Stage + Studio, A Louisville Ballet Blog: “Songs from the Past” by Annie Honebrink

Louisville Ballet dancer Annie Honebrink reflects on rehearsing for Choreographers’ Showcase and how it connects to her past.

Blood. That’s what my dad calls his brother. Blood. Genes. Those imperceptible threads that link us together. Weave in and out. Around and through. Welding us together in that unbreakable chain, Family. We can run or hide. Ignore, forget. But blood runs deep. Blood pulses on. Even from the grave, it calls to us.

We have spent the last two weeks rehearsing for Choreographers’ Showcase, which will be performed in late January this Season. Shelby Shenkman is collaborating with author Kiki Petrosino to create a ballet that explores the significance of our heritage and the ways in which our ancestors speak to and influence us. Between Shelby’s moving choreography and Kiki’s stirring words, the past two weeks have been filled with inspiration. Melding ballet and the spoken word—two art forms dearest to my heart—has been inspiring and gratifying. Art truly does influence art, and what a privilege it is to be a part of that collaboration!

It feels nicer, sometimes, to shut out those dark parts. The dark histories of the past. The horrors experienced. The brutality imparted. Easier to paint flowers over the scarlet drops. The jagged gray angles. Prettier to layer and layer until it is too much work to strip the layers away. To peel back the nice walls of sweet dripping pretense and expose anything real.  Drinking the sweet lies, rather than facing bitter Truths.

I think—maybe—the past calls to us to teach us. Lest we forget the lives they lead. Mistakes they made. Trials they endured. Triumphs they achieved. Lest we make their same mistakes again.

I think—probably—we have much to learn from our ancestors. Perhaps that chain of blood runs more than just red. Blue. Green. Gold. Perhaps we are connected by something much greater.

I think—hopefully—we will be connected forever. Family is in our souls, pulsing in every breath. We hold close the ones in our present. We redeem those who have gone before in that sacred method—remembrance. And we prepare the way for those yet to come. That they might experience something better than we.

I grew up in a cemetery—surrounded by death. A sea of graves. Wave after wave of stories. The graves sang to me. We found life in those gates of death. We celebrated the souls gone on. Welcomed our quiet neighbors, knowing their spirits had already moved forward.  The body—the grave—was just a marker of the life lead. Growing up, grave sweeping was my favorite job at the cemetery. You start to feel small as you sweep grave after grave. As you consider how many stories each one has locked inside. But then you start to somehow feel connected to the graves. To the stories. Perhaps it is the chain pulsing inside you. From that deep place that is constantly seeking family. Seeking Home. And suddenly you feel Big. Because you are part of something greater. And you have a story to tell too. And someday that story will sing from the grave. But for today it will ring out from your life. And you can choose what that story is going to be. And—maybe—that is what our ancestors have been trying to tell us all along.