Nia and The “Jorelle Project”, moving beyond TBI

April 11th, 2014
Nia and “The Jorelle Project”

Prior to starting my Nia career, I worked as a nurse in a wide variety of clinical settings including community, hospital, and camp settings. I always maintained a philosophy (that my job was) to bring patients to their highest level of dance/movement abilities therefore seeing my profession as the “art of nursing”. With my experiences as a nurse, stepping into a full time career in Nia, felt like the perfect fit. As a Nia teacher, I have always been drawn to and felt it was natural for me to work with special populations. My experiences include classes for women in drug rehabilitation, prenatal women, clients with Alzheimer’s disease, troubled teen(s), women with cancer and more.

In the fall of 2012 I was contacted by Living Resources, a Brain Injury center in Albany, NY to provide Nia to their clients. I was thrilled by this challenging opportunity and gladly accepted. (he clients at Living Resources are in the post recovery phase of their brain injury and are now living with the results and challenges of their event. The client populations is both male and female and ranges in age from 24 – 50 years old. The physical challenges of the group ranges from with some in wheelchairs, some walking with crutches and some with full ambulation. Similarly, there is a broad range of language skills and deficients. It was such an amazing experience and JOY to bring movement to this group. I gave myself free rein to experiment with deconstructing the Nia WB principles to make them accessible, i.e. working with the 8 BC’s and to turn a cafeteria into a Nia studio space environment.

At the start of working with this group, the client advocate that was instrumental in bringing me to the facility, pulled me aside and wanted to let me know there was a dancer/choreographer in the group. Her name was Jorelle. She was 38 years old and had been in a car accident 8 years ago, on her way to an African dance class. The accident left her in a wheel chair with varying and inconsistent use of her body and a muscular speech deficit. In the Living Resources Nia class, she was initially withdrawn and appeared not particularly excited to do limited “creepy crawlers”. I did the

best I could to let her find her way and create openings for her. One session, Jorelle handed me a crumpled flyer; she said she having a dance concert near her home and wanted me to come. At the concert she danced with 2 other dancers. After the performance 2 videos of Jorelle dancing before her accident were presented. It was through my tears that I really appreciated what she had lost and was determined to create more opportunities for her to thrive as a dancer/choreographer once again and so “The Jorelle Project” was born at my studio. I sent an email out to some local dancers that were in my Nia classes and a bodyworker and they jumped at the opportunity. The intent of the Jorelle Project was to provide the space for Jorelle to choreograph a dance and dance it. The other dancers would also create dances to perform as a dance showcase, featuring Jorelle.

Nia class, at Living Resources was now Jorelle’s warm up and she participated whole heartedly and to be best of her ability. After class I drove her, to my studio for rehearsal. Being at the studio, on the floor she was able to roll, creep and crawl. She was also able to stand up and walk with assistance. The rehearsals proceeded over the month until the day of The Jorelle Project showcase was performed. Friends, family, staff from Living Resources and the Nia community came to support the event. There were many tears in the audience by those deeply touched and inspired to witness Jorelle at her highest level of dance! The proceeds of the event were given to Jorelle to support her in future projects.

I was so gratified. I was so proud. It really was an incredible event, ask anyone who came! It was Nia that opened the door. I just happened to

wheel Jorelle through it to help her tap into greater possibilities and find of her own potential to JOY in the body she currently inhabits.

Casey Bernstein and Jorelle Pome Image

View The Jorelle Project dance

Read The article as it appears in the Nia HQ Newsletter