What We Believe: Rima Dael

Building Family

karanaI believe that dance, music and song build family and community.

I grew up dancing, singing and acting. My husband swears he fell in love with me watching me on stage. I trained professionally to be an actress in musical theatre and as a stage manager before becoming a nonprofit administrator and teaching nonprofit management. Many of you know that I grew up overseas in Southeast Asia. I was introduced to square dancing in Thailand, English country dance through cotillion classes in Hong Kong, morris dancing by the Hong Kong Morris Men, contra dancing at summer camp in Interlocken in Hillsboro, New Hampshire, and again in college at Mount Holyoke. I continued to dance, sing and act through college and summer theatre in Western Massachusetts, then continued a professional career in theatre administration. Dance, music and song have always been a part of my life. The arts are an important part of my life and my family’s life.

As a mom, I wanted to share my love of the arts with my daughter, Karana. I sang to her as a baby, participated in Mommy and Me music and movement class. I wanted to pass on the dancing I did growing up so she spent several months in ballet class when she was younger. She was in the Nutcracker as a Polichinelle; she had fun but it really wasn’t her thing. Sharing ballet, modern, jazz or tap is difficult because it takes a certain kind of training.

I love that when I came back to our kind of traditional dance almost three years ago, it was something I could share immediately with my daughter...and she loves it! It gives her the joy and immediacy of dancing that takes years of training in other dance forms, and I get to dance with her as a peer. My daughter can dance for the rest of her life in our communities—there is no age limit! Together we can dance and share the joy of dancing with others. The night she discovered the joy of balance and swing, she said, “Mommy, let’s do this ALL the time!” It was dancing at the Red Barn at Hampshire College in Amherst, with Sarah VanNorstrand calling, with Noah and Andrew playing music, a fun night, dancing to amazing music that punctuated a memorable mother/daughter moment. Transformative!

The arts have brought my daughter joy, friendship, greater confidence and intergenerational connections to people of all ages from around the country. I am a passionate advocate for our participatory arts because it is part of who I am, who I want my daughter to be, and how we build our family.

I am passionate about the transformational power of the arts and how they create community; and how they are an outlet of expression that is universal. I believe that arts are inclusive, not exclusive. I believe...I deeply believe...in the importance of dance, music and song in my life, in my family’s life, and in the lives of all communities. I believe that our participatory arts are the best because they involve everyone in the creation of the art, the creation of that unique event. There is no separation between the artist and the audience. I do believe that participatory arts change lives. It is an art form that engenders community. It is an art form that allows intergenerational participation. This is the most transformative kind of art form. Its power is astounding.

Rima Dael is Executive Director of CDSS when not dancing or supporting the other arts.