Dance for Life: Personal Stories of Triumph

D&R Greenway Land Trust, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, the Breast Cancer Resource Center of the YWCA Princeton, Roxey Ballet, Grounds for Sculpture and Princeton Photography Club are partnering for a performance of Dance for Life: Personal Stories of Triumph, with original choreography, music and lyrics by Roxey Ballet, June 4 at Grounds For Sculpture, 80 Sculptor’s Way, Hamilton. Performances 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Seating is limited. Tickets cost $100 and will help raise money for an interactive “healing trail” that will integrate nature and the outdoors into the restorative, health-giving journey. Tickets include admission to Grounds For Sculpture, the performance and a reception. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 609.249.7527 or visit To learn more about D&R Greenway and healing trails, visit

Dance for Life: Personal Stories of Triumph is a world premiere of dance, music, art and theater celebrating the lives of breast cancer survivors. It is a song-cycle/ballet conceived and created by Mark Roxey with original music by songwriting team Robert Maggio (music) and Matthew Hardy (lyrics), and choreography by Mark Roxey.

“I’m honored and touched to produce a project like this that celebrates the lives of breast cancer survivors and all who are facing the challenge of any kind of cancer,” says Mark Roxey, executive artistic director of Roxey Ballet. “The art of dance is at its best when you are able to create meaning that transcends the art of dance, when you can do something much greater than the single word ‘dance.’ That is what Roxey Ballet is all about.

“Arts and nature have transformative powers to heal that are not always visible, but have power internally,” continues Roxey. “We are thrilled to contribute toward D&R Greenway’s creation of a healing trail.”

Music, dance and spoken word capture the essence of the stories and lives of 22 breast cancer survivors interviewed by Roxey and his team. At least six of the storytellers will share the stage with the professional artists of Roxey Ballet as featured artists. The dancers will be accompanied by live music, performed by Gina Milo, Desirée Rodriguez and Aurelia Williams.

In addition to the dance production, visitors will have a chance to view about a dozen healing gardens created by artists, surrounding the East and West galleries. These will include a poetry garden, a music garden, a reflection garden and a “bad hair day” garden. Botanist Mary Leck will talk about the healing effects of plants. Refreshments will be provided by Starr Catering Group.

The project and partnership have been in the making for a year. Sheila Geisler of the Princeton Photography Club connected D&R Greenway President & CEO Linda Mead to Lisa Freeman, event co-chair and wife of Dr. Richard Freeman, CEO of RWJUHH. Edith Howard, a D&R Greenway land donor, was at the initial meeting, along with RWJUHH Vice-President of Health Promotions Diane Grillo Paula Flory of the BCRC, and Mark Roxey. “Edie was the inspiration for this partnership,” says Mead. “Edie had a remarkable story of her own personal triumphs.” A film about Edith Howard’s journey will be screened as part of the events.

“At Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, we believe strongly that you need a good hospital, with access to research and good doctors, if you’re diagnosed with cancer,” says Grillo, “but we also know that healing occurs through the arts—dance, music, and let’s not forget, good food.” Beginning 17 years ago, RWJUHH surrounded all its entrances with healing grounds, through a program licensed through Grounds For Sculpture and designed by J. Seward Johnson Jr.’s landscape architect. “We stress fitness and wellness, and started holistic health education,” continues Grillo. “We have a holistic nurse who may use Reiki or Tai Chi. We also have a program to teach community members how to play the harp, and in return they go into the hospital and play. Research has shown the healing effects of the harp, whose vibrations help in calming the heart.”

The hospital’s healing gardens are open to the public, but the cancer center has a private garden where patients may choose to get infusions. “Some just want to sit alongside a family member and look out at the garden,” says Grillo. “The design of the garden includes arbors to protect you from the sun.”

Together, Grillo and Mead discussed the possibility of a mobile app, so the healing journey would not be limited to the gardens but could be in preserved lands across the state, with stories of how nature helped others with their healing journeys. D&R Greenway already has an app to help visitors understand the stories behind the preservation at Abbott Marshlands, and plans to work on an additional app for healing trails.

“In looking at how we could pay for it, we thought of this big event on June 4 as a fundraiser,” says Grillo. “Each of the 22 cancer survivors, ranging in age from their mid 20s to 70, tells her story honestly and openly. All had words of courage, and strength. Sometimes we may whine about inconveniences such as a flat tire, but when you hear these women who are so strong and positive, talking about life and death and how each day is so important, you learn so much. It has been an honor to work on this project. Anyone who attends will leave feeling inspired.”


D&R GREENWAY LAND TRUST IS IN ITS 28TH YEAR of preserving and protecting natural lands, farmlands and open spaces throughout central and southern New Jersey. Through continuous preservation and stewardship — caring for land and easements to ensure they remain protected and ecologically healthy in perpetuity — D&R Greenway nurtures a healthier and more diverse environment for people and wild species in seven counties. Accredited by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission, D&R Greenway’s mission is to preserve and care for land and inspire a conservation ethic, now and for the future. Since its founding in 1989, D&R Greenway has permanently preserved close to 20,000 acres, an area 20 times the size of New York City’s Central Park, including 28 miles of trails open to the public.

The Johnson Education Center, a circa 1900 restored barn at One Preservation Place, Princeton, is D&R Greenway’s home. Through programs, art exhibits and related lectures, D&R Greenway inspires greater public commitment to safeguarding land.