I had the pleasure of attending High Release Dance Company’s biannual performance last night. I am a big fan of all that is creative, and having done a little modern dance myself, in my college days, have a great appreciation for how movement can not only broaden the physical and mental awareness of the dancer, but can stir the soul of the audience.
The performance was comprised of many dance pieces choreographed and performed by various members of the group, sometimes as a duo, but oftentimes with several dancers. Each member clearly stood alone – there were slight interpretations of the dance, and with thematic moves repeated throughout a piece, I could get a sense of what each individual dancer was feeling or saying. These were women from all walks of life, all ages, and all dance interests and abilities – some with accolades and extensive training, some devoted hobbyists, and some fairly new to the discipline. And they all brought something genuine to the stage.
One remarkable piece was distinctly dark, something rarely seen in dance, and no doubt difficult to convey, when elongation of the body is generally associated with beauty and openness. The group was clearly angry, demonic, disturbed. And yet, there was a sense of clear connection and support between them, through this unified dementia. In a later piece, they were joyous and celebratory, shaking hands and hips in a tribute to Bob Fosse. Here, again, it was clear that they were unified in their emotion, communicating progress, celebration, trust. They even included pieces with clear humor about their movements. Just like you may do with your kids at home – to shake your tush, splay your knees out and in with the quack of a duck, or “raise the roof,” dance can be farcical and fun, while clearly serving a need to communicate how we feel, raise our blood pressure a little, and let off some steam.
At the end of the show, I was brought to tears, not elicited directly from their performance, but because it was ending. High Release presents a big show like this (2 hours) once every two years. They are a rare company that tempers the commitments of its members with time for family and careers, so I’ll have to wait another two years to see what they’ve been up to.
Stroller Hikes works in much the same way, although we are far less choreographed, and no one need have much or any training to attend. When out on a hike, conversations, play between children, and sometimes even engagement of the various participants ebb and flow. Anyone will tell you that hiking with a group works much better for very young kids, than it does when solo. Young kids enjoy the exchange of energy, the unified front, the physicality of hiking, just as a dance troupe molds these three facets like well beaten clay. This week, Liza shared with me about hiking with some immigrants who spoke almost no English, yet were clearly passionate about hiking. With them for the journey was a dog-eared hiking book and their young translator who enjoyed teaching the rest of the group some Russian. Together, this motley crew explored a new (to us) Santa Teresa Trail, befriended a ranger, and enjoyed each other’s company. I included Liza’s e-mail because its tone very clearly conveys the fun they had:
“Sasha, Nico, & I really enjoyed the hike with Karl & Kiera today. There was the cutest girl from Russia there. It was her her mom, sister, sisters friend, and friends mom. She was maybe 11 years old & was the only one of the five of them who spoke English. She taught us a few Russian words (including the rock “mica” is Russian for “underpants” – cracked Nico up) and had all sorts of questions on the map & the trails. She had the county trail book & it was all dog eared like a backpacker’s Lonely Planet guide. They are living in California for two years. There was also a couple in their late 80’s with a younger guy (maybe in his 50’s) who were going to join us. They couldn’t make it up the 1st hill though. I thought how appropriate it was that seniors would want to hike with little kids. They probably have about the same distance in them. There was a first time Stroller Hikes mom with her 3 year old too. We saw deers, bunnies, turtles, a turkey, fish, & tadpoles. The ranger asked Karl to help him move something in the barn, so we got a glimpse of the fun stuff they do there for schools & field days. Oh – and we hopped a fence too because we got stuck in a dead end by the barn. Great fun!”
I am thrilled that Stroller Hikes has been so successful in getting people from all sorts of geographic areas, backgrounds, ethnicities, and other demographics together. It’s helped me call California home, and built some amazing friendships. Experience this community for yourself on a scheduled event today, or try it for yourself – invite friends out to join you for a hike today. It won’t be rehearsed and planned like a dance performance of a well trained dance group, but the experience will be similarly gratifying.
-Debbie (Founder and President), Max (6), Holly (2), and Andrew