Setting Courage to Motion

La Monica Everett-Haynes
March 20, 2013

What does the hero's journey have to do with Eminem, children receiving treatment for serious illnesses and students in the UA School of Dance?

Erika Colombi, a Master of Fine Arts student in the UA school, is making that connection.

Colombi has choreographed an original piece, "The Fragmented Nature of the Modern Self," which the student group will perform at the forthcoming Courage in Motion event, a fundraiser and awareness-making event for children at the UA Diamond Children's center, and at hospitals across the nation.

The piece is set to the sound of Eminem's "Lose Yourself," as performed by the Vitamin String Quartet and dubbed with an interview with Joseph Campbell, an American psychologist known for his studies of the hero's journey' in mythology.

The piece is not meant to be pretty, said UA graduating senior Nolan Austin, one of the students set to perform the piece. The piece is, at times, hurried and erratic, with dancers spinning and speeding in opposing directions.

"I find that it is very secretly emotional," said Ashley Hammond, a UA freshman in the dance program.

"There is an undertone of fear and going for help, and I think it is something that children going through these treatments can identify with," she said. "It's beautiful, but with a little bit of pain."

At other times, the dancers contort their bodies and writhe across the floor, full of stressed emotion.

"It's less about the steps and more about the intention," said Zac Bigbee, a UA sophomore in the dance program.

Bigbee noted that acknowledging a person's struggles and strengths, rather than just focusing on the motivations in recovery, is more powerful and authentic. "Children don't want it to be all about Barney all the time. That gives you an unrealistic idea of happiness."

Consequently, the choreography follows the hero's journey much in the same way that Eminem notes in "Lose Yourself." The main chorus goes:

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment

You own it, you better never let it go

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow

This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

For Colombi the lyrics and the dance speak directly to the experience of children living with serious and chronic illnesses, just as it speaks to us all.

In the piece, each fragment of the hero's journey is present:the call, the refusal of the call, the arrival of help and new knowledge, pushing one's limits and the return or arrival into the new world.

"In the song, Eminem is talking about his own hero's journey; his own demons that he must overcome," Colombi said. "For art and the human experience, not everything has to be glossy. We all have our own struggles but, as a community, we are coming together to help one another."

In addition to Colombi, the UA dancers are Deshawn Morton, Ashley Hammond, Zac Bigbee, Daniel Burgueño and Nolan Austin. The group will perform at 2 p.m. during the all ages Courage in Motion event, which will be held April 6, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the multiple athletic court gym at the UA Student Recreation Center, 1400 East Sixth Street. Read the full article, "Dance Marathon Raising Funds to Support Child Patients," at UANews.org.

Photography by La Monica Everett-Haynes/UANews

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