By Dr. Kerry English Creative Fellow Chyenne Roan-Santini
In December 2022, I had my final presentation to conclude the Heidi Duckler Dance Dr. Kerry English Creative Fellowship program. Throughout my time in the program last year, I worked with my amazing mentor Raymond Ejiofor in depth to create a detailed outline for the book that I plan on publishing. My book will capture the feelings of coping with my mom’s mental illness. For my final presentation, I felt that it would be necessary to curate an immersive presentation similar to what my book will entail.
For my final project, there were two elements. I curated the immersive experience and I put together a short film, both dedicated to my mother who suffers from mental illness. When the audience stepped into the room, they were immersed into me and my mom’s world. To capture some of my mother’s story before premiering the short film, I included elements of our story that you could see, hear, and feel. I had things like my poems hanging from the ceiling at a level where the audience could grab and read, as if grabbing them directly from my mind. My journal entries were posted on the walls from over the years, a painting of my mother was included in the space, and her voice was playing throughout the space as you explored. I also laid out letters my mom had written to me over the years, and I had music playing that reminded me of my mom. The immersive portion led to the rooftop, where I premiered my short film for the audience. In my short film, I was able to introduce the audience to the version of my mom that existed before mental illness, through interviews with some of my family members. Looking at the images from my final presentation brings me (happy) tears.
There are so many amazing things to say about Heidi Duckler Dance, but I just want to thank Heidi as well as the late Dr. Kerry English for giving me this rare opportunity of connection and collaboration, and the chance to confront my traumas through art.