Rebecca Beayni Live Event Participation

Dance in the Shadow Official Launch, November 29, 2012

Rebecca's friend, Heryka Miranda, who was also featured in the film, shared a powerful reflection about the things she has learned from Rebecca on the night of the launch. Read more


Ontario Federaton for Cerebral Palsy where Rebecca danced in October 2011

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Rebecca Beayni World Youth Day 2002REBECCA AND SUSAN FRONT AND CENTRE AT

Opening ceremonies to convey message of inclusion

Photo by Bill Wittman

Tuesday July 16, 2002
Linda Viscardis

Rebecca and Susan Beayni will be front and centre during the opening ceremonies of World Youth Day 2002, and Susan wants to make sure that as many people as possible see the significance of the event to people who have disabilities. "The message is beautiful," says Susan, Rebecca's mother. "It is profound in more ways than people will understand. It's about true inclusion."

The ceremony, which includes a symbolic journey to enlightenment and peace, will depict the people of the world, dressed in three different colours, making their journey to the top of a mountain.

"At some point along their journey, some of each group begin to realize that they can't reach the top unless they walk together, and you begin to see the mixing of the colours," says Susan. "When they reach the top, they realize that they have left Rebecca and another fellow, Kevin, who uses a white cane, behind."

Twenty-year-old Rebecca Beayni, totally dependent on others for her care, will be supported at the base of the mountain by her mother, Susan, until such time as 12 strapping young men lift Rebecca and carry her to the mountain's peak.

After Rebecca gets to the top, everyone is excited - in recognition of the fact that they have learned something very valuable. Then Rebecca and Kevin send the others down the mountain to share what they have learned with the rest of the world.

Rebecca Beayni World Youth Day 2002The ceremony, organized by Father Vito Marziliano of Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church in Agincourt, is intended to convey that the journey to enlightenment and peace is difficult. But to Susan Beayni, the message is even deeper than that.

"Rebecca is totally dependent and does not speak," says Susan. "She is one of those people who is most marginalized in our society, and yet she has led this most amazing life - being integrated in school, and having the most amazing friends. The rehearsals have brought together hundreds of young people from our community. And the most beautiful thing is that all of these kids know Rebecca and are close friends, or they know of her, so there is no discomfort there. When they carry her up the mountain, it will not just be because it's part of the ceremony. It'll be because they have said, 'Rebecca needs to get to the top; she needs to be lifted. No problem. We'll lift her.' That they know Rebecca so well, to me this is truly real. They think this is absolutely no big deal."

Another important message, according to Susan, is the importance family plays in the lives of people who have disabilities. Susan's role in the ceremony is to support Rebecca, but also to represent the many families who provide safety and stability to their sons and daughters.

Rebecca Beayni World Youth Day 2002"At first, I thought, 'I'm Rebecca's mom. I shouldn't be involved. After all it's World Youth Day. I should let her best friend Anna take my place,'" says Susan. "But Father Vito told me he wanted me to support Rebecca. He said, 'You know what? You are Rebecca's anchor. It doesn't mean that other people are not important, but they come and go in Rebecca's life. The family is the anchor.' He wanted to recognize and honour that. I am representing the family in that sense. Most people will not understand that."

Yet another message is the way people who have challenges reach out to support one another. During the ceremony, it is Rebecca and Susan who reach out first to Kevin when they see that he has been left behind. "We realize what has happened, and we go over to Kevin and bring him around. This is the first time when you see the three colours of World Youth Day together. You see that people who have disabilities are the first to reach out. Father Vito says that, in society, people who have been rejected and hurt are often the first ones to reach out."


Palm Sunday
"Rebecca and friends; Liturgical dancers at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Toronto, Palm Sunday"


You Raise Me Up
"Rebecca dancing with Heryka and Eunji to the music, "You Raise Me Up" at the CIBC Diversity event in downtown Toronto in 2010

Overture of Hope at Massey Hall
Toronto Dec. 3, 2011 when Rebecca danced with The Toronto Syphomy Orchestra and musician Steve Bell.

Music Mondays, July 25, 2011
at 10 Trinity Square, Toronto, Canada"  the program is "Revel in the Light Dance Troupe with Rebecca Beayni and Friends"
July_25_2011_Revel_in_the_Light_inner.pdf (1,368 KB )


Studying Liturgical Dance at Boston College July 2004

Invitation to the Sacred Through Liturgical Dance

By Fr. Robert Vereecke
Boston College, August 2004

Dance then wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said he. And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the Dance says he.

Every summer for the past six years, I have offered a two week study program in Sacred and Liturgical Dance at Boston College’s Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry. I have had students from all over the world, including Jesuits from Columbia, Haiti, Ireland and Jamaica. All have been interested in exploring the depths of spiritual expression that the body is capable of using movement and dance. One of the side effects of asking people to explore and express their spiritual journeys through a non-verbal language is the creation of a community of people who learn to trust each other and share their vulnerability. Many who never imagined they could be free enough to use their bodies to express the interior movement of their souls find a new language that is powerful and poignant. I am always amazed at how this group of people of faith with varying levels of comfort and expertise in dance and movement come together as the “body of Christ”

This past summer, however, the experience was more powerful than ever before. Six members of the L’Arche Daybreak community came from in Richmond Hill, Ontario to participate in the two week summer dance program. All are members of “Spirit Movers”, a dance company that is an integral part of this L’Arche community. I had encountered the work of “Spirit Movers” in Toronto at Regis College and at the World Youth Day where their dance company and mine, the Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble were dancing for liturgies where Pope John Paul II was presiding. Since many members of L’Arche travel in wheelchairs and move with the help of their assistants, I was wondering how we would approach the integration of a wide variety of movement expressions, including those whose movement range was limited physically but expanded significantly with the use of the wheel chairs.

Any apprehension I had about how we would find a common language of movement expression soon disappeared as I witnessed the loving interaction between Mike and his assistant  Steve and Rebecca and her dance partner Anna. In addition to the forward, backward and turning movement of the wheel chairs, these two couples partnered beautifully as their bodies would create shape and form together. Neither Mike nor Rebecca is able to communicate with verbal language but they speak volumes with their facial expressions and their limited physical movement range. Over and over again I was humbled to see the ways in which the slightest movement and gesture could express the depth of the emotion living in the depths of these individuals.

Since the Psalms are the most powerfully “embodied” prayers in the Scriptures, we would work with their texts and musical settings, finding gestures and movements that would bring them to life. In one exercise on psalm 42 each person would find words in the psalms that they chose to use to express in movement. The words from the psalm that Steve and Mike chose were "my rock", "my body". "my God".  For this psalm prayer Steve, removing Mike from his chair, cradled him in a way that spoke powerfully of the way in which God is incarnate in the lives of each person.  These two bodies, one dependent on the other for movement from place to place, the other dependent on the one for strength and grace, reminds those of us who witnessed their simple prayer of how vulnerable each of us is and how we need the support and strength of the other in our journeys toward God.

Another moment that was remarkably powerful and touching happened in our “God improvisations” In this exercise I ask the participants to think about some dimension of their personal spiritual journey and express it through movement alone. Rebecca and her mother, Susan shared their moment together. In this God improvisation, Susan would alternate between shrouding her daughter Rebecca, in a gesture at once protecting and hiding her from the “outside” world that could misunderstand and judge her by what these others “saw”, judging from an outward appearance. Each shrouding moved Rebecca farther from us as Susan would move her in her wheelchair, creating more and more distance and coming to a “safer” place. Then in a moment of Revelation, the shrouding ended, the movement away changed its course. Susan by the grace of God had come to understand that Rebecca was meant to be “light” for the world. Rebecca was a gift not only to Susan and her family but also to anyone who was willing to share her smile and join in her dance. (Rebecca is also an award-winning artist who uses lasers for her paintings)

One of the dances that we used as an opening for a weekday Eucharist is the original “Shaker Hymn” that many know as the Lord of the dance. In this hymn, we are reminded, "When true simplicity is gained to bow and to bend we will not be ashamed. To turn, turn will be our delight, till in turning, turning we come round right."

During those two weeks with Rebecca and Mike, with all our turning and bowing and bending, I was reminded of what extraordinary gifts people have and are. It is often from those from who we expect so little, that we receive so much! Rebecca and Mike with their caring assistants reminded me that we are all invited to follow the lead of the one who is the "Lord of the Dance".

Rebecca as guide at The Children's Peace Theatre- 2003

REBECCA BEAYNI listens to the drum beats at a recent peace camp in The Beaches in Toronto. Student photographer learns about himself, others ‘I didn’t have the experience I have now’.

Wednesday August 13, 2003
Natalie Miller

Engrossed in the sound of bongo drums, the woman danced in her wheelchair with the assistance of her support worker.

Rebecca Beayni’s beaming smile was captured with the click of the shutter release button on a digital camera. When student photographer Brendan Kennedy reviewed the images later, he observed the pleasure Rebecca was experiencing at that moment in time.

Brendan, who was hired to take photographs for Community Living Ontario this summer, has been asked by his friends how he communicates with the people he photographs, as some of his subjects, like Rebecca, are non-verbal.

“You can see what (she is) feeling,” explains Brendan in a telephone interview.
Brendan says he has learned much about people who have intellectual disabilities and their families during his employment opportunity. He has spent time with individuals, families and attended a camp, drop-in centres and adult education programs. Brendan may spend up to two days with a family so he can capture moments that are joyous, serious, quiet or focused, said Richard Van Dine, communications consultant in an earlier interview.

“What we want is to gather together an album of pictures that tell life stories through a moment in time, while absolutely respecting the dignity of the individual,” said Richard.

Brendan anticipates his collection will contain more than 1,000 photographs by summer’s end. The photographs will be the property of Community Living Ontario, to be used in publicity or promotional materials such as annual reports, brochures and newsletters.

Brendan, 19, who wishes to pursue a career in journalism, recently spent some time in Peterborough with the Viscardis family. He was on hand to celebrate Laura Viscardis’ 19th birthday party with a concert outside of Peterborough Square and a night at the Trasheteria, a local dance club.

“They were totally awesome,” says Brendan. “It was an amazing experience.”
Through visiting families, Brendan has yet to meet a parent who wasn’t actively involved in the life of his or her child. “Every parent was an activist for the disability of their child.”

Brendan has also learned something about himself. Before he started the project, he says while he considered himself “open-minded”, he still saw peoples’ disabilities. “I didn’t have the experience I have now. By getting a chance…to get to know them…you see the person definitely first,” says Brendan.

“I automatically see the person first now,” he notes. “These are people who feel, think, laugh and share the same emotions as everybody else does.”