Over long dark pants, heavy shoes, and an assortment of t-shirts, they had pulled on fluffy pink tutus. Some carried riding crops, some wore fancy hats.
They were not of any particular age group. Or economic background. Or race. Or education. What they shared in common is that they were all women. Women who have experienced cancer. They are Women Beyond Cancer, according to the name of the group in which they participate. And this day they were dancing. Outside, in the warm sun and cool breeze. Dancing with a horse named Prince.
It was free-form dancing at its best – to an old rock-and-roll song with slightly naughty French lyrics. It was dancing with abandon. All swaying arms and hips and tiptoes.
The pink tutus were a nod to the popular “pink tutu project” originated a few years back by a man whose wife was undergoing cancer treatment – to bring her a bit of joy. Nothing beats pink tutus for pure joy. Even horse Prince was as fully engaged in the energy of the thing as the women themselves. There was no tether, no lead. He simply joined in with the dance. He got it. He moved along with the music, entered into the moment. And, because of his obviously shared sense of fun and compassionate heart, he allowed these amazing women to be in the moment, too. There was no pain here. No self-consciousness. There was only the joy.
Horses are always a part of the Women Beyond Cancer experience at Two Sisters Farm, under the direction of Chris Powers. Local horsewoman Julie Robbins is typically a part of the program as well, with her horse acumen and enthusiasm, as is photographer Shelly Marshall Schmidt, as generous with her talent as she is with her heart.
Some of the past activities of the Women Beyond Cancer sessions have included high fashion photography – beautiful, artistic shots of the women interacting with horses. Women dressed in billowing ball gowns and bare feet, riding bareback on any number of the magnificent animals available to them. Woman who are feeling as beautiful as they look – during a time when beauty and femininity might have been buried beneath the weight of medical protocol and hospital visits. Here, they are reenergizing self-images and self-confidence and self-worth.
The women who initiated and continue to conduct the program have always appreciated the healing heart of the horse – the connectedness of human and equine souls. Science is only now beginning to catch up with sustainable proof. But Women Beyond Cancer doesn’t much care about the proof or the science or the measurability of it all. They’re much more inclined to simply slip into long black ball gowns or pull on fluffy pink tutus, and go dancing in the sun, with abandon, with horses named Prince.
I suspect, cancer or not, tutus or not, we could all benefit from doing the same sort of thing: Join in the dance … just for the joy of it.