Monday, March 14, 2011

Drumming it up: BalletMet partners with James Cancer Hospital

I had the honor to observe a drumming class that is part of the James Cancer Hospital and BalletMet partnership. And the participants are quite talented I might say! Sitting in a circle with bongo drums at hand, the participants played rhythms and beats and filled BalletMet with some great music!

Afterwards, I had a chance to talk to Alejandra Ferrer, who leads the classes, to get a behind-the-scenes look at what they are all about!

Me: What do you do at the James Cancer Hospital?

Alejandra: I am the music therapist for JamesCare for Life: Comprehensive Oncology Rehabilitation – a department that provides outreach and support to the patients, families and the community served by The Ohio State University Medical Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Me: How did the partnership between The James and BalletMet come about?

Alejandra: I started my position in July of last year and felt that dance was the missing piece among all the programming we provide for our patients. We were doing a wonderful job providing art, music, exercise, and other classes but no dance. Since early on in my career, I’ve thought of dance as a very powerful therapeutic medium and a beautiful art form. I’ve always tried to incorporate some movement into my music therapy sessions. Because of this, I wanted to give the patients the opportunity to experience dance as part of their rehabilitation programming. So, I contacted BalletMet around October of last year and asked if they would be interested in offering some dance workshops for us. They were totally for it and here we are today!

Me: And how did the drumming classes begin?

Alejandra: The drumming thing really occurred by chance. We were looking all over town for a place that would put up with the sound level we produce as well as allow us to store our instruments. I asked Chris during one of the workshops if they would ever allow us to do this and again, she was receptive to the idea! We are so thankful to BalletMet for allowing this. I don’t know what we would do without you. I hope we can continue to work together. It is such a lovely experience for everyone involved!

Me: What kinds of classes are offered at the James?

Alejandra: On a weekly basis, we offer the participants a variety of classes including: aquatic exercise, guitar, drumming, choir, writing/poetry workshops, qigong, nutrition, art, and dance! And cancer education classes too. Aside from these, we offer our participants monthly support groups for their particular cancer (colorectal, gynecological, head and neck, brain, hematology, sarcoma, etc). Quarterly, we also offer disease specific conferences.

Me: Who can participate in these classes?

Alejandra: Our programming is open to all cancer patients/survivors and their caregivers. Programming is free of cost

for all participants.

Me: How many people have taken advantage of this opportunity?

Alejandra: In 2009, over 4000 participants (both survivors and their caregivers/families) took advantage of this opportunity.

Me: Chris talked about a big event coming up with the participants and BalletMet, could you elaborate on that?

Alejandra: I believe the big event was the workshop held at the studios this morning. The patients participated in a dance class taught by Ambre Emory-Maier and Bruce Terry. They did some breathing exercises, stretching, singing, self-massage, and some jazz dancing. It was a rainy day, but ten people attended! Following the class, the participants had the opportunity to see a little bit of a company rehearsal. They loved this!

Me: Are there any other opportunities coming up with BalletMet for participants at The James?

Alejandra: Yes! Beginning April 7th, Daryl Kamer will be doing a weekly Dance! Move! Stretch! class for the patients

and their caregivers. Every Friday, also beginning in April, we will continue to hold two drumming groups at the BalletMet facility.

Me: What are the benefits of participating in these classes?

Alejandra: Each class offers something completely different. In general, all of our programming enriches the life of our survivors by providing positive and supportive experiences. Many of our programs focus on stress reduction and promoting healing and wellness. Others focus on teaching the participants how to live healthier lives. All of our programs are held in a group setting so automatically; they are set up to be social experiences where strong bonds and support systems can emerge.

Thank you to Alejandra and the class for letting me see what drumming class is all about! It made me want to join in on the fun. Maybe next time!

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