Donna Mejia

Beauty in motion

As we adjust programs to the current situation (COVID19), we knew it would be difficult to  maintain the standards of impact and personal touch that Chase the Music performances are known for. How could we do that when our performers are ‘on-screen’ vs ‘in-person’.

We knew it would be different, but it wasn’t until we started that we realized that we could enhance the programs with the new media.

One of our first programs delivered via tel-conference was so amazing I needed to write about it. It wasn’t an instrumental event, nor singing – it was dance!

The performer, Donna Mejia brought her A-game to the little screen. The kiddo she was performing with – is Sarah who battles autism. She’s generally non-verbal. Our first session – was full of energy. Lots of movement, and directed interaction. Both Donna having Sarah do things, but also Sarah directing Donna. It’s Sarah choreographing Donnas movements. Think of it as remote controlling the dancer. Sarah did this with a speech board to communicate.

One thing interesting in this session was the ability to do things that you couldn’t in person. You can get bigger and smaller – with your distance from the screen. You can fill the screen with your face, or step way back. You can make your hands disproportionately large by positioning them close to the camera. You can also drop out of frame. And, you can return from a different location (leave to the left, but return from the bottom or right!) These are things that are much more difficult in person.

In the second session, Sarah was in a different mood. She appeared tired and quiet. What had worked before would not be effective now. Sarah lay on the couch, on a favorite pillow. Donna quickly adjusted her plan, and grabbed a pillow of her own. Just being quiet, and with very little verbal interaction, the two watched each other. You could see Sarah, loving not being forced into action, but being able to enjoy and share a few moments of true peacefulness in this time of chaos. Her eyes were attentive, aware and caring. 

As they wrapped up, Sarah uttered “Donna” and “bye bye”. It may not seem like much, but it was something that just doesn’t happen with Sarah. It was beautiful moment that brought tears as the screens closed.

We’ll always Chase the Music -even as the world presents us new challenges. Thank you to Donna for showing us we will constantly adjust to the situation. Whether it is the big global changes, or the child directly in front of us needing a different interaction. We make huge connections and impacts. The power of these moments isn’t just for the child, but also for the parents and performers. Comments afterwards from Sarah’s mom, and Donna expressed how much strength and joy they both got from the interaction.

Donna Mejia is an associate professor of dance, and director of the graduate studies in dance at the University of Colorado. She and the University have partnered with Chase the Music for 3 years. She collaborates with us both as an individual and with her students to bring the joy of dance to children battling critical conditions.

Watch for an upcoming announcement from Chase the Music regarding a new program. One that will have an impact during this COVID(19) crisis, and long into the future!

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