After reading an e-mail from her nephew stationed in Iraq, Kathy Meyers decided that she needed to do something in Asheville to combat her feelings of helplessness and take a stand for peace.
“Despite everything he’s going through, my nephew tries to keep a positive attitude, and I don’t know how he does it,” says Meyers, a dancer and choreographer with the local modern-dance company Moving Women. “He talks about how he doesn’t know if there will ever be a solution to the conflicts in the Middle East or how he will ever get home. He writes that it’s 130 degrees outside and he’s wearing 70 pounds of equipment, and carrying [another] 40 pounds. He says that, whether or not they agree with what they have to do, the men are taking care of each other.”
“I would read these words and cry realizing that this little boy, who is now a man, may not come home,” Meyers says.
So she asked herself what she could do with her frustration: “How can I process this when [my nephew’s reality] is so far removed from where we are?”
Meyers recalls telling herself, “I know how to make a dance concert, so that’s where I’ll begin.”
Meyers, along with her friends and fellow Moving Women dancers, began to choreograph a concert for the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, which falls on Sept. 21.
Meyers’ efforts were just the beginning. In addition to creating a dance performance, the members of Moving Women have worked with local groups on a project called Movement for Peace. The goal is to promote peace for 11 days and to “inspire, inform and involve” the community.
Sept. 11 marks the first day of Movement for Peace, which begins at Pritchard Park with three minutes of stillness. Participants are asked to write about what peace means to them on a piece of origami paper, which will be folded into the shape of a flying crane. This simple practice encourages individuals to look within and reflect on the meaning of peace.
“We all need to take the time to explore these questions together,” says Erin Braasch of Moving Women. “Peace can seem so esoteric, as if it’s floating above us, completely unreachable. But, in reality, peace is created by people doing things to make connections.”
Katherine Abbott says the project has already brought great awareness to her daily life. “It’s challenging,” remarks Abbott, who also is part of Moving Women. “Instead of getting angry or reacting in a more typical way, we’ve had to ask ourselves, ‘How do we become an example to ourselves and to each other?’ “
Appropriately, the final event commemorating the International Day of Peace will be the Movement for Peace Performance, the dance concert inspired by the sacrifices Meyers’ nephew continues to make for his country.
The concert will open with a single dancer taking the stage, launching the concept of “opening ourselves to peace,” an idea that resonated with Meyers’ philosophy that “the first movement lies with you.”
As the solo ends, three couples will take the stage, traveling in pairs to portray the “process of building peace in a relationship.” The duets were inspired by the Mediation Center’s research on conflict resolution, Braasch says. “As a couple, you can collaborate or compete, and we use these [relationship] models to inform the piece.”
From there, the stage gradually fills with dancers, growing to represent peace in the family, in a larger community, and finally, peace on earth.
To narrate the show, local musicians will fill the space with the resonating sounds of the electric cello, drums, piano and the rhythmic chimes of a hammered dulcimer.
The performance, like the many reflective events hosted throughout Movement for Peace, centers on the power of an individual to inspire change in the greater community, Meyers says, “Like the image of a stone dropping into a pond, and its ripple effect through the water.”