Friday, April 25, 2014

Portland Sisters Dance, Soar

If you're in on the local performing arts scene, you may have heard of the stunning dance duo comprised of sisters Kiera Brinkley and Uriah Boyd. “Soar”, a documentary about their lives is currently in the making, but it's not just a documentary about Kiera and Uriah as dancers; it is a look into dance, sisterhood, and disability.

When Kiera, now 20 years old, was just two, she had most of each arm and leg amputated to prevent the spread of a bacterial infection. This was one month after her sister was born. Both girls were drawn to dance when they were young, and each have had to overcome very different challenges to get where they are now.

As an elementary schooler, kids used to gather around Kiera as she jumped rope. When she got to middle school, a dance teacher noticed her moving in her chair to music and persuaded her to dance with her peers on the floor. She learned routines at Da Vinci Middle School during the day and would teach them to Uriah at night.

Kiera's dance style is fluid and easy in spite of her shortened limbs, and she has gained quite a bit of attention for it. But Uriah moves with equal beauty.

“Soar” is about dance and disability, true, but through these elements documentarian Susan Hess Logeais reveals the conflict and affection that sisterhood inevitably proffers.

Younger siblings often live in the shadows of their older counterparts, and Uriah admits that she felt ignored at times:

“I was younger, so everyone knew her first, and she had such a strong presence. I was shy, awkward. I didn't really have that much going for myself.”

But Uriah remains an important part of of Kiera's life and dance career. Kiera is currently a member of Polaris Dance Theatre, a Portland contemporary dance troupe, and when she choreographs, Kiera likes Uriah to be there with her. The two have was Kiera calls “sister telepathy”, which allows Kiera to communicate moves that she may not be able to replicate with her body. Uriah has also been a great motivator for Kiera. When first considering whether or not to join Polaris, Kiera wasn't sure she would be able to keep up. Uriah told her to suck it up. Sister love!

In the documentary, Kiera and Uriah dance a duet that reflects the nature of their sisterhood: it's complicated, but everything somehow fits together in a seamless symbiosis.

Read more about Kiera, Uriah, and their documentary, “Soar”, here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

High School "Cripple" Slams Stereotypes

Bella Trent, a talented and powerful young poet from Portland, recently used her command of language to challenge her audience's assumptions about people with disabilities.

The 16 year-old, who was born with arthrogryposis, a rare condition that keeps her joints locked in place, recently won Madison High School's 10th annual slam poetry contest with an impressive performance of her poem, “Cripple”. While seated in her wheelchair, Trent prompted the audience to face their prejudices by addressing stereotypes attached to people with disabilities.

“A great part of poetry is to be able to really show people that I can be more than they see,” says Trent. “It's a great opportunity to go beyond skin.”

As someone who has used either crutches or a wheelchair her whole life, Trent is often looked at as a quiet wallflower, but as her poetry shows, she has quite a bit to say, and she isn't afraid to say it. Her mother, Jessica Trent, confirms this, saying that her daughter has never been meek or shy. Watch her recite this amazing poem and you'll see that Trent has no problem holding back.

This poem is honest, relevant, and poignant—certainly not what one might expect from a 16 year-old slam poet. I mean to say, it lacks the contrived, overwrought tropes that many of my high school peers relied on with their poetry. Pretty impressive. Give it a look!

She and runner-up Reuben Cottingham will perform at Verselandia! on April 29th along with poets from nine other high schools in the Portland public school system.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Stunning Recording of Vision Loss: John Hull's "Notes on Blindness"

I wish I had the words to describe accurately the beauty of this short film.

Writer and theologian, John Hull, lost his sight in 1983 a few days before the birth of his first son. To help himself through the process, Hull made audio recordings of his experiences, memories, and dreams. “Notes on Blindness” is a film that uses his actual recordings in conjunction with visual dramatizations of those recordings, and it is stunning. Hull provides utterly unique and eloquent insights on the physical and emotional response to vision loss. Maybe I'm biased given my combined artsy-film-geek ways and the field in which I work, but I have the deep feeling that many people will find this short quite beautiful and poignant. (Also, there is a part in the film that fans of the original “Solaris” will particularly enjoy, I think.)

The film recently premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and a feature-length version is scheduled for production this September.

Check out this page for links to some of Hull's written works, click here to access audio transcripts, audio-only, and close captioned video, and tell us what you think!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Camper Stories and Publication Opportunities!

Back in January, we shared part of a camper story written by one of Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp's counselors. At that time, the full stories were not yet available on the MHKC @ PSU website, but guess what! All of the stories are now available to read here

Below is another little taste of what can be found in these colorful camper stories. This is the first page of a story about camper Conor O'Grady.

And, on the subject of essays, stories, and community involvement, we have some information on a rad opportunity for many undergraduate students who have worked with community-based organizations like Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp.

The Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research is looking for submissions in six categories:
1. Reflective Essays (Many MHKC counselors already have something like this!)
2. Analytical Essays
3. Research done in partnership with a community organization
4. Research Articles
5. Open Category
6. Response to previously published articles
The journal is a refereed, multi-disciplinary, online publication open to undergraduate students worldwide. It is dedicated to publishing intellectual and reflective work on service learning, community-based research, and all related curriculum- and/or research-based public community engagement activities. 

For more information about the journal and how to submit, visit their website. They are accepting submissions through June 15th.