Can religion and dance in contemporary Western culture...
· Create safe spaces for addressing challenging topics?
· Provide a sense of peace and belonging?
· Become catalysts for dramatic dialogue and opinions?
As KYL/D’s facilitator for the Story Circles, Kimerer has reflected, “It’s a complicated question…”
Kimerer invited us – KYL/D’s Dance Artists and staff, the Faith Project collaborators, and the Faith community participants – to drop into our (kinesthetic, emotional, spiritual, intellectual) bodies through a meditation on the four elements – earth, air, fire, water. I’m reminded that community member, Pradhan, also called upon these elements when discussing his relationship to Hinduism in KYL/D’s second Story Circle. Kimerer reflected, as Pradham did, that “these are elements that connect us. That we share.”
William, a pastor of Presbyterianism, began the call-and-response aspect of the Story Circle by sharing the hymn “In Christ Alone”. He smiles as he says, “I’m a terrible singer, but when I’m singing with other people, there’s something powerful.” Isn’t this also true when people dance together? (If you want to more fully experience this, come to KYL/D’s FUN-raiser on Oct 28th! The evening builds relationships, friendships, and creates so much JOY!) Dance Artists Weiwei Ma and Kyan rise from the circle to respond as William begins to play the hymn again on his violin. I can’t help but recognize that the three have formed a triangle - a symbol central to William’s Christian faith – that they maintain for the duration of the movement reflection.
Readers, what do you see?
Nzinga speaks next about her experiences as an Islamic woman. Dance Artists Ani and Grace take calculated, intentional steps around the circle. Nzinga observes that she dances, but only with women and only in the presence of women. At this particular moment in time, Ani and Grace are sharing space, not just as dance artists, but also as women and mothers.
The Story Circle continues. Carolyn, a Santeria priestess, relates a story where dance played a role in the religion’s mythology. Dance Artists Frankie and Keila lie back to back. A deep rumble emanates from sound designer Cory. They move together – connected and yet separated. In their bodies and their spatial relationship, I see tension. Love. Separation. Connection. Resilience.
Tricia, of the Society of Friends or Quakerism, reflects that stillness is a type of movement. Stillness is a type of movement and movement exists in stillness! This is a key component in Kun-Yang’s CHI Awareness Practice and Dance Artists Frank and Barbara echo this as their movement seems to emanate from deep within their core.
Next, Dania recites an Islamic prayer that sounds almost like singing. As someone who is not fluent in Arabic, she reflects, “I don’t understand the language, but you understand what’s being said by the tone.” Aishika, a woman raised in Western culture but brought up in Hinduism, echoed Dania’s sentiments. Dance in Indian cultures, as in many non-Western cultures, plays a role in all aspects of life. “Every dance movement (in Hinduism) has a meaning. It takes time to understand through language, but you can feel it in your soul.” As Dance Artists Mo, and Wally and Nikolai, respectively, respond to the community partners, I was reminded of the immigrant experiences of HOME/S. 9th St. The HOME investigation planted the seeds for Faith Project: religion is so linked to ideas of identity and belonging.
As the Story Circle drew to a close, Kun-Yang reflected, “Sometimes it’s the most simple movement that’s extraordinary.”
Kimerer said, “It’s a complicated question” but through the Faith Project, KYL/D is...
· discovering creative safe spaces for addressing challenging topics
· providing a sense of peace and belonging
· catalyzing dramatic dialogue and opinions
...through moving and talking together.
Could it be that simple? It’s a complicated question.
~ Jessica Warchal-King
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Major support for the Faith project has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.