Aptly themed: A Day In the Life Of, Specially Me 2 was a theatrical success that left its audience in tears—if not close to it. Held in Ateneo De Manila University’s Henry Lee Iriwn Theatre last December 17, The Heart at Play Foundation once again lent society a window into the world of persons with special needs (PWSN). Those who peered with open hearts and minds, have quite frankly, been changed forever; for-better.
Dance Concerts & Special Needs. You’re probably quite familiar with these two concepts but have you ever heard of them merged together? Such is the goal of The Heart at Play Foundation (THP), a non-stock, non-profit, SEC and BIR registered organisation that offers Dance Movement Therapy to individuals with special needs. Their recently held annual benefit concert starred their special wards themselves as an effort to raise funds for the sustenance of the gratis therapy they provide to the marginalised special needs sector. Proceeds also fund expansion so THP may serve new communities within and beyond Metro Manila.
First you meet everyone and then all of them, one by one! The 2 hour program started off by introducing all the special needs wards as one community in a heart-warming interpretation of Tarzan’s I Need To Know. The intro number set the tone for a profoundly pensive first act.
What followed was an avant-garde series of concept-dances; each of which personified the three most common disabilities comprising THP’s populace: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome. Instead of sitting through hour long lectures about the aforementioned conditions, guests were allowed the pleasure of Meeting Austin, Serena, and Donnie respectively through stimulating choreographies, danced to creatively informative spoken word poetry.
After you Meet the Kids, the rest of the family is up next. Specially Me 2 accorded the highest respect for the caretakers, siblings and parents of the special needs individuals. All 3 groups were represented in evocative renditions of Annie’s It’s a Hardknock Life (For Meet the Caregivers),
and Gabrielle Aplin’s Ready To Question (Meet the Parents). We also welcomed onstage Rovi Alvarez (Meet the Sibling), brother to one of the foundation’s veteran students, Molly. He spoke about a day in the life of a special person’s sibling, their joint struggles, triumphs, and how THP had helped them rally forward.
DANCE FOR A CHANCE,
Just when you think you’ve met everyone, you meet the resolution: The Heart at Play Foundation, its therapy program and the volunPEERS who champion the advocacy. THP’s co-founder and younger sister to Therese Rivera, Patricia, explained what distinguishes THP’s method from other therapies and NGO’s. She led the crowd behind AND before her to an interactive demonstration of their trademark Dance Movement Therapy.
Ropes of Hope, copyrighted intervention tools pioneered by THP, were passed around select rows in the crowd so lucky audience members got to experience and understand the therapy firsthand!
After a live performance of True Colors by youth volunPEERs, the audience was treated to an upbeat dance number — Uptown Funk was thrown into the mix (it was an absolute crowd favourite)! The segment-ender showed the children’s manifested upgrade from basic to intermediate movements of Dance Movement Therapy.
HAPPILY EVEN AFTERS
No, that was a not a typo! THP is all about turning the stories of perceived “loss” into deepened love, about “finding faith in fate” and most definitely about living out our much coveted happiness amidst the throes of (dis)ability. The evening’s hosts explained that the last segment, Happily Even After, presented “Transitional/Independent Living.” This is one of THP’s long-term goals for its wards: that they become better equipped to perform household tasks independently.
Beyond entertainment, these numbers demonstrate the practical applications of developed motor skills, increased manageable behavioural, brought about by years of dance movement therapy.
Soon the crowd was giddy with applause over croon-worthy classics! Starting them off was a baking-cooking inspired dance number to Do(ugh)-Re-Mi from the Sound of Music! Be Our Guest alluded to Beauty and the Beast, featured the hospitality aspect of transitional living. THP’s best welcomed the Beautiful TRS girls and artfully entertained their guests. Picture it with the menus, table cloth, and dancing giant utensils—the whole nine yards!. Of course, one can’t forget Cinderella’s Working Song which gave us a glimpse of the children doing routineal chores like folding and hanging clothes, mopping up and dusting off!
SOLIDARITY & SOCIAL INCLUSION
As if the repertoire couldn’t possibly get anymore endearing, you realise the special needs children dancing were accompanied by mainstream (non-disabled) dancers from the country’s most prestigious crews such as Upeepz, Dance X, Kid Lightning Crew, TRS, Legit Status, UP Steetdance Club and The Crew. The gesture is symbolic of solidarity, and social acceptance from none other than the special needs children’s fellow peers. Speaking of peers, The Heart at Play foundation advocates youth volunPEERism. The thrust of its awareness efforts and the concert planning itself is mainly the youth! The frontrunners in these social acts is THP’s resident volunPEER group: The Heart at Play Rotaract Club, led by Alia Lao.
The Heart at Play Foundation is overwhelmed by the positive turn-out! They send their heartfelt thank you to all the friends, families, sponsors, donors and partner organizations who supported this year’s benefit dance concert. Those who wish to help are still welcome to as proceeds will fund sustenance and propagation efforts for our marginalized special needs wards.
Thank you once again!
Here are other photos of this memorable evening.