Lorre Diamond’s “Footnotes” Brings Dancing Spirit to Grieving Hearts

 

Grieving and abused children learn to transform emotions by exercising the body, stimulating the creative mind, and dancing their truths – together in community.

 

By Sherri McLendon

 

In “FootNotes,” there are few wrong moves, says Lorre Diamond, facilitator and creator. Since 2009, the experiential dance and improvisation program has assisted hundreds of western North Carolinian’s to transform grief and other difficult emotions through movement and dance.

 

Lorre Diamond, Photo: Lin Sharp

Lorre Diamond, Photo: Lin Sharp

“In ‘FootNotes,’ you have complete freedom to be yourself,” she says. “If you don’t know who that is, you can explore and figure it out.”

 

Dancing Together Changes Lives

 

Children respond to difficult emotions differently than adults, says Diamond.   In addition to bringing the movement arts into mainstream settings, she has successfully delivered the program to children who are physically disabled, who need to build self esteem, or process grief or abuse.

 

“When we grow up, we are afraid of telling people what we don’t like,” she says. “We’re afraid of hurting people’s feelings, and we’ll keep it inside. Children feel uncomfortable, so they express themselves in a way that they don’t feel like they’re putting people on the defensive.”

 

Helping children “journey from hope to healing” is the mission of Heart Songs, a program of Four Seasons Compassion for Life, Flat Rock. Program Coordinator Susan Bumgarner shares her experience of working with Diamond as a featured expert presenter at the annual grief camp for children.

 

“The children respond to her gentle and flowing guidance which allows them a different way to express their grief,” she says.

 

Maddie, age 10, agrees. “I thought ‘FootNotes’ was the greatest because I got to dance in my own fashion.”

 

Establishing an Environment of Trust

 

Establishing a non-competitive environment of warmth, camaraderie, and collaboration allows the young dancers to help one another and build trust, confidence, and self esteem among their peers.

 

Diamond remembers one little girl named “Sabrina,” who was not ready to talk or share her grief following the death of a close family member with anyone. After an hour or so of dancing and singing, she was able to share and release deep emotions she wouldn’t normally have gotten out.

 

“In ‘FootNotes,’ she got it out, but nobody really had to hear her.”

 

Offering the program in schools, through non-profit organizations, or local recreation centers, Diamond believes ‘FootNotes’ is different from other children’s offerings. The program is semi-structured, leaving plenty of room for children to create their own movements, develop their spirits, and nurture their inner creativity. Plus, dance is accompanied by other affirmative activities and experiences such as artistic projects, costuming, drawing, and poetry, designed to help participants open up and talk about their feelings.

 

“When you add an element, such as costuming, you potentially open up some of the kids who haven’t been able to talk, because they may be able to share from that costume rather than from themselves.”

 

“I really enjoyed costuming for it was so creative and fun,” shares Grayson, age 10. “I was able to express myself in this workshop, and the music was great.”

 

 

Lorre's kids ready to dance!

Lorre’s kids ready to dance!

Engagement through Music and Movement

 

The traditional view – that dance and the arts are only for affluent kids – is one Diamond does not hold. One summer in Fletcher in 2009, right after Michael Jackson died, she asked a group of seven through eleven year olds a big question: “What was it like to have one of their icons or role models die so suddenly?”

 

“That session was powerful for them,” she recalls. “They loved his music. So I asked if anyone would like to share their feelings. They became extremely verbal. One of them said, ‘I bet Michael Jackson is in heaven jamming with Elvis.’”

 

Musically, Diamond draws on a wide range of familiar favorites along with current hits, choosing songs to which the children will respond positively and sing along.

 

“I really like the music. I knew all of the songs, and I could sing and dance to them,” says Anna, age 11.

 

“Singing is a release and joy, and the movement is a double benefit,” Diamond says. “I engage them with the music I use, and give them permission to do what they want with the movement.”

 

Dance Crosses Boundaries

 

Today, with her son and three grandchildren living on the west coast, Diamond feels her work with young people helps fill the gaps left by time and distance. She’s grateful for the decades of work with movement and expression, releasing mind through the body, and replacing sadness with affirmation.

 

“Life is an improv, just like dance,” she says. “Back in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, life was more choreographed. Today, dance helps us relate to how we have changed, personally and collectively.”

 

Working together, helping one another cope with love and loss, without competition. In “FootNotes,” participants definitely come out winners.

 

 

The Happiness Exercise from ‘FootNotes’

 

Lorre Diamond never knows what kids will say or do, so each ‘FootNotes’ session closes with reasons to acknowledge happiness. When the dancing has come to a close, Diamond and participants sit in a circle, take turns, and say why they’re happy.

“There’s always a reason to be happy even if kids are sad,” she says. “When you’re dancing, there’s no room for negative thoughts. And whatever happens in the room stays in the room.”

Here’s how it works. One person speaks, and the others repeat their words back to them in unison.

“I’m happy that… (fill in the blank).”

 

Then the chorus follows, “I’m happy that you’re happy that…(fill in the blank).”

 

Working together, helping one another, without competition or bullying. In “FootNotes,” participants definitely come out winners.

Lorre Diamond never knows what kids will say, so each ‘FootNotes’ session closes with reasons to acknowledge happiness. When the dancing has come to a close, Diamond and participants sit in a circle, take turns, and say why they’re happy.

 

“There’s always a reason to be happy even when kids are grieving,” she says. “When you’re dancing, there’s no room for negative thoughts. And whatever happens in the room stays in the room.”

 

Here’s how it works. One person speaks, and the others repeat their words back to them in unison.

 

“I’m happy that… (fill in the blank).”

 

Then the chorus follows, “I’m happy that you’re happy that…(fill in the blank).”

 

Working together, helping one another, without competition or bullying. In “FootNotes,” participants definitely come out winners.

 

You can reach Lorre Diamond at 828-290-5715; website: footnotesisdance.com

 


 

Sherri L. McLendon, M.A., owns and operates Professional Moneta International, http://www.professionalmoneta.com, specializing in mindfulness approaches to marketing public relations and feminine leadership. She is a former dancer, nationally published dance writer, and a conscious dance facilitator. She tested the “Happiness Exercise” on her own kid. It worked.

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