Nia and The Jorelle Project
The clients at Living Resources are in the post recovery phase of their brain injury and are now living with the results and challenges of their event. The client population is both male and female and ranges in age from 24 - 50 years old.
Prior to starting my Nia career, I worked as a nurse in a wide variety of clinical situations including community, hospital, and camp settings. I always maintained a philosophy that my job was to bring patients to their highest level of dance/movement abilities; I saw my profession as the "art of nursing." With my experience as a nurse, stepping into a full time career in Nia felt like the perfect fit. As a Nia teacher, I have always been drawn to and felt it was natural for me to work with special populations. My experiences include classes for women in drug rehabilitation, prenatal women, clients with Alzheimer's disease, troubled teens, women with cancer and more.
In the fall of 2012, I was contacted by Living Resources, a Brain Injury center in Albany, NY. They wanted me to provide Nia to their clients. I was thrilled by this challenging opportunity and gladly accepted.
The clients at Living Resources are in the post recovery phase of their brain injury and are now living with the results and challenges of their event. The client population is both male and female and ranges in age from 24 - 50 years old. The physical challenges of the group range from some in wheelchairs, some walking with crutches and some with full ambulation. Similarly, there is a broad range of language skills and deficiencies.
It was such an amazing experience of JOY to bring movement to this group. I gave myself free rein to experiment with deconstructing the Nia White Belt principles to make them accessible, i.e. working with the 8 BC's and turning a cafeteria into a Nia studio space environment. At the start of working with this group, the client advocate, who was instrumental in bringing me to the facility, pulled me aside and let me know there was a dancer/choreographer in the group. Her name was Jorelle. She was 38 years old and had been in a car accident 8 years ago, on her way to an African dance class. The accident left her in a wheel chair with varying and inconsistent use of her body and a muscular speech deficit. In the Living Resources Nia class, she was initially withdrawn and appeared not particularly excited to do limited "creepy crawlers." I did the best I could to create openings for her and let her find her way. During one session, Jorelle handed me a crumpled flyer; she said she was having a dance concert near her home and wanted me to come. At the concert she danced with two other dancers. After the performance, two videos of Jorelle dancing before her accident were presented. It was through my tears that I really appreciated what she had lost and I was determined to create more opportunities for her to thrive as a dancer/choreographer once again. And so, "The Jorelle Project" was born at my studio. I sent an email out to a body worker and some local dancers who were in my Nia classes. They jumped at the opportunity. The intent of the Jorelle Project was to provide the space for Jorelle to choreograph a dance and dance it. The other dancers would also create dances to perform as a dance showcase featuring Jorelle.
Nia class at Living Resources was now Jorelle's warm-up, and she participated wholeheartedly and to be best of her ability. After class I drove her to my studio for rehearsal. At the studio, she was able to roll, creep and crawl on the floor. She was also able to stand up and walk with assistance. The rehearsals proceeded over the month until the day The Jorelle Project showcase was performed. Friends, family, staff from Living Resources and the Nia community came to support the event. There were many tears in the audience by those deeply touched and inspired to witness Jorelle at her highest level of dance! The proceeds of the event were given to Jorelle to support her in future projects.
I was so gratified. I was so proud. It really was an incredible event; ask anyone who came! It was Nia that opened the door. I just happened to wheel Jorelle through it to help her tap into greater possibilities and find her own potential and JOY in the body she currently inhabits.