Poem for Stan: On Dancing With Grief
Reviewed By: Kathy Altman
Recommended Reading Program: Art in Motion
Language availability: English
Devi Weisenberg is a 78-year-old dancer from California, USA. She wrote this poem for her husband’s memorial service at Art Murmur with Kathy Altman and Lori Saltzman. She tells us how dance, art and writing on this workshop supported her grieving process.
I decided to attend Art Murmur with Kathy Altman and Lori Saltzman a week before my husband’s memorial service. It was a big decision. We had over 250 people coming and there was so much to do to organize it all.
But I wanted another opportunity to grieve and a place to write something for the memorial. I knew that Kathy and Lori would hold the ideal space for me to do that. I’d had the experience of dancing with them years before after a having had surgery for a melanoma on the back of my knee, when I could hardly walk – let alone dance. I knew that I would be welcomed and included, whatever physical and emotional state I showed up in. The timing felt right too, as I had gone to Art Murmur the year before with my husband. He danced…so vibrantly, until he was 79 and it felt good to mourn him in the space we’d loved and shared together.
So, I left the organization of the memorial in the hands of some good friends and disappeared for the week. It felt so good not having to worry about anything except for myself…knowing that my friends were taking care of everything.
I felt so relieved being there! I was in such deep grief but rather than getting busy with logistics or being on my own at home, I had the opportunity to move with my grief in a community of people who warmly welcomed me. Most of the people in the workshop knew about Stan’s death so I didn’t have to hold back…I didn’t have to pretend.
Lori and Kathy are very skilful at structuring the week so that it takes you on a journey. Every day we danced, we made art and we wrote words. We started small with simple tasks, slowly going deeper and deeper. The whole week is geared towards encountering the unknown and stepping outside of your safety zone. Then it is possible to open the creative stream we all have inside of us. And I love that you don’t have to have any artistic or creative writing ability – all the exercises we did were so simple…so basic… anyone can do them!
And it all works together…they feed off each other. Calling on my creativity off the dance floor inspires me to be more creative in my dance. At the same time, movement opens up rhythms in the body that come out in my poetry and making art creates a free-flow of images that become words.
The poem wrote itself, really. It just came out all in one go on day 5 of the week long workshop. And it comes straight from my soul, from a more essential part of me. The part of me that feels grief and pain of course, and the part that is alive and feels joy too.
Words by Audrey Boss