Karen List: Little performing arts miracles, in Emily List’s name

Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013

AMHERST — Jennifer Rosov is a 28-year-old dancer who, since she graduated from college in 2007, has used movement to help survivors of abuse reconnect with their bodies and their lives.

Through her Creative Movement Co., she organized a flash mob of 200 survivors at a Take Back the Night event last year, and she’s now teaching a series of movement workshops for survivors of domestic abuse.

She’s also used dance to work with those with special needs, hospital patients and at-risk youth.

Jennifer is exactly the age my daughter Emily would have been had we not lost her to a rare pediatric sarcoma on Thanksgiving morning in 2011. Jennifer is doing the same work Emily was doing in England when she became ill.

That’s why Jennifer’s Empowerment Through Movement workshops in Tampa Bay, Fla., are being funded through a grant from the Emily List Fund for Performing Arts Therapy (http://emilylistfund.com/). Emily’s dad, her sister and I established this living tribute to her as a way to share her commitment to brightening people’s lives through the performing arts. We’ve given 10 grants to date — grants that allow us to see Emily’s sparkle and love of life carried on by an amazingly determined cast of characters.

Jennifer is one of them.

Boston music therapists Lorrie Kubicek and Kimberly Khare are two more. Their grants this year supported the Song.Studio music therapy program at the annual Face2Face conference for young adults with life threatening diseases in Ashland.

The conference, sponsored by Next Step in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital, is modeled after Paul Newman’s Hole-in-the-Wall camps. When children aged out of Newman’s camp experience, there was no “next step” for them until Lorrie’s brother, Bill Kubicek, created one through his Cambridge-based nonprofit.

Kimberly’s Song.Studio work with these seriously ill young people at the Next Step conference empowers them to envision their futures and develop coping skills through songwriting.

Their songs and other musical creations are shared on the last night of the conference in a culminating jam session. Lorrie, who was Emily’s beloved music therapist at MGH, describes the show as “poignant, awe-inspiring, hysterical, creative and down-right courageous.” Another grant will allow Kimberly to bring Song.Studio music therapy to those young adults who were hospitalized and unable to attend the conference because of their illnesses or treatment schedules.

Also among this summer’s recipients is Linda McInerney, founder of Old Deerfield Productions, whose grant allowed her to offer a therapeutic dance workshop for special needs youth in conjunction with the theater’s summer show, “My Bronx.” The workshop was led by dancer and movement therapist Maria Mitchell, who performed in the show, along with its creator, Terry Jenoure. The grant also helped support the show, which celebrated Terry’s Jamaican and Puerto Rican roots.

Linda, with whom Emily loved to work, says the dance workshop was so successful that she’s determined to continue it. “You’ve started something,” she says.

Determination is a quality shared by all the grant recipients, including Amherst’s Grace Episcopal Church, which is using Emily’s grant to offer a two-week performing arts camp in Bayonnaise, Haiti, where the church sponsors a partner school.

Mary Hocken, Emily’s friend and fellow actor, says the camp will provide “enrichment of a kind not present in the regular school curriculum which focuses strictly on the 3Rs ... rather than imaginative play and creativity.”

The funds from Emily’s grant are being used for the travel expenses of an instructor who speaks Creole, theater supplies, the salary for several Haitian teachers, a daily hot lunch and camp T-shirts. All of this, Mary says, will help create “an experience more precious than any material gifts we might provide.”

Each of these grant recipients — Jennifer, Lorrie, Kimberly, Linda, Mary and the Grace Church congregation — gets up every day and chooses love, just like Emily did, just like those of us she left behind try to do now.

“Big love,” Lorrie always tells us. “Love big,” Kimberly says.

Either way, that’s exactly what Emily would want.

Karen List lives in Amherst.


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