Who was Tammy Narena? My Mother

Dwelling on the past is something my mother taught me not to do, and I was a good student. We lived in the moment, savouring each moment, as if it were the last, loving each other with a desperate passion, the passion of people who know how fleeting and delicate life is. We never took things for granted, every taste every smell was the best we ever tasted or smelled. The present was an intoxicant that numbed the past, kept us drunk with precious moments, great opportunities, amazing coincidences, and wonderful people. We always looked forward, never back.

Tammy Narena (maiden name Ressman) was the creator of Telesymbols, the precursor to Empatharian Movement for Peace, She was my mother, and an audacious courageous and utterly charming human being until her death in 2005. Born in Lithuania in 1924, her first language was Russian. Her family’s move to South Africa had her grow up witnessing intractable injustice, and speaking three more languages including English. After her father’s death, and her own near death experience, she became an award-winning prima ballerina, and specialist in character and national dancing, with students referred to her by other teachers to refine their emotional expression and technique.

Upon her marriage, the couple left South Africa for England, and then ten years later moved on to the USA. Tammy had ballet schools in three continents, numerous awards, and was presented to Queen Elizabeth II for her school’s charity concerts, as an outstanding South African in England.

While in England, Tammy discovered the seed which became Empatharian, when a mother marveled at her student’s transformation over several months. Tammy taught her students to imagine the dance vocabulary stringing sentences, and to dance to extemporaneous call outs of new amalgamations. With her emphasis on feeling the music, it was a small step from meaningless ballet vocabulary to meaningful Telesymbol creation.

As you do Empatharian, you are moving words and sentences of great meaning and value. And yet the beguiling verses that Tammy designed as her peace curriculums often have a level of obscurity and mystery… One sentence leads to an hour of clarifying discussions, and the eventual fact of no one right answer. All answers had something to contribute to the discussion, and we arrive at the end immensely enriched, simply by the process.

So, why have you not heard of her or her work? Why did her project actually never get off the ground ? If Empatharian was actually so great, wouldn’t the world have been beating a path to her door? How on earth did this fabulous new dance form stay lost in obscurity, with no antecedents, no teachers trained, and no students to cheer it on to world debuts all over the globe?

Now, it’s an idea whose time has finally come. Empatharian Movement for Peace.

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