By Sara Herrera-Kopetchny
“Abuelo’s Requiem” is the first performance piece for my newly formed company, Aras Dance. It is a reflection, a tribute, and a search for balance.
I come from a big family – 11 uncles and aunts, 23 first cousins (and that’s just on my mother’s side), so you might be able to imagine how crazy yet fun it can be when we all come together. My grandfather (Abuelo) was the glue that kept our bonds intact, especially after the passing of our grandmother.
Who Is Abuelo?
My grandfather, Ricardo Bermejo, was a handsome man always smiling and joking with everyone he met. Even with such a large family he could make all of us feel unique, for me, he would always sing a little song with a play on my name…”Who’s got the Sara Lee, who’s got to be stepping along with me?” When I would call or visit he’d say “Sara?! Well I don’t know who that is.” He would smile and give me a big hug that followed with a “Hi, mija” and then the singing began. I miss his voice and our conversations. On my wedding day as I danced with my grandfather, he sang his song again but said “Tony’s (my husband) got the Sara Lee and he’ll always be stepping along with you.” Beautiful memories.
When I left for college I would send postcards and videos of shows I danced in and it was wonderful to come home and he would show me the clippings he kept through all those years in an album. And not just of me, but of all the family’s accomplishments and events. He had a lot to be proud of and was our biggest fan. He was such a positive influence in our lives that the negative reactions from older family members towards each other broke the spirit of the younger generation. It took time for me to find some kind of closure with the events that happened in my family during his last moments. Choreographing this piece has been a release and a reawakening.
The Vision of “Abuelo’s Requiem”
“Abuelo’s Requiem” is in the early stages of a longer form vision. The piece being showcased in Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Dance Project is the mourning after the family confrontation. In this section of the piece, I am exploring the questions of who will be there for each other without our family head and who will hang on to the pain, holding it closer rather than reaching out to family for comfort.
It took awhile for me to share this story with my dancers, perhaps out of shame. I mean, how could a family be so selfish as to unleash personal grudges during a time where they should have bonded around our common pain and perhaps even the happier memories? Sharing this story with my dancers and now, with you, is part of the healing. My dancers and our audiences belong in the moment of catharsis and by sharing this perhaps we can begin to explore and accept our personal faults.
As I continue to build this piece, in honor of my grandfather, Ricardo Bermejo, I hope to end it with a sense of unity and hopefully it won’t just be for the stage, but in real life for my own family.
Aras Dance will present “Abuelo’s Requiem” at Joy of Motion Dance Center’s annual Dance Project. Dance Project takes place Saturday, December 1st, 8:30 p.m. at The Jack Guidone Theater. Tickets start at $12.