In early May, a group of about 80 students and employees who make up the Arizona Choir and UA Sym
UA School of Dance
Beads of Courage
A group of students in the UA School of Dance is collaborating with Beads of Courage on a marathon dance event to raise funds for children at Diamond Children's and elsewhere who are being treated for serious medical conditions.
When dozens upon dozens of people gather at the University of Arizona in April for a 10-hour dance marathon, they will do so to draw awareness and funds for Tucson-based Beads of Courage, an organization that supports children living with serious and complex medical conditions.
Erika Colombi, through her service with Beads of Courage, came upon the idea to merge music, therapy and fundraising in a program that will support the arts-in-medicine public charity and child patients.
The result is Courage in Motion, an annual marathon dance event now in its third year that will, this year, honor children receiving treatment at The University of Arizona Medical Center-Diamond Children's hospital.
"My relationship with dance has been very healing," said Colombi, a UA Master of Fine Arts student in the School of Dance. "Research shows that movement helps to create a better relationship with your body."
"Even if you are sitting in a bed and can only move your hand, it feels good," Colombi added. "Courage in Motion is a way to bring joy."
The event will be held at the UA April 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Its participants will dance for donations. Registered participants ask individuals, businesses and organizations to sponsor them for hour-long increments.
The donations then go to Beads of Courage, which was founded by UA alumna Jean Baruch to support children in hospitals and other medical facilities.
Registered participants will wear pairs of beads made by Beads of Courage glass bead artists. At the end of the event, one bead will remain with the participant and the other will be gifted to children receiving treatment at Diamond Children's.
Colombi choreographed an original piece, "The Fragmented Nature of the Modern Self," which will be performed by several UA dance students during a portion of the dance marathon.
"From a dancer's perspective, you want a chance to perform as much as you can," said Ashley Hammond, a UA freshman. "But to be part of this program to fundraise and bring attention to this cause is just as important."
The event organizers note that for children living with cancer, blood disorders, cardiac conditions and a range of other chronic illnesses, visits to medical facilities and doctors' offices become a pervasive part of their lives.
Often, children struggle not only with their experience, but in telling the story of their treatment, said Margaret Zinser, member of the Beads of Courage board and a glass bead artist.
The beads have symbolism and meaning for those who carry and receive them, Zinser said, noting that Tour de Fance athletes and NASCAR drivers, in addition to musicians and celebrities, have carried beads for children.
"Beads of Courage is all about putting positive well-wishes into the beads," Zinser said.
"They often only have the physical manifestation of their illness, but the beads help the Beads of Courage children tell their story, and it becomes a powerful experience to be part of in their recovery," Zinser said.
She noted that the organization has found that children who participate in the program have a decline in illness-related stress.
Also, children have had up to thousands of beads, with each symbolizing times they have a major doctor's visit, a major test completed, a transfusion or surgery or other important milestone.
"It is their story," said Colombi, who once carried 14 beads on her own bike. "It is giving them a way to express their story."
For Deshawn Morton, presenting dance in a therapeutic way – especially in a way that extends the UA into the community – is hugely important.
Also, he said the choreographed piece, which is set to "Lose Yourself" by Eminem, is relatable no matter a person's experience.
"Even if you are young, you've probably heard the song before. It offers a lot, and you can really see yourself in it," Morton said.
And he hopes that the music, coupled with movement, will benefit the program participants and, through the beads, extend that energy to the children in treatment.
"Movement is something that can allow you to release everything; it's a form of being able to release in a way that you can't necessarily when you are speaking," he said.
"To me, being able to express not just in words or what you are speaking but through your body feels better and very, very beneficial."
UA School of Dance
Beads of Courage