Born in Changsha in the Hunan Province of China, Alessandra was nine and a half months old when she was adopted by Roma Chiera-Garnelli and Claudio Garnelli of Adelaide.
The student at Our Lady of Sacred Heart College said her parents, who are of Italian heritage, had gone to great lengths to incorporate the Chinese culture into her childhood.
“We always celebrated Chinese New Year by hanging decorations, participating in the Red pocket tradition and watching the Lion dance at a Chinese restaurants,” Alessandra told The Southern Cross.
“My parents never wanted me to deny my birth heritage or disassociate myself from China, instead they encouraged all aspects of a relationship with this part of my cultural identity.”
Alessandra said when she needed to choreograph a piece for her Year 12 Stage 2 Dance assessment she wanted to pay tribute to her parents and express her family’s journey with adoption.
Titled ‘Noi non Siamo Loro’, which translates from Italian to English as ‘We are not Them’, the dance expressed the idea that “not every adopted child shares the same journey”.
“Whilst I may have experienced the same struggle of accepting the fact that I look different to my family, the factor that makes our story of adoption different to the most commonly known, is that I never and never will have the urge or need to search for my biological parents,” Alessandra explained.
“The phrase conveys to the audience that my family does not resemble the families with adopted children who are seen on TV or read of in books – rather my family and I know that my sister and I are adopted, but it does not negatively influence the way we interact with each other.”
The dance was split into four sections – The Orphanage, Meet the Parents, The Realisation and The Acceptance. Two main elements interwoven throughout were the use of a red cloth to symbolise the Chinese Red Thread of Fate, and having video projection of real home videos at specific moments.
Alessandra’s parents saw the dance performed for the first time in September and it was an emotional experience for them.
“My Mum (Roma, who is an OLSH old scholar) immediately identified with the piece…she understood that I had a positive perspective of my adoption which evoked happy tears as this was the outcome she always strived to achieve.”
Besides studying Dance, Alessandra undertook General Mathematics, English Literary Studies, Child Studies and Psychology in Year 12. She was also kept busy fulfilling her role as college vice-captain which saw her organising social justice activities and developing initiatives to boost student morale in a year like no other.
In recognition of her contribution to school and the community she was awarded the college’s Best All Rounder Award. This year Alessandra will be studying a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) at the University of SA.Jump to next article