn’t be seen! Luckily that changed and now I have grown more into myself and are more comfortable. I’m more willing to take the risks, to accept that I have Down Syndrome, whereas before I didn’t want anything to do with it because I wasn’t yet fully aware about it. Last year when World Down Syndrome Day came, I went on a walk with my parents in Silema, this time proudly parading in my mismatched socks, not caring that everybody was looking at me.
In the last blog post we finished when I began the filming of the video but getting back to Dance with me, before we got to filming the dance I first had a few dance sessions with Julienne to coach me up before we could film it. Here are a few insights from my journal on how we worked on the dance:
“The first thing we did was to set a structured plan of how the project will be from here on. We were breaking each part of the monologue down with the audio from Benji playing so we could have a good listen to it, which really helped us to brainstorm ideas on what we could do. During the brainstorm session it…was like I could see it all happening right in front of me. It also brought out that fire within me, bringing me out as a person and everything that I stand for. It brought out that childlike curiosity. Afterwards we moved to an actual dance class. My own dance class. It was a dream. The first thing that we did was to warm up by doing some floorwork to help me loosen up and to become like a sponge by lying down on my back and curling up into a foetus position, then stretch with my arms and legs outstretched but to keep my body and head relaxed. Then from there we workshopped a few things which were all improvs. I got ‘True Colours’ playing, and I immersed myself fully into it with the movements that Julienne had taught me during the warmups….We decided to keep the whole dancing piece more improv based.”
The next time we met:“This whole session was just great. We worked in the same way as we did the last time when we began with warming up but this time it was different as I got to explore the space more and getting to know my body and testing it out. Curious. Afterwards we took the words and wrote out how it’s going to be filmed by breaking up the different parts and I identified which parts should be seen as ‘fake’ and ‘real’.” By fake what I mean is that when I was dancing to ‘True Colours’, even though I was expressing myself, I felt that I was performing it so it was ‘fake’. But the parts where we had to use the audio of “Dance with me”, I felt that it was a mirror to my soul, making me expose all the emotions that came with listening to my words and the response that the audio triggered within me.
When it came to the day of the filming it was amazing. This was when we moved everything to the Alison White studio which Ms Alison gave us free to use. From the minute I stepped in, I instantly established a relationship with the space. So, after the warmup session that I had with Julienne it became only me, the studio, and the music but most importantly the audio. The only thing from the outside was the camera. I have to say that my favourite part was when I was just listening to the audio and looking into the mirror. It was that relationship with the audio that I loved and the way I was naturally responding to it. It was like it was hugging me.
On Friday 11th March, MaltArti, an arts and culture programme on TV Malta, came to interview me, Julienne and Benji where we talked about the creative process of ‘Dance with me’. After the interview together we shared the video officially on social media. The next day, Saturday 12th, I went to the Reconnecting Youth Organisations conference by Agenzija Zghazagh with another member from Theatre 2 on behalf of Opening Doors. At the very end of the event when everyone who attended the event got together in the plenary, the head of Agenzija Zghazagh showed the video of ‘Dance with me’ on the big screen!
I loved writing ‘Dance with me’, I loved the recording, I loved the dancing, and I loved the filming. It was all I ever wanted and dreamt of. The best part was that I was never alone especially for the dancing and the recording because Benji and Julienne helped me to face the extra emotional weight that came with the words.
I would like to finish off this blog post by saying my hand is reached out for you. So, dance with me.
Getting ready to share the video with the world, after the MaltArti filming