Letters is finished now, but the memories remain. This was probably the most intense project I have done in terms of time and energy - I don't remember ever being as strong as I feel now, thanks to Sylvia Camarda's daily 'warm ups' and simply rehearsing the intense choreography each day. I got to sing, and even got a great compliment from the Grand Duke. To watch the ideas unfold through the brilliant visions of Serge and Sylvia come to life was wonderful, and to see the stories of many dear friends of mine come to life on stage in a devastatingly honest and unapologetic way made me proud to be part of this thing.
Our group, a mixture of Europeans (and me) and people from all over the Arabic world who have landed here after fleeing war, went through an amazing journey. We started out with open minds towards each other, and grew together into a funny patchwork family. It wasn't always easy for them to show up each day - Olai and Asti and language courses, trips to the ministry, the endless waiting game of hoping for an answer and getting none, and then Ramadan smack in the middle of our rehearsal period.
Ramadan proved tricky for more than the fasting. Men are not supposed to touch a woman during the month of Ramadan (and vise versa), but our work required a lot of physical contact. It took a while for the guys to become comfortable with the level of physical contact that we consider normal, and even eye contact took a while for some of them, but by the time we got to performance, we were all hugging each other before each performance, and crying in each other's arms when the terrorists attacked innocent people in Baghdad. Shahem and Yehia, two teenage boys here far away from their families will always hold a very dear place in my heart. The mother in me wants to message them every day to make sure they are eating properly and making sure they are okay, and see if they need a hug or just want to come over for a home cooked meal.
I have learned a great deal about the Arabic mindset and culture through this project. Indeed there are differences in our cultures, but as far as I can see it, our similarities as humans far outweigh our differences. In the current global culture of fear and hate, it is so important to reject the trend and love each other. We are all struggling through this life, wanting to be known, understood, and accepted for who we are. As a person who has lived all over the place, I know just how isolated one can feel in a foreign country. I have shed my fair share of tears in places that felt alien and cold. That aspect of their experience I share, but I will never understand the demoralizing experience of being labeled a refugee, losing everything and being placed into the system here with curfews and rules and enough bureaucracy to bury anyone.
So, here are a few of my favorite pictures from the dress rehearsal. Unfortunately I had a bit of a paper costume failure, so my 'bikini' top doesn't really sit where it should... but I digress!
Lots of love to my Letters from Luxembourg family,