Can you feel my HeARTbeat? Oh yeah!

Currently, I’m sitting in a public library with papers spread out all around me. Notes from discussions, lists of movement orders, tiny stage diagrams with dots signifying dancers, bits of colorful paper organizing important words and thoughts. My laptop is open to a google folder containing video clips. My phone sends me constant little buzzes from GroupMe. The mess is easy to misconstrue as chaos, for me, this is HeARTbeat.

The task that HeARTbeat sets is to create music and movement numbers to honor 10 nonprofit organizations within the Charlotte area. We have a total of six weeks (count:22 rehearsals) to create these pieces and we are currently halfway through. The first three weeks have been packed with exploration, experimentation, and creation.

The first week of rehearsal was all about exploration. For many teens this may be the first time they have ever dabbled in music or dance. Taking a gentle approach, I started with movement practices to familiarize them with their breath, their energy potential, and the feeling of moving their bodies in new and different ways. Something I have come to respect about PFO teens is that they take new challenges head-on, they are open minded and ready, and they support one another in every struggle and success. In movement practices where they were exploring levels for the first time or shaking energy through each limb – yes, the discomfort they felt was met with giggles and maybe a few jokes – but they also continued to work through the discomfort and build a new familiarity with what movement they are capable of. With each group I also had discussions about the NPO our piece would honor, our discussions explored how we could extract the essence of what that NPO does and use it to inspire thoughtful movement.    

Building on the knowledge we gained in exploration we began to experiment. I plucked words and phrases from our discussions and transformed them into movement phrases. Each group played with different prompts until we all began to understand how the context can inform the movement. With one group we faced the art with brutal honesty, together understanding that what we had been experimenting with just wasn’t working, and we made the decision to toss it away and begin again. In this new beginning we found trust and success.

Now we are in the creation phase. I’ve told all of my groups that I view choreography like putting together a puzzle – each small piece fits in place to contribute to the finished product. We have started to link the puzzle pieces, and the final product is starting to show itself. We have our work cut out for us in the next three weeks, and with the devotion that has gone in to this process I cannot wait to see how the finished pieces come together to celebrate our NPO’s and PFO.


Kaitlin Clow, PFO Movement Advisor