Kaia was born on April 2, 1981 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she grew up. From 7-19, she studied gymnastics, ballet, modern, flamenco, and jazz, which was her passion, at Dancentre, The Ballet School, ADF, and The NC School of the Arts. She attended the Emerson Waldorf School, Duke Middle School and Carolina Friends School, where she graduated early in order to take a year off before starting college.
On August 19, 2000, the day she was to have moved into her dorm to start her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she died from injuries sustained in a car crash in which she was a passenger.
Because dance was a core and pivotal force in her life, her family has started this scholarship fund as a way to both celebrate and memorialize her radiant spirit through the medium she used to best express it.
This is how she described dance in a school project she wrote at 15:
Dance to me is my saving grace. it is an artful and constructive outlet for my frustrations and joys. I have always loved to move, but it wasn't until later on in my life that my discovery of dance turned my whole existence around.
Dance has proved to be the most life-changing and influential art-form in my life. Along with family and friends it has carried me through good and bad times while all throughout acting as a therapeutic force. it is something I will always love and do.
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We had an incredibly beautiful memorial service for Kaia on August 24, 2000 at Lockridge, in a grassy field surrounded by a dense forest of pine trees.
We lit candles, sang songs, read poems and shared thoughts about Kaia.
Here's what Steve Glenn, her brother, shared:
A Celebration of Kaia
Many of you may know the origins of Kaia's name, but for those who don't, I thought I'd give you some background. Turns out I've heard, over the course of my life, three different versions of what she was named for.
I grew up believing Kaia was named after the hebrew "Kai" which means "gift of life." Kaia is also Ibo and Ghanian for "grounded to this earth" and I think my mom had had that in mind too when she named her, which occurred, by the way, three weeks after her birth. A few days ago my mom told me that Kaia also means "ocean" in Hawaiian, appropriate since kaia was conceived at the beach.
So it seems that kaia had several origins and that all seemed to focus on life.
My mom thought that Kaia would prefer today to be a celebration of her life so I thought I'd share with you some of the ways she celebrated life.
Kaia loved to dance and she was a beautiful dancer and we loved to watch her dance.
She loved to shop, particularly at Express and especially with other people's money.
She loved movies and videos and even videos after movies.
She loved tin-can art, a passion which I did not share.
She loved imitating the way my family walked and she was quite accomplished at this. She could do my grandmother, my mom, my cousin and even my pigeon-toed, chicken-like waddle. [I illustrated.]
She loved anything with leopard skin and I must say, based on her collection, I was blown away and somewhat disheartened at how many products there are that feature leopard skin. She had all the obvious ones: towels, sheets, clothes...but even had a leopard skin soap dish, steering wheel cover and an ironing board!
She loved walking with my mom around the circle where she lived with my mom and did so every morning at about 7 am.
She loved dressing in clothes that left absolutely nothing to the imagination, except perhaps to those of us who wondered why she dressed that way.
She loved reading People, Us, Vanity Fair, and Allure and other magazines which seemed to provide her with important and subtle perspectives on the same celebrities.
She loved burping loudly, which, sadly, she probably got from me.
She loved becoming enmeshed in a yoga-like pose with her cousins Micah and Xela, everyone stroking everyone's hair.
She loved alternatively leading or supporting a joint ribbing of my mom with me and since my mom seemed to provide us with endless fodder, this occurred quite frequently.
She loved driving and cleaning her BMW and having my mother and me shoulder too much of the costs.
Apparently she loved piercing her body with metal, which she did at least a couple of times in her tongue and belly button.
She loved identifying every dog and cat she'd pass as "kitty" and "pooch" and providing them with a requisite amount of love.
Kaia's still inspiring love and life...
We haven't had a family gathering like this in several decades.
Her uncle, visiting for the first time, flew for the first time in 20 years.
The crickets seems louder, the trees greener and the sky bluer (though I got my first contacts yesterday -- something she indirectly inspired -- so maybe that partially accounts for the trees and sky thing).
I've been able to achieve a deeper sense of love for my girlfriend, Kathleen, who's spent the week here with me and that's been really important for me.
I've told friends whom I love that I love them and it wasn't difficult.
A singing group that in which my mom was involved at the time of Kaia's birth is going to regroup and start meeting again.
You-all have provided my mom with an indescribable and overwhelming amount of love and support and I know your energy is helping her and us to grieve a little easier and heal a little quicker.
This weekend I experienced the most intense pain I've ever experienced, particularly as I realized all the things that we-all loved that we'd never experience with her again.
There was one that hurt more than anything else because it was the one thing that at once expressed that fundamental part of our personality that we shared in common as well as our special relationship as only siblings to each other: I'd say "Keebit" and she'd answer "Teebit".
In time, because we were busy and increasingly looking to make our lives more "efficient", it simply became "keeb" [pronounced like "keyb"] and "teeb" and we'd say it at least three times, back and forth and in falsetto, to initiate every session of interaction we'd have, whether it was me calling her by phone from California, or in the morning when we awoke during my or her visits, or upon the return by one of us after an hour or more of absence.
Kaia was my sister, a best friend, a playmate, a co-conspirator, a soul-mate, a constant. I'd say "keeb" and she'd say "teeb" and I knew and she knew all was well.
So I thought I'd forever miss that. but starting Sunday, I'd say keeb and i'd instantly hear her reply. It's softer now and, unfortunately, none of the rest of you can hear it...but I can.
So that's kaia's final gift of life to me: I still say keeb and she still says _ _ _ _ _. and I know all is well.
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We buried Kaia's ashes in the "Jewish section" of Lockridge's cemetary. It's a beautiful plot next to a happy bush and under a young tree, surrounded by dancing white and red rose pedals. We sang some more and read a little and then each of us had an opportunity to send a piece of Kaia off into her leopard skin hat which also contained pictures, cards, Barbie Dolls and other things she loved. We topped her grave with a small stone my mother had given her that says, simply, "Grace."
Afterwards, we sat around a bon fire, danced, talked, and ate. It was a warm night, still, and the cicadas treated us to a particularly inspired concert.
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