Sunday, March 27, 2011

Photos from our Haiti trip

We feel so much stronger now!

Finally posting some of my thoughts here from our Haiti trip:

Working with the women of FAVILEK has been amazing. On the first day of workshop, Sylvie, an older woman, comes up to me when she arrives and gives me a big kiss on each cheek. Such joy and spirit and love! There is a sense of great enthusiasm and excitement for our work together.

We start the workshops off with warm-up games for fun and play and energy. We do trust exercises such as leading a blind partner, running blindly into another's arms with all your might, and letting yourself fall trusting that the group is there to catch you. Not only are these 15 artist members of FAVILEK learning to strengthen their core ensemble as a theater group, but they have committed to share this training with other women and girls in their support sessions. So we try to include creative exercises that are useful for psychosocial support, to build self-esteem, confidence and empowerment, as well as for theatrical work. We explore physical and emotional expression through mime and movement play and we do simple acrobatics, too.

But mostly, we work a lot on focus and cohesion as an ensemble. We have everyone walk around within a designated space focusing on being aware of themselves, the space and each other. We then work on choreographic movement and on moving together as a chorus. First, the women are scattered and unfocused and all over the place. There is no purpose to their movement or engagement. But then a beautiful transformation takes place as they start to develop a shared sensitivity and explore creating powerful images together. As Christina so aptly described it below: "imagine the transformation of 15 individuals walking around like psych wards patients in nonsensical circles within a square on the floor to 15 empowered, strong women who command the space and move as one." And the women did indeed feel empowered.

At the end of our three and a half days of workshops, we sit down together in a circle to talk about the experience. How do you feel now, what did you gain, what did you enjoy? They exclaim: "We feel so much stronger now!" Individually, and as an ensemble. Merina, who's quite the spitfire, tells us how here in Haiti things can get dangerous, there are demonstrations and violence, and now she feels strong enough to run and to fight! Wow.

Grandma Sylvie, the eldest, walks up to me and puts her arms around my hips to lift me up. As if to demonstrate her newfound strength. And she does lift me! And then she cradles me like a baby and sings to me. She then goes to Josh to lift him (and Josh is a big guy), and she probably would have done it, but Josh preempts her action and swings her up in his arms instead. And after that they dance.

"Voulez-vous danser? Oui, danser!" I discovered last time I was in Haiti how much people like to sing and dance, and Favilek is no different. So I introduce this little dancing game I learned from the gals in Grande Goave. And we had a blast with that. "Alors, fais comme ca!"

Then the women teach me and Christina a song from their last show with accompanying movements, which was really beautiful to do together. It had a sad air about it, but at least it ends on an upbeat note with "la vie est belle" or "life is beautiful."