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Review  By: Janel Spiegel

Event Review: The Body Keeps the Score: Dancing with Trauma and Recovery

ArtsQuest SteelStacks Presents:

“The Body Keeps the Score: Dancing with Trauma and Recovery”

Choreography by Sarah Carlson

Original Music by Vernon Mobley

Thursday, February 8, 2024 at 7:30PM

What a day, and what a night. It was a beautiful night in Bethlehem, PA, despite the brisk weather. Mother Nature wants to keep everyone on their toes.

Choreographer Sarah Carlson led an amazingly talented group of dancers onstage at the Musikfest Café. I spend a lot of time at the Musikfest Café for events, for shows, movies, and to go for walks. It’s a safe space for a lot of people. The performance last night was intense. “The Body Keeps the Score” is a book by Bessel van der Kolk. Sarah, and the composer of the show, Vernon J. Mobley created a beautiful performance. The dancers matching the sounds of heart beats, machine sounds, beautiful piano, and drumming.

The audience absorbed everything. We don’t often thing about our lives, and our days. Our days can be easy and carefree or chaotic, busy, and stressful. Most of us deal with stress, we have found ways to simply ignore it or fill our time with events, things to keep us busy so, we don’t have to deal with the everyday mundane tasks in life. We have families, friends, work, side jobs, the list goes on and on. This piece was part of all of our lives. The dancers emphasized panic attacks, running and running with rest, they emphasized trying to catch up, and keep up with everything you have going on, at least that was my take.

The sounds and music by Composer, Vernon J. Mobley made it completely effective. It’s like a well scored film, it builds the intensity without overdoing a scene. The music added to the chaos, and the calm. We often go and go, and we don’t rest in life. We don’t think about what has happened to us. This performance beautifully displayed the monstrosity of emotions that human beings go through day in and day out. It’s an accomplishment when you get out bed in the morning. You take those steps. That matters.

At the end of the performance, they had a panel, and answered questions and took comments from the audience. It was a bit of a group therapy, “how did that make you feel” moment without the tension of feeling… just say, “I’m fine.” It was overwhelming in the most gravitating sense to hear people actually talk about trauma and not in such a horrific harsh way. We do hold trauma in our bodies, the way some of us sit, we tense up, we react to certain movements. You notice it in people. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, stress, depression, anxiety. It comes in various forms. Stress takes a deep toll on the body, the spirit, and the soul.

Listening to Sarah and Vernon go over the experiences they had was positive. They had people there from Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley, United Way, and more. They spoke to the audience, and listened to the questions, and comments. There are people to talk with. There are ways to help. You don’t just want to “deal with it,” even though most of us have learned coping mechanisms. You should look for outlets. Go outside, take in the sunshine, go to therapy, talk to someone. Go dancing, listen to music, go to a concert, be with friends. There are outlets. They did an incredibly job with this performance. Take a deep breath in, and exhale. You are here, and you will be okay.