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For Kathleen

I have been thinking a great deal about creative facilitation lately. And thinking about teachers who have been transformative in my life. Creative facilitation is central to the research that I am pursuing in grad school, so I have been spending a lot of time thinking about experiences when I have encountered remarkably inspiring facilitators. Every time I go down memory lane to pull from those who have been transformational in my life, Kathleen Hermesdorf is always on whatever list I’m making.

Photo by Yvonne M. Porta

Kathleen is a huge role model for me. I was lucky enough to work with her repeatedly over the years in my early adulthood. Working with her redirected and focused my career pursuits. She lives in my memory as a pivotal mentor because she was present and willing enough as a facilitator to create genuine connections with every student who came to her class.

Hearing about her passing yesterday was…devastating.

I’m sad for the people who were closest to her and who love her dearly. I’m sad for all the students who didn’t get to encounter her because she was transformational for so many people, myself included. I’m sad for the pain that she went through, and for the loss that she experienced toward the end of her life—when fighting a terminal illness required her to step away from movement, which was her passion, her livelihood, and her way of making sense of the world. I’m sad that she had to experience that.

Photo credit unknown (please help me credit)!

Being in Kathleen’s class was like being awoken to all of the possibilities before you that you didn’t realize were there. It was a creative laboratory where you got to experiment, make messy choices, and be who you are in your fullest. Everyone felt gutsy in her classes. Everyone. It did not matter how much dance training they had; it did not matter how strong or aggressive of performers they were before they met her; everyone became their most beautiful beasts of themselves when they were around her. They became these beasts not because they were trying to impress her, but because they were matching the commitment, the playfulness, and the willingness to work hard that she demonstrated and cultivated out of every single one of her students. I’ve heard countless dancers say that she changed their outlook on movement, and for many people, changed their outlook on life.

Kathleen will be memorialized in our fierce, monstrous spirits. She will live on through our bodies, in our present sharing of space with those around us, and in our commitment to the work that lights our fires. May we be gutsy in this work in honor of Kathleen.

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