The three and a half weeks in Europe has passed and it’s hard to believe that what once seemed so far away is now over. And yet…it feels somewhat like a new beginning….but I am getting ahead of myself here. First let’s begin and say that we had hoped to write more, to send at least one blog while we were away. But please forgive us, we were so immersed in what was happening that we didn’t get to it. Even now the thought of trying to sum up a trip so filled with excitement and inspiration seems overwhelming, can I truly articulate what was felt or experienced? When sharing this concern, a friend recently joked with us, “you should just dance it out- right now!” Maybe one day we will, but for now we want to share as best we can with words. Pun intended.
The first six days were spent in Bucharest, Romania. And as soon as we were off the plane, we were whisked away into another world, another time zone and didn’t seem to stop moving until the last day! Those six days were jam packed with weeks worth of work. And truly some of the most ful-filling work we’ve ever experienced. If only I could paint a picture to show what we looked like those days! When getting up in the morning, we dressed and did our hair and make up, hoping we’d stay ‘together’ for the next 12 hours. We packed a suitcase with our costumes, another suitcase with masks and another bag with our circle skirts (hopefully you’ve seen “Child’s Play” to know what we’re reffering to). And off into the streets of Bucharest we’d go, layers of clothes and bags and all! Laetitia, who was the organizer of these events and now a dear friend, took us from children’s homes to train stations, metros to schools. Most of the time we traveled by foot or by metro, mind you all the while we are carrying our costumes and props! Truly, we looked (and felt) like a traveling circus. Ah, but what happened at each stop where we’d perform and/or teach was truly unique and so deeply touching.
Let’s just share one story from Bucharest for now and we will look forward to sharing more:
Friday October the 18th was a big day for the anti trafficking team in Bucharest. It was the culminating event of the week: flash mobs, performances, creating awareness of human trafficking and a showing of a documentary “Nefarious.” Fifty volunteers had spent their free time learning the flash mob we taught them. This last performance was happening in a metro station. The metro station in Bucharest is underground, and pretty busy. The only reason to be on the platform is for getting off and on the train. It’s not somewhere people gather or hang out. So we weren’t sure we’d have a big crowd while we performed, especially because our peice is thrity minutes long, who would want to stick around when they probably have somewhere else to be? We begun with the flashmob consisting of us and the very excited dancers, then we went straight into our performance of “A Broken Road.” As we were dancing, we noticed that the passer-bys were actually stopping to watch the performance. People were crowded in a full circle all the way around us, from where we were on the platform, to people gathered on the balcony above. We guessed a good hundred people were watching. So as we are nearing towards the end of the peice, the music begins to sing truimphantly and we are moving in a slow motion run with every cell in our body moving for freedom. All of a sudden, the crowd errupts in cheers and applause! I don’t believe they were cheering because our dancing was impressive at that moment, or because the peice looked like it was ending, but we believe they were cheering for freedom. What they saw and felt was the yearning for these two girls they had watch perform acts of stuggle and pain, to be free! Our hearts exploded and we danced as hard as ever on that cold, dirty, metro floor. But we might as well have been dancing on clouds our hearts were so full of joy.
Leaving our new friends in Bucharest wasn’t easy, truly we felt we could have stayed longer, but we were warmly welcomed in Rome Italy by Brian and Sarah and quickly grew excited about what adventures lay ahead.
The first adventure in Rome wasn’t a fun one: Mikaela got ill. Just before boarding the plane for Italy, she began to get chills that shook her entire body…head to toe shaking uncontrollably. If you know Mikaela, she was as she always is and she even giggled at one point, despite how horrible she was feeling. Well it took a few days for Mikaela to feel any where near normal. Her first experiences of Rome Italy were in bed, not being able to stomach anything. Thankfully many prayers were answered, and we were able to enter into the theater just a few days after landing and we were able to dance a full performance. (And Mikaela would eventually get to taste the wonders of Italy).
Teatro Furio Camillo was a small theater, but we quickly made ourselves at home in the new space as we were welcomed so gracefully. With not a full tech team in place, our dear friend Eliane, who is an actress herself, took on the role of lighting designer and technician during the show. By the end of the two evening performances, the audience had good dose of American modern dance, human traffciking statistics, and how Romania and Rome are linked together with this issue. Interestingly enough, the audience wasn’t all Itailian either, for we also met people from Armanea, Romania, England, Canada and US.
The rest of our time in Italy looked a bit different than in Romania. We weren’t as busy performing here and there, but we saw and experienced a lot. We were shown the horrors of street prostitution in Rome, as Brian and Sarah showed us where they minister. We saw Rome, Florence and Assissi. We rode trains, metros and walked a ton. We were interviewed on the Vatican Radio! We had times of flash mobbing, times of rest, and times of exploring. We had times of experiencing art and dreaming. And we had times of deep conversations and sorrow as we learned about the trouble in combating this issue in Rome. It was all in all a wonderful, life-giving, inspiring, rejuvenating and motivating trip! Thanks again to everyone to contributed in prayers, funds, encouragement and support.
What’s Next for Without Words Movement?
This can be a scary question to answer. We feel right now we are in transition for various reasons. But what we experienced has certainly jolted our hearts in ways that will shape and encourage the growth of WWM. How is always solved through prayer and exploration. Before we left Rome, we took a walk down a heavily prostuted area where Brian and Sarah have reached out to these women they lovingly and appropriately call Treasures. We didn’t interact with the women that night (both you and the girl can be fined for “engaging with a prostitute” and since we didn’t have gifts to hand out, we just walked and prayed), however what was engaged within us spoke quite loudly.
This particular street was in a residential area, not lined with any bars or restraunts, but a few bus stops and a very busy street. As we walked down the side walk, cars whizzing by, I wondered what could possibly be going on here, there was no ‘visible’ signs of anything I would expect. Then,we noticed a girl standing inches from the street. She stood tall in 5 and a half inch heels, her shorts barely covered her at all and her hair and make up seemed imaaculate. But as beautiful as she was, she wasn’t dressed to show off or get attention for pleasure’s sake. She knew her purpose for being there and she kept her eyes fixed towards every car that drove by, waiting. Waiting for her next costumer. Waiting to hand the cash to her pimp or trafficker. Waiting to do it all over again the next night. We saw at least a dozen girls that night, all as provacitively dressed, all as beautiful in features, all with vacant expressions on their faces. I didn’t feel as though I was looking at a real person, but I knew she was down inside somewhere, feeling helpless, angry, desparately wanting to get out. But those things seemed to be buried down so deep- she didn’t say it, she didn’t show it. She couldn’t. These girls were the “top” of the product line, as the pimps put their best girls forward. If you couldn’t affored one of them, they had others to choose from. It was all business to them- a product line. And that evening there was less girls out than usual, which was shocking for us to hear. As Brian and Sarah told us these things, we remained quite speechless. On our way home, no one spoke much…maybe a few questions here or there, but there were no words to match what we had just experienced. As we were standing on the metro platform waiting for the train Eliane, who had just been with us, said with tears rolling down her face, “When you go home to the US, you must tell everyone what you just saw. Tell everyone about this. And never stop dancing.” Those words still haunt us… tell everyone…never stop dancing. So that’s what we’ll do…tell and share what we’ve seen and experienced. And dance.
This season, we are beginning a unique way to continue to share these stories from Europe. While in Europe, we collected fabrics and papers to create a product line ReClaim (More details to come!). The main product will be hand-made scarves, embellished with fabrics from Italy and inspired from our trip. With each purchase you will receive stories that have and will continue to inspire the work we do. And hopefully inspire you too.
We are also looking to host an informal presenation where we can show pictures and tell stories first had from Romania and Italy. Time and place TBA! But we look forward to sharing more with you.
Enjoy a few photos from our trip: