SOAR – Your concept of what’s possible is about to change
By Susan Hess Logeais – Hot Flash Films PDX
Almost two years ago, Melissa St. Clair invited me to Jefferson High School to film a duet she had choreographed for two sisters, Kiera Brinkley and Uriah Boyd. When she’d told me that Kiera was a quadruple amputee, I couldn’t picture what their duet might look like. How would she move let alone dance? But Kiera had a reputation in Portland. Other dance teachers I asked confirmed that she could, in fact, dance. So, camera and tripod in hand, I went to Jefferson to meet Melissa and film them.
It only took Kiera a cartwheel out of her wheel chair and I was a fan. But as the music filled the room and she and Uriah started to dance, my appreciation grew to encompass them both. Yes. Kiera was amazing—fluid, graceful, and so full of heart. And… so was Uriah.
Through my camera ‘s viewfinder, I saw how Uriah’s effortless grace moved the space around her. Everything connected in an endless flow. Watching Kiera, I saw how her movement radiated out from her heart to extend beyond her amputated limbs. Their dance was exuberant and playful. When the music ended I finally exhaled.
As my 2nd camera operator gushed with praise for Kiera, I saw so many things. Kiera would always be remarkable for just being who she is. And yet Uriah would probably receive less praise and attention even though she was equally beautiful and mesmerizing to watch. In so many ways Uriah’s life would be easier than Kiera’s, but growing up in the shadow of a powerful person leaves its mark as well. Perhaps I’m projecting, but as the third child born to a couple with two adopted children, I know what it is to be told you’re special in private and yet not be treated that way in public.
Now, I’ve been watching dance since I was 5-years-old. My life was ballet from age 7 until I turned 18, and the last year of that period was spent studying and performing with the San Francisco Ballet. Even in my mid-50’s I continue to study movement and dance whenever I can. So I consider myself a movement specialist, and when I saw Uriah and Kiera dancing together I knew that Uriah had learned to move using the space around her body from watching her sister’s example. With ease they exude what students in all disciplines of movement spend decades struggling to achieve.
In that moment I knew that I would help them tell their story if they wanted me to— because people needed to see it. They needed to know what is possible when someone gets the love and support he or she needs to challenge potential limitations. People also needed to know that those in a supportive role are equally benefited from their caring.
I’ve cried more than once while editing our footage together. The first time happened as I edited the duet Soar and watched Kiera pour her heart into the dance. Her courage reminded me of humanity’s potential for good. The second time was when I edited Uriah’s interview and she talked about what it was like to be Kiera’s little sister. The depth of her maturity and dedication to her sister surprised me. And although I’d guessed she needed to step away to define herself, I was still touched by her willingness to reveal the pain underlying the decision. Many times I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude for having witnessed their lives. There is so much about them both that stirs my heart and fills me with hope.
To be honest, there have also been moments when I questioned what Kiera might be able to do – such as become a nurse – but she has proven me wrong every time. And there have also been long periods of silence. As a mother of two teenagers and a full-time student myself, I had plenty to keep me busy. But I did wonder at times if we would ever see this project through to the end.
Thankfully, we always manage to reconnect and finally we are about to draw our documentary project to a close. I’ll admit the finale is staged—literally, as on the stage of the Newmark Theater here in Portland. I like organizing performances that bring people together in honor of a good cause. This will be my fourth such event and it’s the biggest yet—this time celebrating arts as a way of overcoming adversity.
To cover the costs of the concert and a whole host of other expenses we are crowd funding to raise money. It’s all or nothing with Kickstarter, but I’m realizing that this platform is the future for creative people who want to sell their work directly to the public. The outreach and marketing it involves builds the network to receive a project when it is finally finished. Even still, it feels a lot like jumping off a bridge and hoping your parachute opens.
One thing about getting older—I have more experience of both succeeding and failing and that makes taking risks frightening at times. When I remember that life is a process and I will learn something from everything I do then it gets a little easier. In any case, I am a better person for knowing Kiera and Uriah. My gift to them is directing and producing this documentary so that more people will know these two courageous and beautiful young women.
To learn more, visit the production’s website here.