Category: The “Other” Category (page 2 of 3)

A Parent/Teacher’s Guide to Dance Compeitions

So you think your kids can dance? Yes! Every child should be dancing. And there are so many options. This is just one of them…

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Photo credit: Nexstar National Dance Competition

 

I worked (with quoted contributions from several friends) to create this quick guide for you. Actually, this is for myself if I decided to ever teach in a competition studio again, or if I have a child.

 

FIRST, KNOW YOUR CHILD’S DANCE CHOICES

  • Classical Ballet Schools and Modern Dance Training and Apprenticeship Programs – routes to professional careers in concert dance (Cecchetti or Vaganova method with examinations, Graham, Horton, etc. and often attached to professional companies such as Joffrey, Bolshoi, American Ballet Theatre, Pittsburg Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey, or Dance Theatre of Harlem)
  • International Ballet Competition Circuit
  • International Ballroom/Salsa Competition Circuit
  • High schools for the performing arts
  • Gymnastics or Ice SkatingTraining – competitive and incorporating dance training
  • Recreational or Outreach/Community Dance Programs and Studios – often develops skills as collaborators, composition or social awareness, often less rigorous in nature or expectation for developing skills as professional dancers or college dance majors
  • Dance in schools (dance integration with other academic subjects, gaining choreographic skills, robust cognitive abilities and artistic voice)
  • Training in Folkloric or Rhythm Traditions – some of which offer their own competition circuits (Mexican, Afro-Caribbean, Arab/Bellydance, Khattak, Bollywood, Flamenco, Irish, African, Swing, Circus arts, Vogue, Step, Stomp, B-boyying and other urban dances)
  • Dance for fitness, health, spiritual or physical wellbeing (Liturgical or Praise dance, Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, Creative Movement, Sufi dancing, Dance Therapy)
  • Musical Theatre World – vocal lessons, acting classes, dance training, sometimes modeling, constant auditions for local and touring productions
  • Pageant World
  • Cheer/Pom/Dance Teams
  • Dancing socially and at home through free online instruction and games
  • Conventions/Competition Dance Circuit (well-rounded curriculum consisting of commercialized and often whitewashed versions of jazz, contemporary, tap, acro/contortion, ballet, hip-hop … often training that prepares them primarily for commercial dance careers)

“I wish I would have had such an opportunity as a child.  I love to dance, but I’m also competitive and loved to play sports.  [Dance competitions] are the perfect combination for a person such as myself.  Why can’t art be competitive?  Why does it just have to be art?  With a competition, a child is able to perform multiple times a year instead of just at the end of the year or a Christmastime for the Nutcracker.  In all honestly, I compare her experience in competitive dance to another child’s experience doing club travel soccer.  It’s pretty much the same thing (though as my daughter gets more into this, the hours and money will likely escalate considerably).”

“When my daughter started dance at the age of 3, I never had intentions of it getting “serious.”  I took dance as a child, and felt it was important for my children to do the same.  I didn’t necessarily plan on her starting to dance at age 3.  However, I felt dance class was a great way for our developmentally and physically delayed cancer survivor to get a little social interaction and physical therapy at the same time.  Never did I ever envision her getting into competitive dance.  I didn’t even realize this type of thing existed!! Comparably, my daughter is probably a late bloomer in the competition world.  She started the company this year, in third grade.  She’s competing in three dances – all group dances, no solos or duets.  I talked to a father today whose daughter had her first competitive solo at the age of 4 (?!!???)”

“My daughter has never competed.  She trains in advanced classes at a preprofessional ballet school where her director feels competition is not the best use of students time and it is not encouraged. When “Dance Moms” came on TV, she was attracted to the performances and begged to join a competition studio. I kept her from it for a couple of reasons, mainly cost, but also because I felt the training was too varied (multiple genres) when her main/only interest was ballet, and I really didn’t like the emphasis on tricks and overstretching that I was seeing.”

“Financially dance is affordable because we take advantage of our local recreation program. All of her teachers are college dance majors and work with local ballet company’s throughout the year. Cost for classes and costumes is very low compared to other studios. We just make sure we save what is needed so that every fall we can place her in classes. I believe dance in important for [my daughter] because it gets her moving during the winter months. It gives her at least 4 hours of good physical exercise a week rather than being pinned in the house. She also truly enjoys the stage and being the center of attention. She loves her teachers and the other girls that are in her classes. I believe is it also allows her to express herself through dance.”

“My girls aren’t in dance, but they do dance around the house. It’s the excitement, motivation, and thrill they enjoy. Wish I could do more. If I had the extra money to enroll them I definitely would. I know they would really enjoy and love to be in dance, it’s not cheap.”

 

If you decide competition is the right choice…

 

TALK TO KIDS ABOUT WHAT IS GOOD DANCING

In a land where everyone is a winner…

“I truly think the way they “place” these children are ridiculous.  Let’s see if I get this right: The very best is an “Elite Top 1st.” Then the step down from that is a “Top First.” After that a “First.” Then downward to “Second” etc, etc, etc, I’m just wondering whatever happened to 1st, second, and third. Or Gold, silver, Bronze? I clearly get that they are trying to make these children sound like they are all “first place” winners but to me, there’s really only one first place.  The best routine.”
After the results, on the drive home or during the next class, take time to reflect on which dancers the judges chose as winners and why they might have made those choices. Try to talk through assumptions and feelings/evidence of injustice. Talk honestly about what techniques and tricks were applauded and which were awarded. Talk about what the criteria and scoring system would be if redesigned. Learn together the language of dance and talk about what you seen in synchronization, precision, formations, full expression, line, extension, transitions, tension and release, control and risk, uniqueness and trendiness, 2D versus 3D, use of weight, lift, traveling and command of the stage, dynamics, working in and out of the floor,…
Ask your child what routines he/she enjoyed and why. Would you have picked different winners than the judges picked? What did you notice? What surprised you? What did you see that was uncomfortable? Who was missing?
Talk about what one thing your child is most proud of during the competition weekend; celebrate that thing your child has articulated (rather than the trophy) with a milkshake or a social media post.

 

LOOK OUT FOR SIGNS OF WHEN DANCE IS BECOMING DANGEROUS

Dancers grow up in front of mirror, with their bodies constantly open to self and external critique. Sometimes this leads to confidence and comfortability through puberty and their development into young adulthood and sexuality, but sometimes it backfires into eating disorders, self-abuse, depression, or unsafe sexual encounters. Stay aware. Are “successful” dancers being defined and promoted as being of a certain body type, with plus-size dancers having lower expectations and placed in the back rows or not given solos? Are dancers encouraged to dance through injury? Are shaming or threats being used as teaching strategies? Do the teachers use derogatory language or biased/bigoted remarks? Are the dance floors or tricks unsafe for dancing bodies? Are dancers learning to embrace their growing breasts and hips: what to wear as proper undergarments?
Know when this is happening to growing dancers. Talk openly with all teachers, children, and other dance parents. Make sure that the tricks and styles they are learning will not be detrimental to them if they chose to pursue a professional career in concert dance. What competition style will they need to unlearn in college?
Also know that even great dance educators can be distracted by competition and start to look past dangerous bad habits your child may be developing, such as ankle pronation (or supination) and tibial torsion. Know ways to prevent common dance injuries.
normal-300x241 tibial-torsion
Competition dance teachers were often competition or commercial dancers themselves and do not have CPR /First Aid training, anatomy, dance history, pedagogy,… Encourage teachers to sign up for classes such as those offered by the National Dance Education Organization.

 

LET PEOPLE KNOW WHEN THEY DO GOOD FOR KIDS

Many times, competition directors and dance teachers make fantastic decisions. Give them a shout out. Encourage them to keep raising the bar for their colleagues. Thank them discreetly and earnestly.

“This weekend, we attended our first competition.  My daughter was in three performances.  After this weekend, I feel complete and utter admiration for her teachers.  The love and support they have for their kids is amazing. “

“At times I wonder if my daughter [as a dancer of color] will encounter discrimination and how will she handle it. Thus far she has been treated fairly. She was Clara in the Nutcracker! I thought that was a courageous decision her teacher made. I’m not sure too many other dance studios would make that decision. That role gave her courage and confidence.”

“I am at a dance competition this weekend.  It is the third my child has done this year.  KAR is the name of it.  It is very very organized. And the locations have been very nice as well.  So the logistics and the producing of this particular competition I would give an A+. “

MAKE RESPONSIBLE FINANCIAL DECISIONS AS A FAMILY AND AS A STUDIO
The dance competition circuit is a money machine.  Not even looking at the costs of costumes, classes, private lessons, doctors’ visits, recital tickets, dancewear and shoes, therabands and props, bun wraps and makeup, photo sessions, travel and hotels, lost time from work and school… the competition registration fees alone are incredible.
“Also, the amount of money that is required to register compared to the amount of prizes, whether it be cash or trophies is also a little absurd to me.  So …..my daughter’s production team (one dance) has 25 kids.  It cost each child $35-40 to register.  So roughly $800-$1000 to do the routine for the local competition.  They received Elite Top First and overall top production (the best that dance could get) and got $100 for the studio. (And one tall plastic trophy)  Not each, but $100 divided by 25 kids!  It’s nuts!”

Come to consensus with the other parents and teachers on how many competitions your child’s class will do: how many regional and how many national and how many routines. What is the worth you are looking for? What type of conventions/competitions do your prefer and why? Are there better ways to co-invest in dance education and training such as skipping one competition and using the funds to create a studio scholarship or to send the teachers to kinesiology class? Or to save up for a career-focused summer intensive?

 

BE CLEAR ON WHAT YOUR CHILD IS IN IT FOR… AND FOLLOW THAT LEAD AS IT CHANGES

The career. The sport. The discipline. The passion. The personal development. The college scholarship.

“My child is learning discipline, that she’s not always first or most important, team work, respect for her teachers, and love of her fellow dance team. The kids at her dance company are seriously all professional, polite, etc. I have not seen any airs about the dancers who are top notch dancers at her company. I know this is not the same at all studios. We got lucky.”

“[From a parent whose child is at a non-competitive studio] The cost of dance classes is still not cheap and I have struggled financially as a single parent. I have decided the struggle is worth it. To see the pleasure it brings her & the determination she has for dance is something I never had within me. To see your child know what she wants to do with her future I feel I have to support it. Many people wonder all their life what is their purpose and never find it. [My daughter] has known since she was 2 1/2 her passion and love for dance. We decided to audition for her 1st pre-professional summer intensive and she was accepted! I feel  as though she is about to take that next step up to “committing” to dance. I know I would like her to attend a performing arts high school and she wishes to attend Juilliard or Alvin Ailey after that so, saying that we are in for the long haul of whatever the dance world has for her or whatever she may have to give to the dance world!”

“My daughter aims for a professional ballet career and we feel summer programs are more important to be competitive.  She has thought the YAGP competition could be useful to earn scholarships but again, the costs of preparation, costumes, travel, and entry fees are prohibitive.”

“Times are changing [for dancers of color] and the struggle is real. I encourage her to go for what she wants if there is a will there is a way is my motto. That’s how she is getting to New York, by pure will!” 

 

DON’T BE AFRAID TO CALL OUT THE SEXUALIZATION 

Demand better of the teachers, costume designers, choreographers, and judges. Write letters. Organize and make a noise.

“I am so glad that [my daughter] randomly ended up at the studio where she is.  Her teachers are supportive and respectful of their age.  Although they do have costumes that show the midriff, they are relatively well covered meaning that the bottoms go up or over their belly buttons and the tops aren’t too skimpy.  The dance moves taught are age-appropriate with no gyration, butt shakes, pelvic thrusts, etc.  The music is usually either obscure or classic pop remixes and also age appropriate. Some of the other companies?  WOW.  Six year olds in skimpy bikinis shaking their butts at the audience.  One 12-14 number was so racy that my husband felt uncomfortable sitting and watching.  Some of the songs had to do with sex or sleeping with someone.  Were they songs that my kids hear on the radio?  Yes – Do they need to do a performance to said songs?  Oh HELL NO.  The unfortunate thing was that these were the dances that were winning.  Yes, the kids were talented, but why are they not penalized in points for inappropriateness?  Anyone could have showed up to these performances.  There was no fee and no one watching the door.  This was like free porn for pedophiles at times.”

DON’T BE AFRAID TO CALL OUT RACIAL-ETHNIC STEREOTYPING 
If you see something, say something. If you see that your child is being asked to dress as a Native American, Aboriginal, Arab, Indian, African, Asian, Latino, Black “Urban/Hip-Hop” stereotype with little relation to the authentic dances or collaboration with said cultures, and your child is not of that race or cultural background, just say no. No to feather headdresses and afro wigs. Demand that all costumes, choreography, and classes be as authentic and diverse as possible.

This is where I give Dance Moms some credit for making a bit of progress:

African piece choreographed by Debbie Allen

Bollywood piece choreographed by Nakul

LEAN INTO THE JOY WHERE YOU FEEL IT
“But I will tell ya, I absolutely enjoy watching the dancers perform.  It brings joy to me and love to watch my daughter,  so I bite my tongue and pay the fees and continue on in my life.”
“I liked it because, well, because it was fun. It was working toward something – perfection maybe. There was always something to work on, get better at . . . I like that. Something to focus an energy on. We were working to achieve something and that feels good. It was fun to win, and crappy to lose, but there was a good emotional lesson there. It was team-playing with girls I really cared about. It was fun to dress up in costumes and get on that stage and work to do your best ever each time. It felt good to be passionate about something. Performing for cheering fans (even if they were only our moms ) felt good. Even being nervous before getting on that stage was a weird-good feeling. It was great fun being with my friends after the fact, just hanging out.”

 

BE PROACTIVE IN WELCOMING OTHERS TO THE STUDIO
If you notice that the students or teaching staff are homogenous, start to figure out solutions to increase diversity for the good of all of our children.
“This is an upper middle class “sport” – primarily white.  Primarily suburban.”

We should not be okay with this, and must work together to change it. How can we make our studios accessible and welcoming? What inclusion strategies we can implement for religious or cultural conservations, dancers with disabilities, dancers coming from different socio-economic backgrounds?

CHANGE THE CHANNEL ON DANCE ROLE MODELS
Yes, you can watch Dance Moms, So You Think You Can Dance, Bring It!, Dancing With the Stars, Hit the Floor, but you could also dive into Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive and the White House’s Celebration of African American Women & Dance. Supplement dance training with elements of strong dance education and appreciation efforts. Make sure they are getting the fundamental technique of transition and alignment. Talk about commercial dance (videos, television, cruise ships, amusement parks, hotel shows, Vegas, events, professional sports entertainment) but only in equal proportion to concert dance and musical theater opportunities. Attend VIBE or ADF or ciphers and concert dance performances. Talk about choreographers, designers, managers, researchers, composers, educators in dance, just as much as performers.
EXPLORE CREATIVE ALTERNATIVES
What about instead of trophies, the money collected by the organization went to a collective cause? What if the performance promoted social awareness or philanthropy? Are there ways to gain technical proficiency outside of competition?  Non-competitive ways to learn technique? Can we make a community-based performance be just as high stakes and motivating as a pricey competition?
Competition life can be great, full of drive and camaraderie. But there are simple ways to make it healthier, less financially wasteful, and more connected to the needs of our shared society. What do you think?

 

 

 

One Way of Being the Change I Want to See in the World

My parents did everything they could to make it financially possible for me to dance growing up in an increasingly expensive sector. They made sacrifices and worked multiple jobs. I am an only child.

When I was 15, I had the opportunity to attend a summer training opportunity in the Edge studio in LA. I never knew how my parents financially made this happen for me, but it certainly changed my life, my sense of worth.  I got to go with my friend Candy and I stayed with her and her mom. [Side note: Once of my most vivid memories was Elizabeth Berkley aka Jessie Spano training for Showgirls  in one of our jazz classes wearing Calvin Klein undergarments as dancewear.] It was an early 90s, commercial, white, pop world at that time.

Beyond race, I grew up with a strong understanding that to dance was a privilege. If your family could afford private lessons and summer intensives, you were on the path to succeeding professionally. Like other performing art forms such as music, the game is rigged in America. The more you are willing to spend, the more you are given opportunities to develop your artistic voice and rigor of technical talent. This always seemed backwards to me. Why would a society only want to develop the artistic voices of the upper class, especially in dance?

Now it is 2016 and I am doing my small part to help support the next generation, to be the change I want to see in the world. I believe in us, that together we can create more equity of opportunity and access.

Three talented and under-resourced dancers have come into my life in different ways and encounters. They each need $3,000-6,000 to attend a summer dance program (even with scholarships). Advanced summer training is an increasingly crucial step in the field, much more than in my day, and is just within reach for these girls. This will be a turning point for them. We can’t sit back and watch socio-economics stop them now. Can the world pool resources together to make a difference for three girls at a pivotal time in their lives? Can we make three dreams come true?

Sure we can!

We each have three choices:  donating, sharing, or connecting us to potential funders.

 

Maurissa - Lily - Chloe

 

MAURISSA (Turning 15 on Feb 24) – Madison, WI. Admitted to Pennsylvania Ballet Summer IntensiveBallet Chicago Summer Intensive, and Oregon Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive and with this funding can decide which offer is the best fit for her artistically and financially. “My dream has always been to be a professional ballet dancer and to serve as a leader for kids in my community. Any donations I receive will go toward my room and board, flights, and tuition not covered by scholarships, and to purchase the pointe shoes I  need. I would be so thankful for any help!” 

LILY (Turning 13 on Feb 24) – Chicago, IL. Admitted to Alvin Ailey Dance – Junior Division Summer Intensive in NYC, a city she would be visiting for the first time in her life. “I started dance lessons at two years old. Since then I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer. Dance is what I breathe and eat. It is a way of being free to me. I have only been taught by one dance school, because of our financial situation we have not been able to afford any other dance lessons. I feel going to dance with Alvin Ailey will develop my professional career so I can one day dance with a professional dance company. Then maybe one day I can inspire and give back to someone like me.”

CHLOE (14, Born in Haiti) – Ontario, CA. Admitted to Dance Theatre of Harlem Summer Intensive as well as Princeton Ballet School and with this funding can decide which offer is the best fit for her artistically and financially.“I love dance, specifically ballet, because it takes an enormous amount of dedication. It’s something that you can never be perfect at, which always keeps you striving for more. My biggest challenge as a dancer is comparing myself to others and being realistic with what my body can do and achieving my personal best.” She is excited about the possibility of attending DTH because, “This summer intensive is any amazing opportunity to train with other dancers of color.”

There are shockingly few pre-professional opportunities for dancers of color and even fewer for dancers with financial difficulties. Single-parent and multi-child households, in particular, are asked to make heartbreaking sacrifices to keep their kids dancing and summer training is nearly impossible. They are selected but are rarely able to actually attend. We are going to change that this year!

Scholarships for summer intensives do not cover all tuition, travel, room and board for the 5-8 weeks, nor the necessary but expensive dancewear for growing girls. Here, we have identified three future dance leaders from around the country who have auditioned and been selected for specialized summer programs with scholarships. We are immensely proud of them and have pledged not to let them down.

These girls are going places and I am humbled to play this small part, but I can’t do this alone.

Click here: https://www.gofundme.com/goingplaces2016

We have a big goal but if all of America and beyond cannot successfully support the dreams of three girls, there is something seriously wrong in society.

Get to Know the Custodian

I am following my longest post of all time with my shortest post ever. This one is a simple request:

Get to know the custodian…

of your child’s school, of your office, of your university, of the library or community center, of the gym,,…

Look around you. Say hello.

You might see my dad. He does this work.

He also greets the kids in the morning and helps them out of their cars. He will quietly go over and open up a Lunchable® packet when he sees an embarrassed kid struggling. He will play games, repaint the gym and remove scuff marks, fix what needs to me fixed, deliver the mail, set up for an event, coordinate schedules, sign timesheets, engineer a better bathroom stall door, dress up as an elf, and clean up vomit. He will give a couple kids a few dollars if their pockets are empty on the day of the holiday gift shop or book fair. He wants to make sure the school is a place where kids want to be, a school they feel they want to help keep clean, a school that is as well-maintained as possible but still alive and active. He amazes me and I’m proud to be his daughter.

Get to Know the Custodian

 

Talking About a Revolution Won’t Make You Liberal

Before you read this blog post, stand up and turn around yourself once. See what you can see, experience any change, and then come back around in a new or similar state.

Perform a single revolution. You can even do it seated if you are in a swivel chair.

I am serious and will wait for you. It is good for the body to move anyways. Really. Go ahead.

A revolution is

  1. a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system. (rebellion, seizure of power, insurgency)
  2. an instance of revolving. (single turn rotation, spin)

———————————————–

A revolution is a disruption and asks you to delay how you intended to operate online today: scroll, click link, scan and maybe read. A rotation is a vulnerable act in that you must turn your back to some things and focus on other things. It demands time. It can have anxiety in the need to come back around to facing the front, and an openness that maybe you will find a new front. There is the potential that after a revolution you will be facing a new enemy… or a familiar or morphed one.

In September, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, a think tank connected to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, listed Egypt as the 4th country at greatest risk of state-led mass killings, ranking the threat above the violently divided states of Central African Republic and Yemen. TheSimon-Skjodt Center with Dartmouth on the Early Warning Project, a tool to alert policymakers and the public to places where the risk for mass atrocities is greatest.

And yes, celebrated and beautiful Masr (Egypt) simmers 4th on that list. The country where I hold a piece of my heart and a side of my family.

I care.

As a collective, we as the United States care for people and places very selectively and seemingly randomly. We cared about Paris. We cared about Rwanda, Northern Ireland and Bosnia (each eventually and briefly). We cared about Egypt intensely on January 25, 2011 and the 18 days following. This was five years ago tomorrow.

IMG_4193

Something sprung that few could define, and the following five years have been a desperate and fumbling attempt to find and feed those sprouts. The activists have been revolving,

As you read the following timeline, maybe take a single rotation yourself.

  • Mubarak regime has been in power since 1981 with a strong hand. Egyptians haven’t truly voted or demonstrated or grown an opposition party for generations. Lower-achieving students are told to study law. The Egyptian military runs hotels and gas stations and manufactures refrigerators and controls at least 40% of the economy. Corruption is fierce. Muslim Brotherhood is illegal and members are tortured; they conduct mass charity and operations underground.
  • U.S. led or backed devastating wars in the region
  • President Obama’s Speech at Cairo University in 2009 – Hope and change for the people of both Egypt and the U.S. “…tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims.  The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights.  All this has bred more fear and more mistrust…. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end. I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” 
  • Arab Spring sparks from Tunisia in December 2010
  • Egyptian Revolution in January-February 2011 – The People join together to demand bread, freedom and social justice. Toppling of Mubarak after decades of rule.
  • Arab Spring takes different forms and scale in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. U.S./UN Military intervention in Libya in March 2011
  • #July8 2011  A re-taking of the square after demands were not met and the revolution was unfulfilled. This, I was there for.

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  • Maspero television station massacre in October 2011 – Miltary versus protestors (mostly Coptic Christians and allies)
  • Mohamed Mahmoud St. battle in November 2011 – Military versus protestors, many of which were youth or artists labeled as thugs and vandals (approximately 50 killed and dozens maimed or blinded by ‘eye snipers’)
  • First Democratic elections in May-June 2012 – Mubarak’s prime minister versus Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Morsi. Many revolutionaries refuse to cast a valid vote and the U.S. supports the winner, Morsi. Egyptians unite in giving Morsi a chance.
  • The situation in Syria spirals into something beyond comprehension.
  • I move to Cairo as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar.
  • Anti-American demonstrations and storming of the embassy in September 2012 – Different than Benghazi but related in frustrations and perceptions of U.S. betrayal or lack of follow-through since Obama’s 2009 speech. Perhaps it was just over a video. There has been no creative changes to our diplomatic approaches or response to the Arab Spring.
  • Concrete walls go up around Tahrir Square and the surrounding area in Fall 2012 making pedestrian and auto traffic difficult. Logistically more difficult to gather.
  • Anti-Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) demonstrations  in Tahrir Square in November 2012 – Progressives and opposition parties taking to the square after Morsi’s overreaching decrees. Lots of tear gas and some clashes
  • Presidential palace clashes in December 2012 – Paid thugs and security forces versus progressive and opposition protestors
  • Tamarod (revolt) grassroots campaign in Spring 2013 – Collects 22 million signatures in a petition for Morsi’s ouster
Tamarod petitioners

Tamarod campaigners

  • U.S. suspends and then cancels the Fulbright program in Egypt.
  • Arts and Culture uprising in April/May 2013 – Morsi’s administration replaces the Minister of Culture and more than a dozen staff with MB members who have little to no background in the arts. A law is proposed to ban ballet. The cast of Aida goes on strike. Artists occupy the Ministry building for 33 days, with a street performance each and every night.

Talking About a Revolution Won't Make You Liberal

  • Largest political demonstration in modern history according to Google on #June30 2013 – The People demand Morsi’s ouster.
  • ElSisi announces The People’s triumph and the plan for a diverse, bold transition government – ElSisi says there is no way he would run for president. People see that as inconceivable.
  • Muslim Brotherhood members are demonized and the organization is labeled as terrorist.
  • The headline on all state-run television is “Egypt is Fighting Terrorism.”
  • Rabaa massacre in August 2013 – Security forces versus Muslim Brotherhood protestors who were labeled as terrorists (817-1000 killed and there is no public mourning)
  • Supporting or empathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood members in any way is seen as a traitorous and illegal act.
  • Protest Law (Act 107) in November 2013 – The law requires three days notification and permit before protesting (often requiring that all protestors be pre-named and listed with home addresses); in addition, the Ministry of Interior has the right to “cancel, postpone or move” any protest.
  • Constitutional Referendum in January 2014 – Where citizens were giving the choice between yes (nam) and yes (nam) to ratifying the new constitution. Dissent is discouraged and seen as disloyalty or troublesome.
  • Law and order, investment, security and beautification are in season.
  • ElSisi is generally seen as a populist savior, a hero, and his picture can be seen everywhere.
  • Presidential election in June 2014 – Voter turnout is incredibly low and ElSisi wins with 93% of the vote. Turnout is so low that an additional day and a national holiday are added.
  • I demand the end of Blackface on Cairo stages but the petition is seen as an act of protest. I draw back. Rumors spread that I am racist and pro-MB.
  • Deadly attacks on police and military from Summer 2014 to present
  • Opening of a New Suez Canal with much nationalistic fanfare, continued investment of USAID (second highest in the world for the U.S., second only to Israel), artistic collaboration and exchange with Chinese artists, announcement of a new capital city that would rival Dubai in its advancement, economic forum in Egypt draws world leaders including Kerry, revitalized public park and underground parking for Tahrir Square, wifi on buses, billboards announcing a New Egypt go up in Times Square, new national museum in construction, Cairo Opera Ballet performs for Vladamir Putin, Islamic State terrorism in the Sinai and beyond, deadly crash of a passenger plane, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh is shot in broad daylight, visible reminders of the revolution are whitewashed or torn down, individuals and companies invest in education and the next generation of leadership, new subsidies and economic stimulus plans are introduced, as well as mass trials and mass death sentences, home searches without warrant, disappearances, and tens of thousands of political prisoners including journalists…
  • Hope, pride, disgust and anger mix in my belly, even as an in-law to Egyptian-ism.
A single revolution. Turning around yourself. Coming back to the front a different person, facing a new or morphed or familiar enemy. You are not the same person as when you started your turn. Even the fact that you decided to start turning says so much. You keep turning.
Here are four reads I suggest at this juncture:
1. “Egypt’s revolution has been misunderstood, and a great deal of that misunderstanding had been deliberate. An upheaval that began on 25 January 2011, and will continue for years to come, has been framed deceptively by elites both within Egypt’s borders and beyond. Their aim has been to sanitize the revolution and divest it of its radical potential. The Guardian‘s hope

2. Creative Time Report scathing in the face of the Obama administration for standing with Sisi.

3. I was terribly wrong. Journalists’ stories.

4. President Elsisi’s speech to the Egyptian people on the eve of the 5-year anniversary of the revolution – condemning the attacks on the police and military, and offering public support to the victims “I requested authorization to fight possible violence and terrorism in July [2013], you thought it would be easy. But you have seen the numbers of the martyrs who have fallen.”

 

Some Americans won’t care about this. They probably stopped reading long ago. But there is much to learn and inspiration to gain. We all have a radical potential and some times demand it. I believe this is one of those times.

Last week, our neighbor said this in conversation, “Talking about sex won’t get you pregnant. Talking about death won’t kill you.” Same holds true for revolution. We need to find the social courage to talk, no matter how uncomfortable the ignorance, or divide. As the rhetoric gets more violent in America, we need to find nonbelligerent ways of discussion. Talking about a revolution (of some definition) is something conservatives and liberals can do together. We have the same fire in our bellies and we share a system of decision-making.

The typical American adult lives only 18 miles from his or her mother, according to a comprehensive survey. Over the last few decades, Americans have become less mobile, and most adults do not live far from their hometowns. We are a country of close-knit families, leaning on one another for financial and practical support. 61-64% of Americans do not have passports.

According to Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds (63%) of consistent conservatives and about half (49%) of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their views; conservatives are likely to attach importance to living in a place where many people share their religious faith (Pew Research Center 2014). “Ideological silos are now common on both the left and right. Liberals and conservatives disagree over where they want to live, the kind of people they want to live around and even whom they would welcome into their families” (Pew Research Center 2014). I feel that this divide is intensifying during this politicized year in the United States and could reach a dangerous level of distrust and segregation if not addressed.

It can start with outrage, but we need a revolution of…

Body (in space and in and of itself, in relation to other bodies and the environment, the living body)

Mind (knowledge of heritage, history, questioning those narratives, critical thinking, self-awareness)

Spirit (belief, faith, hope, kindness, empathy, love, peace, joy, in touch with both positive and negative feelings)

 

Okay, time for a cheesy but lovely break. Thanks for reading. Take a minute to watch Tim McGraw’s video for Humble and Kind, based on Oprah’s Belief series.

 

 

My 2016 Resources for Social Practice Artists

In the next two weeks, I will be speaking publicly, and I wanted to invite you all to those events, but I also offer you a few of my current resources for this work.

First, you are cordially invited to Hope College and SUNY Purchase. Both events are free and open to the public.

PicMonkey Collage

Hope College 1/14 and SUNY Purchase 1/20

 

Hope College in Holland, MI

“Art in the Real World” A Conversation with Shawn Renee Lent

Thursday, January 14, 2016 / 3:00pm-4:30pm, Jack Miller Recital Hall

From a childhood cancer hospital to the scene of a shooting, from post-war Bosnia to revolutionary Egypt, hear real stories of the power of the performing arts in our world. Shawn Lent will share her experiences on the ground and bring you inspiration and resources for doing this work. Sponsored by: The Departments of Dance, Art & Art History, Music, Theatre, & the Dean of Arts & Humanities

Slides available here.

 

State University of New York (SUNY) in Purchase, NY

MOVEMENT/MOVEMENTS

Wednesday, January 20, 2016  / 2:30 – 6 pm, Dance Theatre Lab, Dance Building

The School of Arts at Purchase College is thrilled to present a one-day collaborative workshop, conversation, and performance program that deals with the intersection of dance, movement, social justice, and psychology. This project, funded by SUNY’s Network of Excellence, introduces work by a variety of artists, practitioners, researchers and theorists across various SUNY campuses and abroad. MOVEMENT/MOVEMENTS will feature examples and inquiries on how engagement in body-based arts can positively impact peace, conflict resolution and prevention, and diplomacy. Throughout the session students from the School of the Arts will provide a real-time visualization of the language and concepts introduced by the speakers.  Featuring: Doug Varone, Shawn Lent, Jonathan Hollander,  Chris Robbins, Roman Baca, Andrew Fitz Gibbon, Rachel Owens, Christina Merilees, and Melanie Gambino.

 

Now on to the promised resources. I will stick to what is most useful and inspiring to me currently. You will note that I am most interested in social practice and community-engaged dance, with a focus in intercultural, inter-group and international work. This is an acknowledged departure from teaching artistry in both the arts integration and community-based arts worlds. I also do not consider my practice dance therapy and do not offer resources in those areas, but what I do offer will hopefully be helpful to some of you out there. It is not comprehensive but is a follow-up to a previous post. Please feel free to add additional links and resources in the reply section below.  I will offer resources in the following categories:

  • Undergraduate Programs
  • Graduate Degree, Professional and Certificate Programs
  • Fellowships, Jobs/Internships, Volunteer Opportunities and Residencies
  • Groups, Initiatives and Organizations
  • Readings, Webinars and MOOCs

Lastly, if you are interested in joining a Facebook group to share opportunities and resources in social practice dance, let me know.

 

Undergraduate Programs

Performing Arts & Social Justice with a Dance Concentration at University of San Fransisco

Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) interdisciplinary minor at Brandeis University

Community Arts BFA Major at California College of the Arts

Contextual Practice BFA Major at Carnegie Mellon University

 

Graduate Degree, Professional and Certificate Programs

Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Community Arts at Lesley University

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching Artistry at Wayne State University (3 years, part-time, low-residency)

Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Arts for Social Change at Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Art, Education, and Community Practice at NYU Steinhart

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) at University of Maryland cultivating teaching artists.

M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. in Performance as Public Practice at The University of Texas at Austin

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Social Practice and Public Forms at California College of the Arts

Master of Arts Management (M.A.M.) in Community Arts Management at University of Oregon

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Socially Engaged Art at NCAD in Dublin, Ireland

Socially Engaged Practice Certificate at Arizona State University

Social Emotional Arts (SEA) Certificate at UCLA

Dancing to Connect Institute (June 15-26 in NYC)

Luna Dance Summer Institute (July 22-29 in Oakland, CA)

Look out for programs at Arizona State University with Liz Lerman now there looking at the arts and the environment, arts and equity.

 

Fellowships, Jobs/Internships, Volunteer Opportunities and Residencies

Next Level, Seeking Hip-Hop Artist-Educators to participate in an international exchange program.

Daniels Spectrum Artist-inResidency for community-engaged professional artists.

A Blade of Grass Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art

Imagining America Page Fellowship for graduate students

Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) volunteer opportunities

On-the-Move cultural mobility network’s list of residencies.

International Peace & Collaborative Development Network forum listings of jobs, conferences, grants and more.

Idealist volunteer opportunities and job postings.

Design-Your-Own Volunteer Opportunities at your local children’s hospital, veterans’ affairs group, refugee center, homeless shelter, juvenile detention facility, or public or private religious school (insular or divided communities).

Creative Time jobs, internships, fellowships, and volunteer opportunities.

Artslink international grants and fellowships.

Move This World position as a U.S. Trainer

Mladi Info with lists of scholarships, fellowships, conferences etc. mostly in Europe.

Alliance of Artists Communities case study residencies in social practice.

Surdna Foundation grants for artists engaging in social change (not currently open).

U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program (for artists, faculty, researchers or staff) DUE August 3 – This is the program I did. Let me know if you have questions or want my help reviewing your application!

U.S. Fulbright Student Program (for current masters and PhD students, recent grads, and young professionals in the arts and other fields) DUE Mid-October

U.S. State Department Exchange Opportunities

U.S. State Department Exchange Opportunities

 

Groups, Initiatives and Organizations

MindLeaps dance – vocational training – youth advancement programming in Rwanda, Guinea, and Bosnia-Herzegovina

(SPAN) Social Practice Artist Network

The International Centre of Art for Social Change

ASC! (Art for Social Change) 

DanceMotion USA

Dancing on the Edge

 

Readings, Webinars and MOOCs

1/20 Social Justice Funders webinar by Americans for the Arts

Bibliography listings and Glossary for the 2015 Duke MOOC on Public Art

Americans for the Arts’ On-Demand Webinars including Arts Deployed and Current Trends in Public Art & Social Practice

1/18 Creative Capital: Values-Based Goal Setting

4 Questions for Artists Working in Social Justice

On Social Practice and Performance by Andy Horwitz.

Who Gets to Perform? The Ethics and Aesthetics of Social Practice by Simon Dove

Arts-based Conflict Resolution, an interview with Michelle le Baron.

Acting Together documentary and toolkit (peacebuilding and theatre)

Dancing to Connect’s Cultural Diplomacy Toolkit

Imagining America publications, case studies, research, blog and Public journal

Dancer Citizen online scholarly journal.

ASC! (Art for Social Change) resource articles and publications.

50 Titles, 50 Perspectives: A Reader’s Guide to Art + Social Practice by Broken City Lab.

Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion by Naomi Jackson.

Movement as Cultural Diplomacy at Battery Dance

Arts in the Public Interest Archives.

Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture (New York Times) by Randy Kennedy.

How the Art of Social Practice is Changing the World, One Row House at a Time by Carolina A. Miranda.

Alliance of Artists Communities resource list.

Free PDF Books on Race, Gender, Sexuality, Class and Culture

Education is Performance Art

Am I a Dancer Who Gave Up? by Shawn Lent (Huffington Post).

How to Get a Life in 2016

I imagine the world turning, one big celebratory spin today. With each increment in the rotation, an hourly slice of humanity launches fireworks off the face of the earth. Reaching out to the sky. Wide eyed. Reaching for someone to kiss, something to drink. Some other people decide to reach inward, towards their own center, their family. Some perform rituals. Some ignore them.

The world turns, and each section of the planet takes its first collective breath of our next collective tour around the sun. We will do this journey together. Animals, friends, loved ones will expectedly or unexpectedly leave us this new year. Babies will join us. Politicians will be elected. Others will topple. Devastating things will happen. Brillant things will happen. We as 2016 human beings may have decided to classify ourselves by ever-changing definitions of race, divide ourselves by religion-based teams, wall-up ourselves for peace, arm ourselves and attack others for the sake of safety, exhaust ourselves on 1st world and 3rd world problems… none-the-less, we will go around the sun together.

And today the unhealthy planet that we have treated so poorly is treating us to something special by physically tilting each of us into this new year in our own time.

Today, I got up for a 10 am haircut and blowout for NYE. I had an appointment with my longtime buddy Jason at Robert Jeffrey Hair Studio, Lakeview. I walked to the bus stop. The sun rays were out strong, offering their services to the earth, but the Chicago concrete seemed to be refusing it. This got me thinking about the concept of offering, acknowledging and receiving. Taking in the goodness of what the world offers.

A slight breeze was briskly chill on my cheeks. I tucked in my poorly-gloved hands like a wintery Mary Katherine Gallagher. It wasn’t too bad. Bright and calm. And it was the last morning of 2015, and now that morning has passed. Wow, time goes fast.

On the walk home, as the last noontime of the year settled in, I looked down and something caught my attention. A bunch of blue glitter in some day-old snow, glistening blue on glistening white. You should have seen it. A broken jar of blue glitter spilt and scattered. I stood there for a moment, soaking in this simple sight. As I pushed the button on my iPhone camera app, the phone shut down from lack of battery. So I stood there longer taking a mental picture.

A few days ago, when I posted online about my long struggle to end the use of Blackface and racist caricature at the Cairo Opera, a Facebook friend who often has opposing views left a comment instructing me to “Get a life.” I am pretty sure he meant it insultingly.

But getting a life is actually a great intention for 2016. Being active in the getting, receiving.

3..2..1.. and a here we go! Another collective journey around the sun. Get it!

Why 2016 is Already More Amazing Than 2015

 

2 Winter Solstices Ago, I Married a Muslim

On December 21, 2013, after a year and a half of the most naturally-developing romantic and companionate relationship in my life, the fella and I performed the rituals of marriage in our own way. We exchanged rings and made original vows in private. Then I put on a white dress I had found at Zara for $40. And when I stepped out into the living room, his face lit up in love.

IWill

He wore dark jeans and t-shirt that we had “I will” printed on the sleeve. We gathered with friends at a local Cairo club to pronounce and celebrate this love, joy and commitment. He pretended to go off to the restroom while a mutual friend pulled me onto the dancefloor. The music stopped as the crowd mysteriously parted. And there stood my new husband smiling. Our buddy, DJ Freedo, nodded and put a needle on “our song.” We danced our first dance. A few weeks later on 1/1/2014 we went to the Foreign Ministry building to officially sign up to our life together, after months on bi-national bureaucracy. The new adventure began.

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Then a few months ago, in Cairo, the small diamond fell out of the tiny Depression-era ring I wear which belonged to my late grandmother. I never found that diamond and haven’t been able to afford a replacement. But I say the hole left is filled with love.

——————————

Last year on our first anniversary (which is paper), we were visiting my family in Michigan and my parents toilet-papered our hallway. They are a funny duo. Back on June 21, 1978, I was born as the only child of that funny duo. In terms of daylight, I should thank my parents because I have the longest birthday in the calendar, the most hours to celebrate, more hours for cake.

Solstices are good. Change is good. All I want from my life is love and the unexpected. I adore seasons, as they bring change throughout each year. I dearly missed the four seasons while living in Egypt. In Cairo, the length of daylight in a day varied little while here in Chicago, the variance is stark. Winter days here are very dark days.  December 21st signifies that only more light is to come.

Solstices are also a moment to pause, to stand still. “The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the sun stands still in declination; that is, the seasonal movement of the sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before reversing direction.” (Wikipedia)

On December 21, 1990, a friend started a Chicago tradition. Michael Zerang, along with Hamid Drake, decided to put on a 6:00 AM percussion concert welcoming the winter solstice, the shift, the standing still. For 25 years, the Winter Solstice Concerts have been a Chi-town tradition.

Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake

Photo by Links Hall / Constellation

 

I know of no better way to celebrate the fella and I’s 2nd anniversary. And I urge you to get your tickets if you are in town! This year, Michael and Hamid have an expanded program due to their silver anniversary.

——————————

This year, the fella and I are celebrating our own cotton anniversary. And it is amidst an environment of anti-Islamic rhetoric and acts in the United States of America, whose founders decided that the very first part of the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights would be freedom of religion. It is only in this 2015 political backdrop do I use the term Muslim for my husband. He is profoundly more. It actually made me a little sick to my stomach to write the title for this post.

It is only amongst this ugly swirl right now do I even think an ounce about my husband’s religion being different from my own. I married a Middle-Eastern Muslim man, yes, and we pray to the same God. Even if we didn’t, we hold dear to one another and do our best in the world. The cultural and religious Muslims in our shared planet (from Detroit to Jakarta) offer so much. Our Arab and Middle-Eastern neighbors are closer than some of us might think in a number of ways, and they are of a multitude of faiths and they are dear. So much talent and heart. I often find myself ashamed of my fellow Americans lately. I am embarrassed and saddened by the divisiveness. We share a world and cannot continue to build walls for defense or walls for peace. These walls are constructed with ignorance and vengeance. For example, refugees (from Syria or elsewhere) had nothing to do with the terrorism in Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Charleston, Isla Vista, Newton, Brookfield, Minneapolis, Oak Creek, Aurora, Oakland, Seal Beach, Tucson, Manchester, Bighamton, San Bernadino, Columbine…. Ugh. I cannot go down into such darkness.

Thank God there is a coming solstice on Monday, a standing still, more light. And then for the first time in a long time, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Lord Jesus Christ/Prophet Isa will share birthdays. With a full moon! Let us celebrate Christmas and Mawlid-al-Nabi together and lean toward the joy, inviting cultural and practicing Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists, Jains, Baha’is, Agnostics, Atheists, Non-realists, and Non-religious friends to the party. Let us open our ears to one another and learn before we preach. Create trust before we collect arsenals to protect our families. We must simultaneously be of faith and beyond faith.

Later this year or next, the fella and I hope to have a full wedding here in the U.S. and bring my family and his together for the first time for the ceremony. I sure hope they can get visas.

“I Am Who You Have Been Waiting For.”

The official average nowadays for a job search in the United States is 6 months. Some far shorter, some far longer. A friend in the IT field found a new position in a week. I am on Month 5.

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I have found a number of exciting opportunities, even developing dance programs for children with life-threatening illness, but most want me to work in a volunteer capacity.

My friends, family and followers have been by my side on this journey. Deeply grateful for that, but I know we are all getting exhausted. Health insurance seems to keep running further and further ahead like a dream I can’t catch…. as are paying off student loans and other debts.

Wondering if any of you have been in the position or are there with me now?

Well, there is good news. The exhaustion on my end was replaced with vigor this week by participating in two activities:

  1. Joining a gym less than a block away with yoga classes, a whirlpool, and free cable TV on the cardio machines. My husband and I negotiated a great deal with them and we can cancel if needed. Being physically active each day has changed my outlook and enthusiasm. A job search can become an unhealthy cycle of activities. Get a body moving, and the world opens up.
  2. Attending a $10 resume writing workshop with YNPN Chicago (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network). I realized two things during this workshop: I can no longer present myself as simply a non-profit professional and I am not young. Much of the information in this workshop was not new, but it was an amazing catalyst. I realized that it might be time to go for a less-readable and dense 2-page resume that has more meat and expresses my successes. In rewriting my resume until 2am and working with a few quality Fiverr proofreaders, I could step back and say Wow.

The job search has a new momentum. Thank God and the universe for that.

Today I am presenting myself boldly and joyfully. On my feet. Mantra is “I am who you have been waiting for.”

I Am Who You Have Been Waiting For

If you can help in any way, I am looking for either a full-time position, or two part-time / contractual positions in Cultural Diplomacy | Art & Culture Management especially Community Engagement or City-wide/Regional/National Scope | International Education or Exchange | Workshop Facilitation. Looking to find something in Chicago or remote/virtual work. Not particularly looking to be an executive director or development officer, more leaning toward programming with intercultural, international or cross-sectoral content. Check out or forward the new resume. Bio and other links are available here.

 

 

 

Best Kitty Ever: A Tale of CH, Western/Middle Eastern Identity, and Determination

My husband spotted him under the tire of an abandoned car. He was stick-thin tiny, big eyes, distraught, tremoring and covered in street filth and his own feces. I thought he was a Middle Eastern rodent. We bent down, got closer and saw he was a wide-eyed kitty. Completely malnourished. At death’s door after only 1-2 weeks in this mighty world. Barely visible in the shadow of a car tire.

It was in the hot July heat of Cairo, Egypt during Ramadan. All the stores were closing for Iftar. There’s no way we could have left him there. We called a vet and begged him to stay open until we could get there so that he could put an end to this kitty’s misery. So we gently, gently slid him onto a piece of cardboard, using a rolled-up newspaper, and got into a cab. He lay still during the ride except for a pronounced tremor. His legs were unbending. I didn’t want him to die without a name, so we named him Lamar after the juice brand advertised on the billboard outside the taxi window.

At the vet, they gave him a bath and discovered the kitty was white and a Lamara, not a Lamar. An x-ray determined that nothing was wrong with her structurally. The vet said she probably had nerve damage from a strong kick or long fall. She didn’t appear to be a breed of street cat, so a human with no heart had probably threw her out. The vet said that with good care  and a few prescriptions, she would be walking in 2-4 weeks. We agreed to take her home and get her to the point of walking so that she could find an owner or shelter. After 4 weeks, she was healthier but no success on the walking front. She still had to be held to drink and eat (which she does ferociously), and lied down to go potty (which can get extraordinarily messy for a long-haired kitty).

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A friend kitty-sat for us and took her to the international vet who gave the official diagnosis. Turns out Lamara was born with Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH), which is similar to ataxic cerebral palsy in humans and looks like Parkinsons. Cats with CH have a normal life expectancy and are usually not in any pain, other than from falls. Many wear helmets. We considered it, but she hates things on her. Kitty diapers and “wheelchairs” were also a no-go.

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My husband spoke to her in Arabic, and I learned the basics of the language. Her breed seems to be Siamese / Persian / Himalayan mix, but she is an Egyptian gal to the core. She may or may not be Arab, but she is Middle Eastern.

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And she is making her life.

She says no to nothing.

With her moderately severe CH case, they said she wouldn’t ever really walk. At four months old, she took her first consecutive steps.

Then she taught herself to drink sitting up. My husband coaching her through every sip.

Then she taught herself to climb, all the way out of her crate.

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Then, we thought it would all have to come to an end. We became so busy with battering life in Egypt, barely able to take care of all her special needs. She was not taking to any lesson on being house-trained. We tried everything and our flatmates had become fed up. It broke my heart just thinking of alternatives to her not being there. We persevered and looked at life one week at a time.

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At 11 months old, we caught her in the other room practicing trying to stand on all four legs. Balancing lessons. She had taught herself to sit when she was about to fall, rather than fall to the ground.  In addition, she decided to teach herself how to scratch her ear with her back paw. No luck. But she kept trying and trying for months. We would assist her by guiding her foot or holding her head up for her.

She enjoyed her first birthday in the intense Cairo summer heat of the El Sisi adminstration.

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Then she decided she would immigrate to the U.S. This must have been her decision, because I cannot remember my husband and I ever discussing it. This was a given.

She got her vaccinations, passport, paid her fees, and got into a carrier for eighteen+ hours including a layover in Paris.

She came to America and breathed the fresh Michigan air.

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She saw grass for the first time.

She saw birds, frogs, bugs and went on her own version of an uncoordinated backyard stealth attack. Her vertical leap grew to an impressive 2 feet and she “stuck” the landing often with her face. My dad generously constructed her a wheelchair, feeder to help hold her up, and steps to get on the couch. She never decided to use any of these devices the way they were meant to help. But he did teach her to use litter inside a boot tray!

She was making quite a mess of the back room, so we made her a special walled zone in the basement. Well, in the morning, we found her sitting at the top of the stairs. We all thought one of the humans in the house must be a prankster because it was impossible for her to scale a wall and climb an entire flight of stairs.

So she demonstrated once more…

I am one determined kitty. I made it up

Posted October 10, 2015

 

Recently, the three of us moved from small town Mid-Michigan to Chicago. Back to the big city life for our gal. But when the temps reached 66, she gave me a demanding look towards the door.  So Lamara took on the public park.

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Definitely the only cat people had seen in this setting. No fear, and having a blast “chasing” squirrels and diving in the leaves. I stayed near her, on dog and bike patrol, and she had happy exercise and fresh air for 40 minutes with soft grass to fall on. Getting stronger and more coordinated.

She is not the dog we discussed and were planning for, but Lamara has changed our lives. She does the unexpected, every time. She is borderless, bilingual, and won’t be defined. My love. With every butt wipe and every death-defying leap off the couch, she inspires me. And this is only the first 1.5 years of Lamara’s story. Stay tuned.

 

 

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