Members of the Northern Virginia community gathered on Saturday night at to celebrate the life of Centreville's Reema J. Samaha, one of the 32 victims of the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, 2007.
As a tribute to Samaha, musicians, dancers and actors across Northern Virginia, alumni of Westfield High School, Herndon High School and Virginia Tech came together in a cabaret, which all proceeds going to The Reema J Samaha Memorial Scholarship, granted each year to graduates of Westfield and high schools who “best exemplify the attributes of Reema J. Samaha,” and The Angel Fund.
Samaha was a performer from the time she was young. “Since age two she wanted to be in a tutu and ballet shoes all the time,” said Mona Samaha, Reema's mother. “She danced as if she was a performer before she went to dancing school… As a freshman at Westfield high school her dad encouraged her to join the theater group and that was an open door for her to blossom.”
“The Cabaret is a wonderful event that brings the community together to celebrate Reema's vibrant love for life and for the arts,” said Samaha. “I see art as the unspoken language of the soul. It creates a beautiful harmony that unites all in Reema's name.”
The diversity of performers reflected Reema Samaha's many-faceted career in the arts. She participated in many dance groups, musicals and improv groups. She was a member of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble at Virginia Tech, and while there, she choreographed a dance called “Andaloosia,” which the ensemble performs each year in her memory (see the featured video for a portion of the dance). Even though the cabaret falls after the school year is over, several members of the ensemble traveled up to the area for the cabaret.
“Several of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble's past and present company members are also alumni of WHS,” said Contemporary Dance Ensemble member Adrienne Ginter, “which deepens the connection between our schools. I love that both the Westfield and Virginia Tech communities have been united through Reema's passion for the arts.”
In addition to “Andaloosia,” which opened the show, there were three other dances during the cabaret: “The Chain,” sung by Ashleigh Markin, Phoebe Dillard and Ashley Dillard as the Contemporary Dance Ensemble danced. Michelle, Monica and Meredith Murgia danced to “A True Story of True Love” and Molly Syme, Virginia Tech student and this year’s recipient of the Reema J. Samaha Memorial Scholarship, performed “Keep Breathing.” The cast of "," from , also performed a medley.
Samaha would likely have appreciated the diversity of the performances.
“Reema was very unique in that she had a love for many different cultures,” said Ginter, “which was reflected in her dancing. The piece she choreographed for us is a belly dance that is influenced by her Lebanese heritage. She was very unique in the way she moved so fluidly and had beautiful expression that revealed her deep passion for dance. No one could move their hips the way she did!”
There was also a lot of comedy during the cabaret. The hostesses of the evening, Megan Meadows and Randa Samaha, kept the mood light with their casual banter between performances, and there were two comedic performances, “Meet The Fam” by the Herndon High School Improv Team and “Helluva Good Family” by Branson Reese, Dallas Sweezy, Megan Meadows, Randa Samaha and Omar Samaha that had everyone laughing.
“Reema had an amazing sense of humor and natural comedic timing,” said event coordinator Ashley Dillard. “She really made everyone around her laugh. It was important to include comedic sketches and numbers and for everyone to feel okay to laugh.”
In addition, there was music. Four groups of musicians sang and played, as well as two soloists. Westfield students performed scenes from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Shane McCarthy, a recent graduate of Virginia Tech, came to speak about his organization, Actively Caring for People. He explained how one simple idea—noticing and appreciating when someone does a nice thing for someone else by passing on a green wristband—has already decreased bullying in elementary schools and circulated through Virginia and beyond.
Samaha's family said that the event has also helped them through their grief.
“We feel the love and the compassion [of the community] and that helps a lot in alleviating the pain,” said Samaha. “Feeling very well surrounded helps us in standing strong. In our community and through our tragedy, I have learned that we live with each other and for each other and love is the essence in life.”