Written by Megan Gode
Dance can be an artistic form of storytelling, as movement has the distinct ability to display human emotion. During this year’s Christmas in Christ Chapel, the Gustavus community and its guests witnessed senior nursing major, Mariah McGill’s remarkable story through dance.
Three and a half years ago, Mariah was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was given the life-changing news one week before high school graduation and began treatment immediately that summer. Refusing to let her diagnosis keep her from college, Mariah entered Gustavus in the fall of 2006 to begin her first year.
While at Gustavus, Mariah’s amazing spirit and attitude was an inspiration to those around her. As she went into remission in the spring of 2007, it was a moment celebrated not only by her, but those she had touched along the way. “She had such strength and fortitude through that process,” says her dance professor, Michele Rusinko.
Today, in looking back at nearly four years at Gustavus, she has much reason to be proud. Not only has she shined in the nursing program, but also in the dance program with her display of strength and resilience. “She earned the right to do the solo. She is a very beautiful dancer and it was her time,” says Rusinko.
In choosing the style of modern dance for her piece, Mariah’s performances were an expression of her road to recovery and her faith in God throughout that process. Dancing to the song “Child of Peace,” her choreography went through four distinct stages: learning about her diagnosis and telling her friends and family; attending church the first time after her diagnosis and being able to feel God’s presence in her life during such a scary time; losing her hair; and her strengthened faith in God and spiritual journey.
“Dance has been a wonderful healing process for my body and mind. I have been able to regain my strength and muscle I lost while going through chemo. Dance has been the best therapy,” says Mariah.
Today, with such accomplishments behind her, Mariah is now looking toward the future. She’s excited for her career in nursing, which was inspired by the nurses she had while in treatment. And dance, of course she’s going to continue. She has aspirations to one day dance at Walt Disney World.
Video of the dance being performed is linked below: