When I was a young child I saw cartoons, frequently enough to remember and wonder about, of the proverbial caveman wielding a club and dragging off an unconscious woman by the hair.
This was in the “funnies” section of the paper on Saturdays, that my sister and I would wait for as our dad read through the sections of the edition, placing them aside as he did so.
A lot has changed in the culture here in North America since then, yet rape is still an everyday event.
Why Doesn’t Sedona Report The Rape?
The date rape isn’t the theme of the Sedona series, yet it triggers events that change her life forever. Well into the second book, she still hasn’t even considered reporting the rape. She is still shocked and ruminating over the events that followed her rape, and is dealing daily with getting to school, and acting “normal”, with only her cousin Tag and the housekeeper Rosario (their childhood nanny) knowing what happened.
The Tomes That Have Been Written…
I searched on the Google engine for the phrase “rape culture” and took note of the first ten results (of 240,000):
1. The National Sexual Assault Hotline
2.Rape Culture – Women’s Center – Marshall Universtiy
7. Rape Culture| Sexualized Violence Support And Information at brandonu.ca
8. 16 ways you can stand against rape culture | unwomen
9. 25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture | Everyday Feminism
10. Rape Culture is as American as apple pie| The Guardian
As Apple Pie
In a 2017 article in The DePauw (“Indiana’s First College Newspaper) Douglas Harms discusses a series of student produced podcasts.
” I recently discovered a podcast produced by students at DePauw titled “House of Scaife,” where “scaife” is a euphemism for sex. I suspect the podcast hosts would define scaife as consensual sex, but since at no time is consent ever mentioned in their podcast, I interpret it to really mean rape.”
He lists some of the episodes”
Scaifing at Themed Parties
The Science of Scaife
Scaife and Performance Enhancing Drugs
He goes on to add:
“Several students I know who are survivors of sexual assault tell me that they know the hosts; they also tell me that the hosts are “decent guys,” suggesting they are normal in our deviant culture.”
In a professorial, detached and analytical tone, Douglas Harms concludes that it’s a good thing if these rapists are normal decent people, because that opens the possibility of dialogue in an attempt to get these men to see the folly of their attitudes.
That what they are pursuing (rape and getting away with it) is in fact predatory, immoral and illegal.
Goodness is Mr. Harms plain naive?
Where is the outrage?
There Should Be Outrage, Right?
Outrage comes quickly to Sedona when she sees her rapist Tommy cornering a younger girl.
Yet her “normal” response to her everyday date rape, is not to report it.
We’ve heard about the witness hazing at the recent Harvey Weinstein trial. Why is that even allowed?
That’s why it’s called Rape Culture. Yes, it’s a normalcy thing.
The following is an excerpt from the Sedona series Book II, as yet untitled. Sedona and Laurence “El” are rehearsing and she explains the story to the reader as they go over the sequence.
Tommy, her date rapist (Book I), looks on at the end of the section. Ms. P., their ballet teacher looks in on them also.
The Ghost Ballet Giselle
Giselle’s protective single mother never had the chance to look up “sexual predators near me” on a computer. They lived in a small village in the forest where periodically a hunting party from the local castle would wander through.
The peasants would hustle to provide a meal and drink for these selfish (in this story) and entitled aristocrats.
It is in this setting that Giselle is noticed by the Prince, who returns later disguised as a peasant. He enchants her and asks her to marry him.
Does that make the prince a sexual predator? Yes, I think so. He is betrothed to a lady in the aristocracy, yet he plans to marry Giselle too.
That does not happen. Giselle kills herself when the prince’s duplicity is revealed.
She becomes one of the Wilis, ghost maidens in the forest, who have been betrayed by their betrothed.
After Sedona is date raped, she feels like a ghost, in a way, too. She is disoriented and life seems dreamlike.
Giselle Rehearsal (from Sedona Book II)
“It’s just me and El today. Janie’s class is on a field trip and Nadya has a doctor’s appointment. I worry about that girl. Still thin as a rake and extra quiet as a mouse this year.
I really like these new pointe shoes. They are very different from the traditional canvas and glue shoes, and they’ve lasted three rehearsals so far. I put on the gel pads over my toes and lace the satin ribbons to a tight knot.
“Oh Sedona!” Ms. P. sails into the room pushing a dress rack with long tutu skirts.
Our new practice tutus!
“I’m glad to see you’re ready to rehearse even though the others can’t come today. You don’t have to do the overhead lifts without someone to mark you, okay?”
“Yes Ms. P. “ I stand up and start doing slow rises and plies. I’m pretty warm from the class after lunch, but gotta get the heart rate up.
I jog on the spot.
Ms. P. hangs the tutus in a closet behind the piano. She sails out again, a small smile, yet forced looking, on her face.
My phone clinks and I see a tweet with a picture, and bend down to look. Tommy is on the mat in the karate studio, Lawrence looming over him, his heel poised in Tommy’s armpit.
The view is from above where El’s fans always watch.
Snicker, double snicker.
I know El will be here in a couple of minutes, plenty warmed from the martial arts class. I head over to the tutu closet and look for the one with my name sewn inside.
It’s perfect, the tulle cut just below my knees, like the Giselle ballet costume.
I hook up the fastenings in the back, and it sits nice and snug over my waist.
Steve walks in. We exchange “hey’s”.
Steve sets up with a large leather bound Russian score of Giselle. His treasure – a gift from an elderly mentor of his when he played for his first performance a few years ago.
Up until then, he had been her page-turner, when she played for the concerts.
My heart warms at the memory of Babs, who used to smile sympathetically at us behind Ms. P’s back, as she shredded one of us while we were having a bad day.
Did she never stop to think we might have cramps?*
El is in the forlorn position of Albrecht, on one knee, head in one hand. I look at Steve and he nods, and begins.
This is a four minute sequence where Albrecht has found her grave, deep in the spooky Wili-occupied woods somewhere in the Black Forest. He kneels in grief and remorse.
Giselle flits in ghost-like and does a few moves around him. Sad, slow, bending toward him, bending away.
He starts, and sees her moving near him.
Is she really there?
He reaches for her but she slips by. Then she turns and comes back to him and he lifts her high overhead, a momentary grasp.
No problem, that lift with El. So there Ms. P.
This elegant back and forth weaving repeats for a couple of minutes.
Finally Giselle runs away leaving Albrecht puzzled, looking around for her with anguished high leaps.
And Giselle is back! Grasping a twig of herbs in each hand, the ones that represent commitment and devotion, or in some lore, the magic that enables the Wilis to leave their graves between dusk and dawn.
With light leaps she tosses a twig back toward him, and then the other.
Suddenly she is gone again. He picks them up, wondering how this all works. The next moment he turns back to her grave where she hovers in front of it, with an armful of blooms.
She gestures for him to come to her. He runs over and kneels, still remorseful and wanting forgiveness.
She – I, drop one flower down to him, then another, then the whole bouquet falls as I fade in and out of physicality. Then I slowly flit away.
“I think you guys have nailed it for today” Steve announces as he shuts his score book. “And I’ve got to get downtown so you can carry on without me if you want to act out that crazy perfectionism stuff”.
Yet he grins, as he puts his precious book into a leather backpack. He knows how it goes with ballet dancers.
“And that was good acing the Tominator” he grins back at El as he disappears through the doorway, leaving it open.
I pull off the tutu and drape it over the barre. A few El fans lean in to take a picture of him toweling off.
Bent over, I swivel around toward them to unlace my pointe shoes. I know they’d love a shot of my behind to post online.
El ignores them and they finally lose interest and leave.
I put my right leg up onto the barre and start massaging an overused muscle. El moves in close.
“Hey, you hurt?”
“No, just a muscle spasm. You’re really good at keeping me on balance though El. No complaints!”
“Here, let me, just relax.” He moves my hand and starts going deep into the middle of my thigh with his thumb.
W Tee Eff! Is this good? I dunno! A bit too close?
I remember that incredible kiss of last June the night he was flying off to NYC, presumably not to return for at least a year.
And is he reading my mind as he leans in closer?
My mind strobes. Shall I pull back/lean in/push him away/grab him?
Then over El’s shoulder, I see Tommy in the doorway,. He smirks at me, Mr. Slimy Smarmy.
I grab El and pull him in to a long kiss.
When we’re done, Tommy is gone.”
Many ballets are romantic and yet they are rife with tragedy. They have magical elements, as in the use of Myrtle in Giselle.
In this Book II of Sedona, the character Giselle is similar to Sedona’s, in the particular circumstance of being conned and abused.
It leads Giselle to death.
But it leads Sedona to a grand adventure, one she could have never imagined.
Have you seen any ballets? Did you understand and like the story?
Have you ever been stalked or threatened in any way? When I was young, this happened periodically to me and my friends. No one even knew to complain.
It was always to be “but what did you do to get that attention?”
This is #3 of the 26 blog posts in a blog challenge, just to explain to the every day dancer readers.
And for the writer readers participating in the blog challenge, most of these blog posts will be about something related to dance, the book series Sedona (working title) – or just dance.
I’ve been off Facebook and most other parts of the computer world for five days, weathering a head cold that caused pain just from typing. Ah, the common cold, many of which are caused by different corona viruses, as I learned from Youtube.
That’s why it’s now called Covid 19, to distinguish it from common cold viruses and whatever is yet to come.
Today I felt better and feeling a dread of falling behind in this blog challenge (two a week on average) I had planned to get to my draft of a third post, connected to the novel Sedona.
I went onto Facebook first, to see what other Writers of Kern peeps had posted, that I could read and comment on, before I got tired.
Because blogging on line is about Presence, right? Don’t fade away!
Promoting your writing is about Presence. Don’t fade away!
On Facebook, today, I saw that the site about Amelia Itcush, a dancer and teacher extraordinaire, has been published.
I met Amelia in 1966 when I was a student. Modern dance in the form of the Martha Graham Technique had arrived at the National Ballet School of Canada.
It was a great challenge to ballet students, most of whom didn’t have the body type for that modern dance technique.
My chiropractor at that time, later told me I had the Martha Graham Syndrome, as she and her partner in the chiropractic office had come to label the chronic sciatica they saw developing in their dance patients.
Yet it was a simple fix for most. She showed me how to get into a position to adjust my pelvis after a Graham class. I took Graham classes for a few more years, with The New Dance of Group of Canada which became the Toronto Dance Theatre, and at York University, while I was teaching ballet there.
In the late seventies after I stopped dancing, my body really started to hurt. I was teaching at George Brown College, and another teacher there, Anne Evangelista, had started her own studio.
I found out that Amelia was teaching some classes there that I would find very interesting. I already had some knowledge of The Alexander Technique that had been recommended to me by a professor of music at York.
But I was told what Amelia is teaching is even better, especially for dancers.
And it certainly was! Like the Alexander Technique, it taught how to sit and stand, while releasing the muscles, instead of building up tension just by moving.
This video will be invaluable for anyone suffering from neck pain, back pain, arm pain – what I call computer pain.
Years later I saw a post on Facebook referring to the “Remembering Amelia” project.
Oh no! Remembering!
What had I missed? I was now in another country, barely connected to the Canadian dance scene.
I ended up on the phone with Susan MacKenzie, in Vancouver, Canada. She had been a student in the York U dance department when I was teaching there.
And she was among those working on the Remembering Amelia project. I was glad to contribute what I could to that.
And reading it today – I am remembering twenty years of dance! Teachers, fellow students, musicians and other artists.
And little things, like I had my first avocado in Amelia’s kitchen. I wasn’t adventurous with food in that northern town.
“Amelia didn’t yet know how to get people where she needed them to go. She took movement into her own body, she was discovering things, finding new freedoms. This process opens your eyes to see the way people are working against themselves. She wanted people to have a different kind of physical experience, a realization. She wanted to prevent them from working against themselves which she now so acutely perceived. She had no qualms about taking people out of the dance environment. She had something to prove; when dancers chose her work over dance training, she felt empowered. She would change their minds, their experience. She had an unforgettable reputation as a dancer. Lots of people listened”. Ann Tutt
“…the way people are working against themselves..” And don’t we talk about that a lot at the Writers of Kern meetings.
That’s what I would call Personal and Universal in a reference to artists. To anyone.
The most enthralling pieces of art (all fields), both classical and modern, have these two elements in a balance, to my experience.
Vone Deporter and I were able to meet with Ashley Johnson, a certified Itcush Method teacher, at a movement performance, part of the Somatic Movement Arts festival, AKA SOMAfest in Santa Monica CA, a few years ago.
My first question to Ashley was “What happened to Amelia?”
Amelia had died from lung cancer.
I am so grateful that her work was remembered and documented, and that the people who were inspired by her gave such appreciative, insightful and poetic comments about the impacts she left in their lives.
Who has inspired you in your creative journey? Please, do share!
I started by reading. Lots of reading! Way before I got to story writing. That came later.
I Loved Stories!
I loved stories. Did that start because I was read bed time stories? My dad read me stories – Bambi – Winnie The Pooh – Grimm’s fairy tales and Hans Christian Anderson.
I remember The Snow Queen was a chilling tale – no pun intended, as after the light was out and I tried to sleep, I was freezing in my bed. The winters brought temperatures of minus 20 F for a good part of the season.
My parents seemed oblivious of the cold.
We had one dog, a Scottie, who slept on the end of my bed, then when my older sister came up, he went to my sister’s. But when my parents came up to bed, he went into their room. There departed the foot warmer. 😀
How Do You Inspire Children To Write?
I don’t think you have to. You just stay out of the way.
My older sister Susan and I used to make up stories. We were supposed to be sleeping – of course – but our parents never made sure that we were,
We would lie awake for a while, making up stories of how we would live when we were grown ups. House, kids (based on teddies and dolls), and a dog, of course. (Susan later became a veterinarian).
We described in great detail what our house would be like, and one major feature was a warm swimming pool in the basement.
Was that because of the icy Pacific Ocean we waded into – retreating into the not-so-warm sunshine and shivering in towels? And that was when we lived in a warm climate – the warmest in Canada.
Before the four years in the minus 20F place.
I wasn’t reading so much myself yet.
My parents had no idea we were up there spinning tales.
They had no idea I was going to be inspired to write.
And when would that be?
How Do You Write A Simple Story?
I have no idea. Any story I wrote wasn’t simple. The stories I started writing in high school at The National Ballet School of Canada started out NOT simple.
They were complicated, meandering, and never had endings.
At the end of my tenth grade year, in a very hot June, we had hours free every day after a school exam, and after a class or two for the ballet exams (Cecchetti technique) we were free to study for the next academic exam. That got old fast.
Just finding a place to sit and study, in our wool skirts and knee high socks, where there might be a warm breeze, in that old school (completely different now) was a challenge.
Except for History and Math I really didn’t need to study much. Which was good, because – ballet exams! Those were the focus, and the end of the year performance, which I was not in.
That’s another story. Grade Ten was my worst year. Ballet wise.
In those spare hours not studying for an exam and not participating in the rehearsals for the performance, I wrote stories. My small circle of friends were the models for the characters and I wrote a lot about the early days of North America and the conflicts between the colonists and the tribes. Why? No idea.
Later, I loved to read the Tony Hillerman novels about the current Navajo Nation in the US, and the Aimee and David Thurlo novels about the same.
Right now, I’m half way through the twenty Wind River (reservation in Wyoming) mysteries by Margaret Coel.
What Makes A Story Interesting?
As I remember, kids – teens – as I’m remembering that part of my life – aren’t really interested in anything. No, they are more obsessed.
Because you know, you’re involved in things you are living for and would likely think you’d die for. Does that sound intense?
Recently I found my old and faded copy of the first student newspaper The National Ballet School students published (and maybe the last? I’m not sure).
It was filled with prose and poetry, some in French and a bit in Latin.
I emailed it to three friends from those years. One of them, Miranda Esmonde White (creator of Classical Stretch and Essentrics), responded with “We were an intense bunch”.
I pulled off a couple of things that were important to me in high school. I wasn’t an upcoming star like my room mate Karen Kain, or an upcoming soloist like Linda Maybarduk, who is an author herself (The Dancer Who Flew about her friend Rudolph Nureyev).
I was among the invisible, the students who felt so ordinary, who forgot that they weren’t ordinary or they wouldn’t even be there…but I somehow talked the founder and principal of the school, Betty Oliphant, into waiving the rules so that I could do two things I really wanted to do.
1. Leave the school by myself (in the boarding school we were only allowed to go out in groups of three or more) because I just had to go to the library every two weeks. I had to have books. I had to walk through a not so good area of town from Jarvis St. south, across the park at Gerrard past Allens Gardens past drunks and homeless people, to Parliament St., and then a couple more blocks to the library. I told Betty I have to read. And she said “Okay.”
2. In Grade Eleven, one of my room mates, Kate Shaughnessy, and I shared a love of music. At that time Modern Dance had arrived at NBS. The Martha Graham technique. The school rented a church hall for these classes (then taught by Lillian Jarvis) which was a few blocks from NBS. One day after class Kate and I were walking out together and we stopped and read the church bulletin board in the hall.
There was a sign “Singers for the choir – needed.” We looked at each other and grinned.
Let me explain. Kate and I lived in a small three bedroom residence above the school offices. Six students and one live in adult supervisor, Ruth, who was a theology student at U of T, in a doctorate course. We were fairly crammed in there under the eaves. Miranda and Linda Maybarduk also lived there. We were all okay with each other, but in Miranda’s words, we were an intense bunch.
So, just getting out to do something “normal” was a needed release valve.
Kate and I went to see Betty and told her we wanted to go to choir practice every Thursday night (during homework time omg).
She looked at us for a few long seconds and said “Okay”. Out after dark, the two of us, to a tiny church on Bleeker St.
So we had Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings covered, for getting out.
At the end of my twelfth grade year, three class mates, David Hatch Walker, David Gordon, and Timothy Spain, choreographed ballets – the themes being teen angst, death and suicide.
Choreography is a way of story writing in many cases.
Story Writing – How Does It End?
Now that I’m in my just plain old years, I’m taking my story writing seriously. Do I have a tale to tell? Yes, a few tales I think.
I’m still working to pay the bills and all that boring stuff, and other than that I spend time writing.
I started writing with Vone Deporter in 1988.
One thing that works in the partnership is we don’t have anything to prove to each other or to anyone.
We just have lots of stories and we’re working together to get them out.
Do you have lots of stories to get out too? I bet you do. Feel like sharing a bit about that?
Artists in Residence – Mary Beth Dillon and Lela June Schwark
by Judith Campanaro, with permission.
“In 2009, The Arts Council of Kern started the art cart program at San Joaquin Hospital in Bakersfield, California. The purpose of the program is to provide and engage patients with art projects that will help heal their spirits, create conversation, and make meaningful interaction. Recently the Council has brought the program to the Adventist Health Medical Center of Tehachapi.
For the past few months, Mary Beth Dillon and Lela June Schwark have been creating art from their bedsides.
Lela June or June as the residents call her has been at the Medical Center for a little over a year. She said “God put me where I had to be when I had to be there. It’s like family here. There are a lot of wonderful people and I have nice friends. It’s like a college dorm. “
June has always loved art and used to draw and paint when she was younger. She is currently working on a series of Tehachapi landscapes.
Her plan is to paint the mountains in summer, spring, winter and fall.
A stroke victim, June paints with her left hand even though she is right handed. She is proud of her work and is starting to get commissions.
Mary Beth Dillon has been a resident at the center for the past four years. She says she is very happy there and has made a lot of wonderful friends.
“I love to paint because it’s exciting. You can see things come alive. I look forward to it every week.”
Mary said she never painted before but she used to do line drawings when she was younger. Her paintings are colorful and fun.
The first painting she did was a rendering of Winnie the Pooh for her son. She said he always had a Pooh bear when he was a boy. Mary also likes to play bingo with June.
The two of them have several hats that they wear to the bingo games. The girls claim they have “hat-attitude!”
Activity director, Zoila Schrader, says the patients have been enjoying the art program. “The painting brings back good memories and talents the residents thought they couldn’t achieve again. Their work also provides a point of interest for them to share with others,” said Schrader.”
A Celebration of Life
by Judith Campanaro for The Loop newspaper in Tehachapi, California, with permission.
“Mary Beth Dillon, a resident at the Adventist Medical Health Center Tehachapi, recently passed away but her memory will never leave us.
Mary’s roommate, June Schwark said she looks at Mary’s passing as a celebration and homecoming. Says Schwark, “I miss Mary but I am happy for her because she is no longer in pain.”
Long time roommates, the girls created beautiful memories together. One of their favorite activities was their love for painting. Through a program sponsored by the Arts Council of Kern, the girls painted every week.
Mary’s quick wit always brought a twinkle to her eyes and made everyone smile. The painting sessions were never boring. Mary always said, “I love to paint because it’s exciting. You can see things come alive.”
Before Mary Beth passed away she was working on a set of barn pictures. She requested that if she left before they were finished that her friend June complete them.
June did just that. The paintings remain a tribute to a beautiful friendship. Some people make life better just by being here. Mary Beth was one of those people.
Says June, “By the way Mary, I’m wearing the smile you gave me.”