born in amsterdam, the netherlands, currently living in
danced professionally until 1985
studied dance/dance therapy in: the hague, new york, toronto, köln, stuttgart, rotterdam, brussels (includes classical ballet - primarily vaganova also checcetti, modern dance, anatomy of the dancer, kinesiology, yoga, eurythmics, jazz, choreography, dance notation) choreography (stage and television)
have prepared students for national auditions, several are still dancing professionally worked with learning disabled, deaf, and professional dancers/athletes recovering from injury/surgery
Currently reside in Vancouver, BC. Coping with a chronic illness that has so far defied definitive diagnosis. Still want to dance. I can still paint, sculpt and write and practice yoga each day.
Would like to teach yoga and dance therapy to others disabled by chronic illness, just lack the energy to do anything administrative and have limited windows of energy.
Work by Aletta Mes
I am the sparrow girl once more. Back is the open honest humanness in touch with some of my feelings, feelings good or bad, as it should be. She is me again after a lifetime of timidly hiding amidst the pain inflicted by my history. For a very long time I experienced only the awareness of the feelings others had. I grieved their losses, shared their joy. My own blood ran tepidly through my veins, just barely keeping the sparrow girl alive so she might re-emerge later. Emotionally numb, she disappeared at age seven. No smile or tear on my face without her.
I began smiling again upon becoming a mother. Tears I still struggle with. I cry now, a little, over what happens in the present. I am still unable to face the stored losses and excruciating pain hoarded from the past. I fear if this beast were to barge through the defences it might kill me. The last time the beast stirred, I had a heart attack. It is not safe to let him escape. I also know that I cannot restrain the beast forever. Several weeks ago, acting out of some deep urge, I brought tree branches into my apartment. They had blown off during a winter storm, off the chestnut trees that line the street in front of my apartment building. Their shape twisted intricately, meandering from side to side, twisting backward in elegant curves, at every change of direction rounded knots. A light moss covered the widest part of the branches.
The first branch I mounted in the long narrow hallway, letting it curl and arch overhead. The next day I strung transparent little Christmas lights on the branch. A few days later I added some sparse silk leaves. To have it there made me feel safe, happy even. A few more branches found their way into the living room, arching from the wall over my favourite spot on the couch. More little lights and some small yellow silk blossoms. At night, since I sleep on the couch, I can look up and see the branches, I feel safe, as though in their embrace, a patient calming embrace.
While browsing in one of my favourite dollar stores, my eyes fell on a decorative little nest with two life-like little sparrows, one perched and the other nestled. A flood of what I can only describe as warm flooded me. I could not move or think. Then I knew where my obsession with the branches came from, the sparrows. I was re-creating the last time in my life when I could truly feel. The last time I could honestly express how I felt, the anger, the pain, my desires.
In detail I remember. I remember the red wine-coloured winter coat with the loops and ivory buttons. My fingers gently moving through the mess of bread-crumbs held back at breakfast for the sparrows. It was a daily ritual. Save the bread-crumbs, sneak them into my coat pocket. Leave a little early to school. One block from our apartment building, set in the middle of a desolate new polder, there stood a single young tree. Its branches spread widely overhead. In it, a multitude of loquacious little sparrows chirped merrily on my approach. They never flew away. They knew about the bread-crumbs. It was just me and the sparrows. If I fed them, they would listen. A flock of therapists, fees paid in bread-crumbs. When they listened, the pain and isolation of a lonely, hurt five-year-old would lift. The spring in my step returned, and my day was off to a good start.
My cold little fingers would find every last crumb as I chatted eagerly to my little friends about bad people and what they had done to me; how I missed my father; how I was scared at night; and the recurring dream of the tiger chasing me from grandmother’s all the way home where I would find my father dead.
The downstairs neighbour, Mrs. van der Linden told me years later, at age eighteen, that I had been the subject of talk among the neighbourhood women. It was they who gave me the nickname sparrow girl. Some thought how sad and lonely. They never saw me playing outside or walk to school with a friend. Others simply saw it as sweet and amusing. Myself, if I ever see a little child having lonely discourse with little birds, I will have to speak with him or her. I need to think I can spare that child the grief of disappearing in a sea of life numbing isolation and despair.
Today, forty years since the sparrow girl stopped sharing her feelings with the sparrows, she is back. She can again feel. She can share those thoughts and feelings with her dog, cats, therapist and in a slightly censored way with those humans who are able to create a place of safety. One day, hopefully soon, there might even be someone providing safety and support sufficient to tease out the beast and no grievous damage will result. Sometimes I have the pessimism to think that this will coincide with my last breath. Other times have the optimism to think that it is survivable and beyond it lies a life where shapes and colours are more intensely beautiful, sounds sweeter, touch more profoundly stimulating, taste more delicious, smells more evocative and my feelings wonderfully intense. Then, finally, I will be fit enough to have a healthy, rewarding relationships. My achievements will serve to make me feel good about myself instead of merely being useful for my resume. I will no longer be looking aimlessly for some way to feel satisfied with myself, but revel in being, achieving a constancy and contentment I see in others but cannot create for myself. There is nothing I envy more than those who are content with who they are, what they are doing, not seeking to please, but simply in a state of being pleased. I envy their constancy, never changing to suit others as I have always done, in the desperate attempt to be loved and cared for.
It took forty years to return to a place from where I can see the state of being content for myself. Glimpses of it flirt with me, teasing me to keep trying. And I do. I have, at last, people who are willing to help me, and I am finally learning to gracefully accept the help. I say gracefully, because in the past, my mistrust of people made me throw off the offers of help. I can and do trust again, skeptically and somewhat cynically perhaps, but that will fade in time. It has faded with those to whom I desperately need to confide. Not all has be confessed. I am weary of letting anyone know everything about me. It is the journey, and it needs to be travelled, I've chosen which way to turn, it has begun again.