Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent Dance Reflections

I danced today at New Hope United Methodist Church. I love dancing there. The people are gracious, the choir is wonderful, and, the big bonus for me as a dancer: they've got a beautiful sprung wood floor. The dance was very simple, which was appropriate, for the song, "There's a Great Joy a Comin,'" which itself is simple, and the congregation and the space, which is small. And, in liturgical dance, as in many things, less is truly more. I am reminded of the homiletics advice, that if you ask several people what a sermon was about and they all give different answers, you've failed. The same is true, I'm thinking, for liturgical dance.
Thinking of describing the dance, I'm reminded of a quote attributed to Isadora Duncan: " If I could tell you what I mean I wouldn’t need to dance.” The dance sounds even simpler on paper than in person: it showed the evolution from a child in the womb to an infant held to the gift of love spread around the world.
Afterward a woman commented that it was clear that I really put my whole self into my dance. I said that I made the dance a prayer of preparation for recognizing the joy of Christmas in my and all our lives. Then, I received the compliment I most cherish: the woman said she cried during my dance.

High school student Katie de Loys did a lovely job in her dance at the Episcopal Church of St. James the Less during the Lessons and Carols service on Friday night. Katie lit the advent wreath in a moving meditation on the coming of the light of Christ into our world. Her dance reflected the mix of joyful hope and trepidation embodied in the Advent season. She has very graceful flowing presence. As I was walking out of the church, I overhead a conversation between two women. One said, "Do they always have that dancer like that?" and the other said, "No, this is the first time." and then the first went on to comment on how lovely it was. It's great to overhear such unsolicited compliments. This was the congregation's introduction to liturgical dance, and it was well received. Thank you, Katie!

I haven't gotten the report yet on how the Advent procession went this Sunday at First Presbyterian Church in Wilmette, but the first Sunday Sunday of Advent, Ethan did a superb job carrying the candle to the front of the church during "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." The movement was simple, prayerful, and very well executed. But, my accolades carry limited weight. Ethan received the best compliment that an eighth grader can get: the praise of his peers. I'm told that they all clapped when he returned to the Sunday School classroom afterwards! I have ministered through movement for this church in the past, but this is the first time members of the congregation are doing conscious liturgical movement. And, again, it was well received. Thank you, Ethan, for leading the way. The children, indeed, shall lead us.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Advent Dances and Retreat

I've got a busy advent. Here's what I have lined up. (Please note that the dance at New Hope UMC previously mentioned here has been moved to the third Sunday of Advent.)

Sundays, December 2, 9, 16, & 23, 10am Advent services;
Sunday, December 2, 2007, 6pm, Hanging of the Greens
During the traditional Advent Hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel," young people from the congregation will bring candles to the communion table. Each week a candle will be added as the light of Christ comes closer. I am delighted to be working with youth minister Autum Lum to make this Advent vision I've had for many years a moving reality. (I will not personally be attending all services.)
First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette, Illinois

Saturday, December 8, 2007 9am-4pm
Dancing the Rosary: Moving through the Joyful Mysteries
On this Advent retreat day on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception,
we will pray with our bodies, reflecting on Mary and her tremendous
gift to humankind. After grounding ourselves in movement-based Lectio
Divina(scriptural reflection) and faith-sharing, we will pray our own
moving meditations to the natural rhythms of the spoken rosary. The
day will culminate in celebrating mass for this Holy Day. No rosary,
dance, or movement experience is required, merely a desire and
willingness to move and pray. Please wear comfortable clothing.
Rosaries will be provided.
Archdiocese of Joliet, Illinois, Romeoville, Illinois

Friday, December 14, 2007, 7pm
Lessons & Carols
Katie Deloys, a highschool student and accomplished dancer, will be lighting the Advent wreath as part of a liturgical dance I am helping her choreograph to an unusual setting of the traditional Advent hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel," sung by the St. James the Less choir under the direction of Anastasia Black.
The Episcopal Church of St. James the Less, Northfield, IL


Sunday, December 16, 2007, 10:30am
Worship service on the Third Sunday of Advent
I will dance to the lively "There's a Great Joy a Comin'"sung by New
Hope's choir under the direction of Liz Okayama.
New Hope United Methodist Church, Chicago, Illinois

Monday, October 22, 2007

Movement and stillness inherent in the Sorrowful Mysteries

Reading Garry Will's book The Rosary: Prayer Comes Round, I realized that I needed to get back in the gym as that is where I pray the rosary. For me, it's a movement meditation. When I got there Monday, I discovered that I didn't have a bible with me, which was really annoying, because I like to start from the scriptures -- to be grounded in the scriptures. Usually, I choose one mystery, read the associated scripture passage, and spend my whole prayer time on it. So, since I couldn't focus on one scripture passage and mystery, I decided to do a whole rosary (or five mysteries), and given everything I'm going through, the sorrowful mysteries seemed right. Sometimes, one just needs to turn it all over to God in prayer. So, as is often the case, my prayer time in the gym was very enlightening. Helpful. Wild the insights I get in that gym.
I thought of Jesus facing death and how it must have felt. 1. The agony in the garden: "Not my will, but yours be done." It really is tough to acknowledge that one's life (or a chapter of life) is ending, to truly let go, to say "Good-bye." To see death foreordained and keep moving toward it.
I had been pacing round and round the gym counter-clockwise, then clockwise, then back and forth before beginning the rosary and through that first decade, and I was beginning to want to end what had become an almost frenetic pace.
2. Scourging at the pillar: Ah, I stopped moving. This mystery is still. Jesus wasn't moving. wasn't allowed to move. trapped. The mystery requires a giving in. an acceptance of fate. I stood by a volleyball pole (my pillar). Just said the prayers in place. (Of course, if I had been identifying with his floggers, the movement would have been frenetic.)
3. Crowning with thorns. I'm on the floor, sitting regally. Again, this is still. just take the mocking. Jesus didn't respond. No point in dignifying the taunts with a response. He knew the truth, his inner truth. Didn't matter what others said. What strength Jesus had to just take it quietly.
4. Carrying the cross. now, I'm moving again. slowly though. resigned. with a large imaginary cross on my back.
5. Crucifixion. I'm against the wall now. my arms up. I keep sinking down and then revive myself, trying to hold my arms up. I have to endure ten Hail Mary's before it's finally over. A death on a cross is slow and painful . . .

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why pray through Mary about Jesus?

I went on retreat at Techny Towers this weekend, and I recommend the place. It is right on highway 43 in Northbrook, Illinois so the buzz of traffic let me know that I wasn't too far from civilization, but there was a certain joy in waking up early in the morning and appreciating the surprising, almost miraculous silence, waiting minutes to hear a car go by. A still point of calm. God rested.
The food was superb as was the bookstore, where I spent quite a bit of time. And, I bought a lot, forgetting that I had biked up there. Let's just say I was loaded down on my way home today.
I was excited to find a new resource for my upcoming retreat, Dancing the Rosary: Moving through the Joyful Mysteries, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, in Romeoville, IL: twenty greeting cards with images of the twenty mysteries of the rosary painted by various masters. Just exquisite.
Also, I finally bought Garry Will's book: The Rosary: Prayer Comes Round (I love the subtitle.) I had heard him speak when the book came out and always wanted to get it. I must share with you how he answers this question which he poses: "If our meditations are on the life of Christ, why is the most repeated prayer in the rosary said to the Virgin Mary?" He explains that the Hail Mary is a prayer for assistance in understanding the life of Christ, and Mary is the perfect model to which to turn for such help. Wills goes through the various passages in the bible that mention Mary and shows how she is depicted as puzzling and pondering what in the world Jesus is doing. So, we ask for her prayers, as she has gone before us on this quest. I'm paraphrasing the passage: his couple pages of explanation is worth the price of the book.
While I'm on rosary resources, I have the "Rosary Sonatas" by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber on what feels like perpetual order now. He wrote 15 sonatas for violin and harpischord -- one for each of the original fifteen mysteries of the rosary. Can't wait to get them.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dancing the Magnificat w/Rory Cooney

The very first liturgical dance that I did, I'm proud to say, was "Holy is Your Name" -- the Magnificant -- Mary's prayer of social justice which she said when she visited her cousin Elisabeth after having learned that she, of all people, was about to give birth to God. Since the words of the Magnificat are not specific to her situation, it was most likely a common Jewish prayer of the day. So, in her unimaginable situation, Mary fell back on a prayer she had most likely repeated many times before. Her reliance on rote prayer in that time of trial reminds me of a Catholic friend of mine, who doesn't understand why I dance the rosary, admitting that, in childbirth, much to her surprise, it was the "Hail Mary" that came out of her lips.

Anyway, I was at Old St. Pat's on Sunday afternoon, spending much more time "rehearsing" than the piece actually required. What I was really doing was praying, praying the song in my body over and over again in the near empty church.
I knew I was off with the tempo and timing, and I was a bit frustrated. (This was before I had learned to ask the musician with whom I would be collaborating to make a recording of the song for me to use for rehearsal.) Eventually, preparations began for the 5PM Mass, and a man sat down at the piano and started playing a few notes. Seeing my chance, I went over to him and asked, very politely, if he might do me the great favor of playing "Holy in Your Name," just once through. I could get him a copy of the sheet music. He said, "Oh, I don't need the music" and then proceeded to play the most voluptuous version of the song I would ever hear, and I danced with abandon. Good music is so essential to good dance. That ad-hoc rehearsal was the worship; the later prayer service a required coda. Several of the people in the church commented to me later. It was one of those magical, Holy Spirit moments. Only afterwards did I learn that the musician was Rory Cooney -- a composer (not of that song, but) whose church music I have always loved.

Anyway, last week, I happened on Rory's blog and share links to a couple of great entries. Insightful and humorous, the blog exudes Rory's wonderful personality. I'm not a sport's fan, but I've always been interested in secular ritual. Rory's comments on what liturgists can learn from baseball games is quite pertinent. And, the entry about love and forgiveness poignant. Thank you, Rory.

Congregational singing at Wrigley

"The experience of shatteringly good ritual singing, like an assembly of 40,000 being led by an organist and a tone-deaf trio of basketball players from Northwestern, is something to which all church musicians ought to aspire. We can learn a few lessons from this experience, to wit:
  1. If the assembly knows the song, it doesn’t matter how bad the cantor is.
  2. If you don’t change the song all the time, people learn it by heart, and teach it to their kids.
  3. Rhyming is good
  4. Concrete language is good (e.g., “peanuts and crackerjack,” instead of “snacks and candy”; “Cubbies” instead of “home team” ☺)"
Love means never having to hear “I’m sorry”

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The ribbon banner welcomes!

I had an absolutely wonderful time at the grand opening celebration for Touchstones interfaith spirituality center. It was outdoors in the new park in the Glen in Glenview, and they couldn't have ordered better weather. Bright, sunny, hopeful day. Singing, drumming, prayer stones and prayer bead stations set up around a fountain next to a small lake.
I changed into my red dress in the bathroom which was a little distance away. I put my red ribbons on my pole right there and then waved them as I walked over to the celebration as a way of creating interest among the soccer players and others in the park.
When I got to the celebration, Rev. Kathy Dale McNair had a big arms wide open welcome for me. She said the ribbons looked great, but I said they were short and stumpy looking. They were the length I use in churches, but outdoors, I could extend my telescoping pole and thus the ribbons could be much longer. Luckily, Rev. Phyllis Beattie had lots of extra ribbons from making the mini-ribbon banners, so I added some longer ribbons. It looked great, and then I was ready to go. Since the event was nestled in the park, the ribbons waving high on the pole beaconed to people, helping them find the celebration and encouraging them to come and see.
I had a great time dancing to the songs of peace - If I had a hammer, This land is your land, etc. - that Lynn Sanders led. To feel the hope of those songs, many of which I hadn't heard in years, reverberating through my body, was incredibly cathartic. The songs brought back happy childhood memories and so I was a child again, dancing my joy. I also danced to the sacred drumming of Mama Edie. The wind was strong, but it was great fun having unlimited space to move the pole and make the ribbons ripple and dance.
As a minister of movement, I know that the real issue, however, isn't my enjoyment, but others'. Did I communicate the joy of the day? Convey it to others in the visceral way in which movement communicates? Based on people's many comments, I'd say the answer is "yes." I was able to communicate God's joy to others in a way that was contagious. The ribbons are mesmerizing, meditative, like a fire, you can watch them for hours without getting bored. Just when you think you know the pattern, it changes, and you start all over again.
There's a picture of me, as well as the other activities, on the kick-off event page of the Touchstones website. Check it out for information on their upcoming workshops.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Movement for Liturgical Ministers

I gave a retreat last Saturday at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park with Dennis Northway, the parish musician, called "Worship! Engaging the whole spirit" for the choir and worship team. As always, it was fun working with Dennis. The people at Grace were very responsive and enthusiastic. A great group.
I led movement for non-dancers, opening people up to the movement possibilities in worship in a very non-threatening way. It wasn't "dance." Dennis was really impressed by how I got some very unlikely people moving, and the choir may try doing some VERY simple steps in their processions as a result.
I began by asking everyone simply to walk around the sanctuary as I told a story that evoked different emotions. I asked them to notice how those emotions affected their walking. Someone said that the exercise evoked all the thoughts that are going through people's heads as they come to worship.
Then, we talked about how, as worship leaders, our bodies communicate during worship and what we'd like our bodies to convey: "alert" and "open" were the two words that came up. So, we tried standing in ways that are alert and open, and I gave some tips based on my dance experience on how to do that.
Anastasia Black from St. James the Less also brought up not drawing attention to yourself. This was a good point and I wish I had spent a little more time unpacking it. It's one of those zen things. Everyone is looking at you, but you don't want to draw attention to yourself? How do you do that?? I think of it as being a conduit for the Holy Spirit. It's not about me, but the Holy Spirit moving through me. My hope is that when people see me, they see right through me to the Holy Spirit.
I was very excited about this workshop and hope to do more workshops for worship leaders. Increasing body awareness and movement awareness among worship leaders is important in and of itself and it can lead to more movement in worship so that people pray with their whole bodies.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ribbon Dance, Advent Dance, Rosary Retreat

I just posted these three upcoming events on my website and figured I should also put them on the blog. I'm excited about each of them for different reasons that I describe below

Sunday, September 23, 2007, 4:00PM-5:30PM
Outdoor kick-off celebration for interfaith spirituality center
Enjoy an hour of engaging activities that reflect various faith traditions. I will dance with my ribbon pole and make smaller ribbon poles with children so that they may join me dancing around the park, too.
Touchstones, Glenview, IL
I'm excited because the Touchstones folks came up with the idea of using pipecleaners to make mini-ribbon banners rather than the chopsticks I've used in the past with adults, most noteably at Claudia Sloan's memorial service. I'll never forget the entire church waving their little banners as some other dancers and I processed out of the church with the big banners, ushering Claudia's spirit out into the world with us.
Anyway, the pipecleaners work really well and are actually better replicas of my ribbon pole because they bend and sway. Truly lovely. I'm hoping to have a band of mini ribbon dancers following me . . .

Sunday, December 2, 2007, 10:30AM
Worship service on the first Sunday of Advent
I will dance to the lively "There's a Great Joy a Comin'"sung by New Hope's wonderful choir under the direction of Liz Okayama.
New Hope United Methodist Church, Chicago, Illinois
Liz just told me the song selection today. She'll send a tape after they've rehearsed it a bit.

Saturday, December 8, 2007 9AM-4PM
Dancing the Rosary: Moving through the Joyful Mysteries
On this Advent retreat day on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we will pray with our bodies, reflecting on Mary and her tremendous gift to humankind. After grounding ourselves in movement-based Lectio Divina(scriptural reflection) and faith-sharing, we will pray our own moving meditations to the national rhythms of the spoken rosary. The day will culminate in celebrating mass for this Holy Day. No rosary, dance, or movement experience is required, merely a desire and willingness to move and pray. Please wear comfortable clothing. Rosaries will be provided.
Archdiocese of Joliet, Illinois, Romeoville, Illinois
I'm excited because I just learned that Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber wrote the "Rosary Sonatas" -- 15 sonatas for violin and harpischord -- one for each of the original fifteen mysteries of the rosary. I haven't bought them yet. I'm just devouring information about them on the internet, reading Amazon reviews, trying to decide which version to buy. I have been looking for years for music for the mysteries of the rosary, then last night on a lark, I googled "rosary dance" and it came up in a review. Apparently Biber was educated by Jesuits who emphasized praying with all the senses. I have wanted music for each of the mysteries for my rosary retreats, and it looks like I may have found it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Congregational Movement every Sunday!

I was reading the article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday about the Sacred Dance Guild Festival, and it mentioned that St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco "structures its entire worship around dance." I couldn't quite believe that so I looked up the Church's website, and indeed it is true. I downloaded the wonderful article, "Jesus Wants To Dance With You At Church," written by the church's rector, Richard Fabian. The congregation dances twice each Sunday, circling the altar first when coming to the table before the kiss of peace and then again following communion. He explains that because European-Americans have lost touch with our dancing roots, engaging parishioners in congregational dance today requires a new folkdance-like vocabulary, quickly picked up, repetitive rather than interpretive, and flexible enough to serve many texts and tunes without elaborate memorization. The community is so committed to congregational dance around the altar table that it designed its new church sanctuary with the table at the center of an open, octagonal wood floor, slightly sprung, as in a gymnasium, for dancing comfort!!!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Holy Spirit Ribbons Dance for Peace

I met Laura and Manuela for the stop the war march yesterday down Michigan Avenue to the Daley Center. I brought my ribbon pole and red Holy Spirit ribbons like I did last year. Unfortunate that this has become an annual event. It's fun because I can extend the pole all 20 feet, which I don't do inside.
People brought and shared their gifts: Drums, Signs, Prayers, Megaphones. We were blessed to be near various groups who had creative syncopated chants. Not just the standard: what do we want? Peace. When do we want it? Now! So, I really danced with the ribbons. The Holy Spirit was there. May she herald in a season of peace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Reggie Wilson produced some nice moments

I was a bit disappointed in Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel at the MCA.
His last performance there in 2003 Black Burlesque Revisited dealt more directly with ritual which is what interests me. Last time, it was a three-way collaboration between his company and one from Trinidad and one from Senegal. In the discussion after that performance, Reggie talked about the challenges of working in these other cultures. How every rehearsal began with long introductions, asking how are you and how is your family. How even when they were all staying in the same hotel and had been together the night before, the next morning at rehearsal, they still had to go through this elaborate check-in process. It drove him crazy. He said this is going into the dance. So there was, at one point in the dance, an inner and outer circle, and people moved from one person to the next. There was a way in which it was monotonous but it wasn't boring. It was meditative. It kept my interest because just as soon as I thought I knew the pattern, it shifted slightly. Brilliant and beautiful.

This performance was in a disco type setting. It began with a floor duet among a man and woman with the rest of the company rolling toward or away from them diagonally across the floor. I found it quite moving. Then they shifted into a circle dance and Reggie appeared asking the dancers and the audience to identify the various social dance steps the dancers were doing. I found his appearance very abrupt and unnecessary, and his subsequent presence throughout disconcerting and annoying. It brought out the hierarchy that he was the director and the rest were the company.

There was a great sequence in which a man and woman began doing the electric slide. It was really beautiful. How simple and in sync they were. Then the rest of the company gradually came in spread out across the stage. Then slowly came together in a clump. Mesmerizing.

The other highlight that needs mentioning is Michel Kouakou from the Ivory Coast. He is very short, especially for a male dancer and so could probably not be in any other company, but he was the best dancer in the troupe. His movement articulation is phenomenal. They did one sequence when all the dancers had their backs to the audience and wiggled their butts. He was incredible. I have never seen such ass articulation in my life. Amazing.

In the post-show discussion, it came out that the company is made up of dancers and singing performers who move. So, the man that began the electric slide sequence said that he was not a dancer. Well, if he isn't a dancer, then I might as well go hide in a closet, because I certainly am not.

The integration of the onstage singers with the dancers was seamless and quite beautiful. Reggie said that the company is made up of both and when people would say that liked one or the other, it was as if they were favoring one of his children over the other. So, he worked at integrating them together, which worked really well, because I wasn't really aware of it. Now, he has to work at integrating himself in, if he wants to dance.

I do think he is a choreographer to watch. He is doing interesting things, and he's from Milwaukee just like I am!

Looked at the reviews after writing this. I agree with both Sid Smith of the Tribune and Hedy Weiss of the Sun-Times, even though they come to opposite conclusions. Sid: Go; Hedy: Don't bother.

Laura Molzahn's preview in the Reader said, "There's a sense of engagement but not of performance -- it's as if these were people in a distant world unaware of being watched . . ."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Marionettes as the essence of the characters?

I went to "Marionette MacBeth" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier last night with my friend Victoria. There was a quote in the program which I thought was really interesting, but after seeing the performance, I'm not sure I agree:
"An actor on the stage, even the most capable, will imbue the character with his own physical aspect and personality. The marionette underscores the symbolic aspects of each character, as the writer imagined them. The marionette proposes itself as pure interpretation -- not a mediation, but rather the essence of the character." Eugenio Monti Colla

The marionettes are about three feet tall and were made by and manipulated by an Italian troupe. The voices were Chicago Shakespeare actors. It was quite wonderful but I was very aware that I was watching marionettes and that was what made the show so delightful. The audience loved them. When the marionette horses reared their heads or one character sat down and then made a point of crossing his legs, the audience roared with delight. Actors would not have elicited such a response from such an action.

The marionettes were most believable when they were stationery, moving their arms and gesturing. Locomotion was more difficult. Walking seemed more like skipping, leaping, galloping. The only locomotion that really worked was the ghosts floating on by.

It is interesting to think about embodying the "symbolic aspects, the essence, of a character." It reminds me of being a conduit for the Holy Spirit in liturgical movement. Can we ever present a blank slate? Still mulling the quote in my mind: "The marionette proposes itself as pure interpretation -- not a mediation . . ." Allows the viewer to bring his/her own interpretation? A blank slate for the viewer? Yet, at the same time it proposes itself as "the essence of the character." I guess it's not contradictory. I like the concept, but I'm not sure it works in reality.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ribbon Cutting @ 1st Pres Wilmette

I always learn so much each time I dance. On Sunday, I helped with the ribbon cutting dedication of the newly renovated fellowship hall for the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmette where the wonderful Reverend Sarah Butter is pastor. It's a great place full of friendly, helpful people. Sarah had envisioned me dancing around blessing the space and then a ribbon cutting across the little stage at the back. In the end, we combined the dance and the ribbon cutting. But, it was a process getting there.
Before meeting with her, I looked at the readings for the day. I saw that the reading for cycle A that day was the woman at the well and was thinking we could do something with that, bringing a water jug from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall (which is the church basement magnificently transformed).
Then I went to meet with Sarah. After batting some ideas around in her office, she said, "Let's go down and see the space." And, of course, as usual, that changed everything. The hall is really magnificent, and the defining feature -- what defines it as a gathering space -- is a huge oval in the ceiling. (Hard to describe. You'll just have to see it.) As soon as I saw it, I knew I needed to dance directly under the edge of the oval.
I thought of the crepe paper streamers I had used a long time ago for the family reunion connecting the graves in the cemetery in Pine Bluff, Wisconsin. I could use streamers to define the space.
So, to make a long story short, I went up with the young children during the Time with Young Disciples during the worship service. Pastor Victoria Millar talked to the children about ribbons and presents and the fact that the present everyone was receiving today was really big. It was a room. I unfurled the ribbon down the main aisle as Victoria held the other end. Then, she released it and I gathered it up.
I then rehearsed with the children downstairs. After the rehearsal, the older ones put cray paper on the banisters and elevator leading everyone down to the fellowship hall. The ribbons were blue, which is the Presbyterian color.
I had originally envisioned an unbroken ribbon from the sanctuary, leading way down the stairs into the fellowship hall. It's interesting how the original artistic vision gets compromised for reasons of safety and practicality but the concept and idea remain and it actually works better.
Before the worshipers came downstairs, the 3,4,5 year olds with the 7&8th graders were in their places. They formed a circle around the table of food in the center of the room and within the oval, facing out. Pastor Butter knocked on the door and the campaign committee opened the doors. Sarah led the people around the circle. The children welcomed them with big smiles.
When everyone was in, the choir began to sing, and the children turned around and faced in. I went in the circle and unfurled the ribbons for the children to catch, then danced around the circle twice more for the magic three.
Pastor Butter announced the ribbon cutting. The major donor made the first cut and then the campaign committee made cuts between each of the children. Each child ended up with ribbons. The festivities and food began.
It all seemed so simple in the end, but as always took simplifying and whittling down to get at the essence, the basic message. And, the dancing itself was minimal really. It was the choreography that took the effort, figuring out where to place the movement so that it underscored the meaning and message of the day.
Sarah was delighted. She said the choreography changed the focus from the stage to the community where it should be.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reggie Wilson; my letter in the Times!

I'm excited that Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group will be coming to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago this week. I saw them a number of years ago and thought what he was doing in his explorations of ritual were incredibly powerful.

Rich and intricate rhythms -- voices shouting and singing harmonies, feet stepping and hands clapping -- connect the secular and the sacred in the MCA-commissioned The Tale: Npinpee Nckutchie and the Tail of the Golden Dek.

Check it out. I will, and I'll let you know what I think.

On another note, My letter on liturgical dance in many Christian denominations did get published in the New York Times, and below mine, a letter about dance in Hasidic Jewish practices. Yeah!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New York Times on Praise Dance!

The New York Times published a good article on praise dance along with a video clip! It will only be available for viewing for free for a couple more days. You may have to register to get onto the New York Times website, but registration is free.
I wrote the letter to the editor about the article, which is below, and was told that if space allowed it would be published. Hope so!
Thanks to Sally Polasek for nudging me to write it, and to Wade Thrall for doing such a great job designing my website. I'm sure that having it down below my signature helped assure my creditability. I thought it was a coup when I had a letter to the Editor published in the Chicago Tribune (on the Farmers' markets carrying vegetables and fruits not grown by local farmers). I thought the New York Times was out of reach . . . Don't want to count my chickens before they're hatched, but I didn't even think I'd get this far.

To the Editor:
I applaud Julie Bloom's excellent article as well as the multimedia presentation on your Web site. It's not just Pentecostals who are experiencing a blossoming in liturgical dance. I and many others have ministered through movement in the churches of many mainline Christian denominations including Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational and Roman Catholic.
Michele Marie Beaulieux
Chicago

ARTS / DANCE | March 4, 2007
Dance: Moved by the Spirit to Dance With the Lord
By JULIE BLOOM
After being unwelcome for centuries, dance has become an increasingly popular part of Christian church services.

Getting DVD of Different Drummers program

I haven't yet ordered my DVD of the program, but if you'd like a get a DVD or VHS by sending a check for $20 to Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries, 112 E. Chestnut, Chicago, IL 60611
Specify that you want the Different Drummers broadcast featuring liturgical dance that aired on February 18, 2007
In the audience, you can see liturgical dancers Glorianne Jackson of Living Word Christian Center and Venetia Halsell and Regina Evans of Apostolic Church of God in Christ.

Monday, February 19, 2007

introducing liturgical movement through youth

I keep thinking of ideas to add to the panel discussion on liturgical dance which was on the WBBM TV program, "Different Drummers" on Sunday morning. Since the focus of "Different Drummers" is youth, one point to have brought out is that congregations are generally positively disposed toward seeing young people actively participating in the worship service. Whereas they may be skeptical about adults doing liturgical dance or movement, they will more likely be receptive to children and youth participating or leading or ministering through liturgical movement. Young people represent the future, our hope. They bring us back to our childhoods, before all our adult inhibitions started creeping in.
Well, as the host, Polly Toner, said, the time just flew by. there was no time to be able to say everything there was to say.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Good liturgical dance requires planning!

Well, I was up at 5am this morning to watch the liturgical dance program on "Different Drummers" on WBBM TV Channel 2 here in Chicago. Considering that the discussion was taped live with no editing, I'm very happy with how it all turned out.

One point that I would have liked to have brought forward a little stronger is the importance of liturgical planning, so that the dance doesn't stick out as stuck in the liturgy as Polly, the host, complained happens sometimes at her church. I can't emphasize that point enough. It takes a lot of thought to integrate dance or movement into worship in a way that deepens the experience and emphasizes the message. I have often said that it takes three skills to do liturgical dance well: liturgy planning, choreographing, and moving/dancing. And, of the three, I would say that liturgy planning is the most important. As I was preparing for the panel, I realized I could add two more skills/roles: advocate (or Armor Bearer as Myah McKinnie of the Chicago seed group of the Christian Dance Network says) and costume designer/environmental planner.

I was very glad that the other panelist, Karli, took the question on body image and dance for young women. She gave a great answer. What I didn't have a chance to add was that liturgical dance isn't for everyone. Often, I see young people looking at the ground when they dance. It seems that they are making a pact with the congregation: If I don't look at you, will you not look at me? No, they need to be comfortable with the fact that the whole congregation is going to be staring at them and staring at their bodies. In fact, their bodies are serving as a conduit of the Holy Spirit. Liturgical dance is a ministry of the body. There are other ministries for people who are not comfortable with that kind of exposure.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Word made flesh

I am on a panel on liturgical dance on the youth-oriented show, "Different Drummers," on Chicago's WBBM TV Channel 2 at 5AM tomorrow Sunday morning, February 18. The show was taped in advance today and features dancing by Saint Mark's United Methodist Church and Karli Pidgeon, an ordination candidate in the United Methodist Church. Polly Toner interviews Karli and me. She said that the half hour would fly by, and, wow, did it ever. Karli and I were very complementary in our perspectives and insights. It worked out really well.

I want to give credit to Fr. Robert Pawell, O.F.M. at St. Peter's in the Loop for the insight that I shared on the show that the very essence of Christianity -- the Incarnation, God becoming a person, the word made flesh -- supports the notion of embodied prayer, and fights against the dualism of body versus soul. He gave a great talk on "Embodied Prayer & the Labyrinth" which is reprinted in the December 3, 2006 St. Peter's Bulletin. I highly recommend it.

"Different Drummers" is produced by the Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries, a communications ministry of the Protestant, Orthodox and Episcopal churches of Greater Chicago. Major sponsors include the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ.