January 24, 2013
“Music and Movement” facilitator Shellie Fraddin recounts her TAO Program
My first impression was of the building: old and depressing, with residents either in the halls or in their hospital-like rooms screaming or moaning, permeating the overheated air with the smell of bodily fluids. I’ve worked in many facilities like this before, so I wasn’t shocked. I had mixed emotions: sadness for their situation and joy that I could be here today make a difference in their lives.
My second impression occurred during the class. There were about 2-3 staff, 20 residents, mostly in wheelchairs, half asleep, fully asleep or totally disinterested in what was about to take place. I said hello to them, told them who I was and what we were going to do today. In response, some mumbled, some turned their backs to me, others were having manicures, while others just sat there.One or two smiled. I showed them some steps and arm movements before I turned on the music and asked them to do what I do. I wanted to determine whether they would be able to follow me and whether I could teach them some steps.They were pretty responsive but couldn’t follow any routine. So I discarded my routine and offered them movements that they could do.
I asked the activities assistants to find me percussion instruments for those who were either sleeping or not participating. I gave some people bells to ring or maracas to shake and it kept them involved. I felt it was important for each person in the room to feel the rhythm of the music and to move whatever they could move. I felt so much joy when I saw every single person in the room participating on some level. They either tapped a foot or a finger and applauded after each song. The energy in the room had transformed. They clapped their hands or one hand on the table and they stomped their feet or a foot in response to the music. We had a ball. We chair danced to songs from all over the world: Zorba The Greek, a Belly Dance, a Cha Cha, a Salsa, a Cumbia, a Merengue, a Waltz, a Mexican Hat Dance, The Hora, the Hokey Pokey and even did The Twist in a chair.We were hootin’ and howlin’, giving everyone permission to make noise and release tension and frustration.
The highlight of the program came at the end, when an elderly gentlemen from France, who spoke very little English told me, “I haven’t felt so alive ever in my entire life. I never danced before today. Thank you and God Bless you. I will never forget you.” He took my hands and kissed me on both cheeks. I wanted to cry I was so moved. It’s in moments like these, that I realize the impact music and dance have on the lives of all people, especially those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The Chaplain participated as well and said she’s never seen so many happy, smiling faces in this group as she did during this one hour. When the activities director came in and asked them if they had a good time, in unison they yelled, YES. “Do you want her back for more?” They all resounded a loud YES.
Thank you for the opportunity to bring aliveness and joy back into people’s lives, people who would never have the opportunity to dance without your programs. I am so blessed to be part of your vision and look forward to our next adventure together.