Sunday, September 21, 2008

Commemorating 9/11 w/Dance

I went to the Joffrey Ballet concert in Millennium Park on 9/11. It was billed as a "tribute to the victims and heroes of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center." (I might add the Pentagon and the other plane, too.) So I was interested to see how a secular dance company was going to make a concert a memorial. The concert began with the Artistic Director coming out on stage and giving a welcoming statement, acknowledging the day. We were told that at the end of the concert there would be a moment of silence. A woman came out and sang the "Star Spangled Banner" a cappella. Beautiful. Then, the concert proceeded like any other dance concert, except that there was a lighted flag on the side of the stage which was somehow most noticeable for me during Gerald Arpino's "Round of Angels" from 1983, an exquisite dance about parting and death.
The program stated "Through the medium of dance, one of humankind's most fundamental means of creative expression, The Joffrey's performance this evening celebrates the loving connection among us all. It is our hope that this performance also expresses our shared capacity for all that helps us heal from the worst of tragedies -- the human traits of compassion, spirituality and ability to find joy again as we reconcile great loss through memory, ritual and the power of art." So perhaps the connection need not be explicit.
But, the final dance, another one by Arpino called "Trinity" from 1970, was quite profound and appropriate for the evening. It begins with the dancers dressed in loud bright colors walking in with lights that are like candles. Only a couple of the lights remain on stage for most of the dance, but at the end, the dancers bring the lights onto the stage, set them down, and leave them there. It was very profound. We shared our moment of silence, but then the dancers came out for their curtain call. I really didn't feel like clapping, not because they weren't deserving, but because it broke the mood. And, I think most people felt the same way because the clapping was half-hearted. It would have been so incredibly powerful if they had forgone the curtain call. It really would have made a statement that everyone would have remembered, internalizing in his or her own ways as we left the park in silence.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Be like Mary Magdalene

I wanted to add a few thoughts to my last posting about dancing John 20:1-18: the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb on Easter morning. I didn't wax poetic enough on Dan LeMonnier's song, "Begin Again." What a wonderful synergy to collaborate with a musician who I had just met who happened to have written (and recorded) a song inspired by the same passage that I was dancing!

I absolutely LOVE the line, "Be like Mary. Do not cling to what has been."

Let's take it a sentence at a time. "Be like Mary." There has been a lot of scholarship directed toward reclaiming Mary Magdalene as a woman of faith and clearing her reputation. There is no scriptural evidence that she was a prostitute, but there is evidence, in the Gospel stories of Easter morning, that she was a disciple to the disciples, seeing the risen Lord and spreading the good news. So, what is a disciple, but someone to emulate or be like? So, yes, "Be like Mary." Be a disciple. Spread the good news. When I enact the story, I am Mary, but in real life, I can be like Mary.
"Do not cling to what has been." is inspired by the line in which Jesus said to Mary, "Do not hold on to me (which is sometimes also translated "do not cling to me") for I have not yet ascended." And, what is he really saying to her, but do not stay in the past. I am going forward. Come with me into the future. Thanks, Dan, for this song! I could go through the rest of it line by line like this: the whole song has great theology, giving new twists and lots of insight into the story.

My whole adventure of going to the Biblical Storytelling Festival was partially supported by a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Thank you!

And, a reminder about the upcoming retreat:
Saturday, October 4, 2008, 9:30am-4pm
Moving Through the Mysteries of the Rosary
Portiuncula Center for Prayer, Frankfort, Illinois
The rosary is a traditional Roman Catholic meditative prayer form that combines prayer intentions, scripture stories called “mysteries,” and repetitive prayers. In honor of October as the Month of the Rosary, we will explore how the full cycle of the mysteries of the rosary – Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection – is relevant to our contemporary life journeys. After grounding ourselves in movement-based Lectio Divina (scriptural reflection) and faith sharing, we will develop our own moving meditations to the natural rhythms of the spoken rosary. Our movement might focus on any one of the three intertwined elements of rosary prayer – the prayer intention, the scripture meditation, or the repetitive prayers themselves – or it might flow between them. Our leader, Michele Marie Beaulieux, dances the rosary as a private movement meditation, and, as a retreat leader, she guides other people, whether they consider themselves dancers or not, in experiencing how they can deepen their personal prayer by moving to the rhythms and stories of the rosary. The rosary is so rich, so full of layers that it provides a plush opportunity for exploring movement. People who participate in Michele’s retreats find their personal rosary prayer deepened: they expand their movement beyond their fingers to their entire bodies. No rosary, dance, or movement experience is required, merely a desire and willingness to move and pray. Please wear comfortable clothing. If weather permits, we may pray outside. Rosaries will be provided.

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