Eleni danced for love and I shot this video because of her gift of love to us. The emotion I feel when viewing this video is not an easy one to manage. It challenges my faith in life’s overarching love that I maintain is present for us no matter what our destiny holds.
What saves me from a sense of untamed despair is the my observation of how Eleni lived to the last minute of her life and seemed to never spend a day without drawing deep breaths…. she did not breath shallow into life! On some very deep level we all seem to creatively adjust to adverse circumstances but some of us really stretch out far and wide to overcome obstacles…especially artists. This was Eleni.
Along the bottom of the screen I put a bit of information I knew about her and how she lived and loved.
I’ll let her dance speak for her – that’s what she wanted it to do and I’ll use this space to tell you a bit about how I planned this shoot, most of it, without even her knowledge.
Like most artists, Eleni worked for love and rarely had funds for anything except the bare essentials of living to include a roof overhead and food on the table. Money was therefore removed from the menu. I could never have taken money anyway, it would have been a cheap exchange for the wealth she obviously had to gift me with.
Something in me knew she was dying all the while she was full of living. She felt her previous bought with cancer was not only submission, but completely gone. I met her at another dancers house who was a client of mine. When she viewed my video work she was in love with it and mentioned that she had always wanted to dance and be recorded. I knew then I would be the one who held the camera.
I contacted her and she came to visit me during one of my visits to Seattle. I asked her to bring some of her favourite costumes… when she showed me the one you see her in on this video I thought she’d look delicious in it for many reasons… her strong facial features, the red cast to her hair, the strident statement about life that red always makes…AND, how it would look when seen surrounded by green.
She didn’t know, but i was going to shoot her outside in the forest. When she came to see me…when she was leaving, we embraced goodbye and i used my finger nail to mark her height on the door jam. Then I scouted out a place in a nearby forest where I was certain that at a given hour, the magic hour, the sun would light her face and glisten on the red sequins of her costume.
She was the easiest person to direct and everything you see in this brief video were first takes. I chose the music not only for it’s sentimental sweep of all things sweet, but for the reason the maestro composed the music…. the title of the piece, translated, simply means ‘The Light of the Moon’.
The moon as we know, has no light of her own…she is a dry and barren rock, suspended in space. Her light is borrowed and without the sun, she would never glow or send her magic beams to enchant us for centuries, inspire reams of myths and legends.
The moon informs us, as it has our foremothers and fathers, when to sow and when to harvest. Her magnetism is so important it governs our tides from the smallest rain puddle to the biggest ocean.
In the bible and several other holy scripts, the moon is called, ‘the faithful witness’. I believe that this is our challenge in life…to know that the sun is always shinning and that we can have a fruitful life in as much as we know that our light is borrowed and it’s free and easy to locate. That is Love. No money required – always forgiving since offending ‘infinity’ is impossible. Love only knows love, first, last, and all the way in between.
So in my mind, the love that Eleni was able to bring to the fore and release in her love of dance, despite the depth of sorrow it was birthed from, was script enough to conceptualize her offering.
So here she is, for as long as the digital age can display her, she will dance for you, for me and for the love of life.
Shooting this video was one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had in my career. There was absolutely no glitch, nothing needed redoing, no misunderstandings arose, everything went so smoothly, it was as if the shoot had already happened, altogether elsewhere!
Her gratitude healed me. Of what I’m not sure yet…but it healed me. I felt so full of the quietest joy, the sort that doesn’t even need expression. When she saw the video, she and her niece rang me and she took me point by point about what she loved about it and how it made her feel.
I hope when you view this brief video about a dying woman’s parting gift, you take it in and may it live in you forever.
One final note, when Eleni visited me and we decided the red costume she would dance in, she left it with me so she didn’t have to bring it back with her for the shoot, scheduled a few days later. I tucked it safely away in a small suitcase. When she took it home she left by accident one of the small arm bands you see her wear in this video. I discovered it a few weeks after I arrived home and called her to ask her if she wanted me to send it to her… she said, “that’s okay, keep it and bring it with you when you come over and I’ll get it then.” So that’s what I plan to do!
This video was to be a gift for a fledging company that did not make it through it’s adverse circumstances and launch. It was a company set up by an equally generous woman who wanted to give the world a place to post legacies and obituaries. Be it in song, sermon, poem, or, like this, video. Then folks could share the burden of grief, celebrate the life of the deceased by sharing tributes, etc.
During the process of developing the website and assembling the videos to display on it I came to know the intent and hearts content of the woman who hired me. She had her sorrow to bear having lost a daughter and that loss carried an ocean of grief in it’s wake. Later on, during the journey we took together, she lost a dear friend and passed thru that grief.
Somewhere along the way, she discovered how expensive it was to have obits printed in the local newspaper and that prompted her interest in developing a Legacy Obituary Directory. She want it to be free to all and to make back her in