by Heather Dowds
Losing a family member is never easy. The healing process can seem never ending and your views on life are changed. Luckily for me, when my dad died three years ago, I had dance as an outlet.
In the fall of 2010, I was in the middle of grad school when my dad suddenly died. I was still recovering from the emotional hurdle of my mom's heart attack a mere month earlier when she came to Boston to tell me what happened. It was like a line drive to the chest. I did not know how to process everything. I still don't know if I have processed everything to this day.
One thing I never got to do in the moment was a eulogy for my father. I did plenty of writing for my MA program on the subject, but never presented it to anyone, especially not my mother. At times it was hard to put into words, which was the point when I turned to dance. It wasn't difficult to chose a song, but the actual choreography process was painstaking. There were days I would dance around my living room and I would get so into my dance and the meaning behind each movement that I would start crying and couldn't even think about the dance for a day or two. The only benefit of missing Season 5 this past spring was I had plenty of time to take classes, work on my technique and really perfect this dance. For once, I went into choreographer auditions confident and thinking my piece would actually get picked. I'm not the best dancer, but I had to sell this piece, I had to share it.
More than for me, this dance is for my mother. She's all by herself now and I often worry about her. I try to surprise her and make her smile. I know she is always proud of me, but I want her to be proud of my courage to dance my experience, not just for my accomplishments. She knows I choreographed something this season, but she had no idea what kind of piece or what its about.
This season has been rough. Not only because I took a season off, or because I jumped back into it and decided to be in six dances, but because this is such an emotional piece for me. My beautiful dancers have worked their absolute hardest every week, challenging themselves, as well as me, to make this the best it can be. They have all tapped into their emotions to perform this piece. At our last rehearsal this week, I was in near tears as we ran it in the studio one last time because it is more than I ever expected it to be. It is a great stepping stone in my lifelong journey of living without my father. I know he'll be watching me on Saturday and from what I've seen the forecast calls for rain, so for my sake, let's hope it does so I have a sign that he's proud of what I've done as well.
"You inspired me truly you did from the start/ To not be afraid and to follow my heart/ There's a piece of you with me they can't tear apart/ Forever" - Dropkick Murphys
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