Column: Many ways to dance on Manitoulin

By Bonnie Kogos, Special to Sudbury Star

Pretty, energetic Kerri Lattimer from Kagawong has another delightful identity as she dances her way around Manitoulin.

Pretty, energetic Kerri Lattimer from Kagawong has another delightful identity as she dances her way around Manitoulin.

Pretty, energetic Kerri Lattimer from Kagawong has another delightful identity as she dances her way around Manitoulin. One of her passions and well-developed professional specialty in life is clown work. I am delighted to catch her on the run. "Cooking with Bella" is her jolly persona. Kerri smiles when she hears me describe her ebullience, daring and craft with which she employs her clown work, which is a lovely brand of art on Manitoulin.

"It's not about food, it's about sharing feelings and allowing, in her work, to create openings for laughter, expression, sadness and resolution. I like to cook things up, whether it is conflict resolution, team building, growing a plant or intergenerational musical chairs," Kerri tells me. "When I first came to live on Manitoulin, it was the Debajehmujig Storytellers and Tammy Albers provided me with opportunities to present my professional clown identity."

"Tammy's terrific," I say, and ask: "How many costumes do you have?

"Four," Kerri says. "But the way a clown works, is that we learn the story of our individual clown through meditation. Each clown in the world is different. I began seriously studying a well-respected Canadian clown technique created by Richard Pochinko. He trained as a French clown and some would say he was a contrary trickster, who learned much about being the Trickster Fool from the First Nations clown, Jonsmith. He took techniques through the creation of many clown modalities and created a Canadian specific clown training. It's amazing to experience on both sides."

Kerri went on to study baby clown, also known as "Clown through Mask" with Sue Morrison in Toronto. The character of Cooking with Bella developed with the amazing John Turner in Evansville, who runs the Manitoulin Conservatory.

"The thing about clown is that it's not all about being happy. We learn there are hundreds of emotions we are not taught to communicate about, let alone feel. What I wish to offer people in community is an opportunity to feel feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly. That's why professional clowns exist in hospitals, helping families deal with chaos and grief. If people in community can have fun with each other, we stay with each other, and resilience is my goal in life."

Bella has been well-received on Manitoulin, as she performs at parties and sends greetings. "On Manitoulin, nobody does just one job. When I think of my skills coming together, I know I can contribute to the wellness of communities. Utilizing clown skills when I host the game of musical chairs for all ages and abilities, it's a deeply interactive show that can build teams."

Cooking with Bella: Inter-Generational Musical Chairs was presented at the Kagawong Summer Fest, and Haweater Weekend in Little Current.

Bella facilitates birthday parties with fun for all ages. "I've done clown-o-grams for elders. An 80-year old woman hired me to sing happy birthday to her daughter. I showed up at her home on Easter Sunday with a song and balloons."

I talk to lovely Bonnie Closs, a dedicated worker involved with Community Living Manitoulin for 19 years and now manager of programs and service, where Kerri is a support counsellor. "At Community Living Manitoulin, we assist people in reaching their personal goals and dreams. I know you often go to Mindemoya to our shop, Everything under the Sun. We're proud of our people who run the store. "

"Love that shop, always my first stop in Mindemoya," I tell Bonnie Closs. "May I write about you and the work?"

She laughs. "It's about the effort that everyone makes, including Kerri and our other dedicated staff which makes it work. We're a solid team."

A great welcome to dynamic Tammie Molenaar, new executive director at CLManitoulin, back on Manitoulin after 35 years. "I grew up in Gore Bay. For the last 23 years, I've been a manager at CLTimmins. Glad to be home. And Kerri's enthusiasm is infectious! She makes everyone smile."

For some reason I sigh, oddly telling her a dear friend has criticized me for talking too much.

Bella the Clown listens. "If you're someone that has no problem talking, it is your responsibility to step back. By stepping back, we are able to make a space for people who do not feel as comfortable speaking. Sometimes people who have no problem speaking are uncomfortable with quiet."

Bella is a savvy clown.

Our Bonnie has been writing in the Window Seat for 23 years. Find her bestselling novel, Manhattan Manitoulin, published by Scrivener Press at Chapters, Turner's and Central Pharmacy. To find her; BonniKogos@aol.com.


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