How can I answer the questions from my previous post having experienced the first Story Circle? How have my expectations changed or been challenged?
What did I learn about the participants and about myself?
What were some of the questions addressed?
What did the movement look like?
What did I learn from participating - about faith, dance and spirituality?
We stand in a circle. I know some of the people in the room well, and some are new friends. In the circle, we can all see each other, we are a community, and we are all equal. Kimerer asks us to turn away from the circle and walk to the edges of the studio. In this moment, I am alone with my thoughts and my body. We turn to the center again, seeing the expansiveness of the space and the people who are holding it. We walk - a movement that everyone can and does practice with ease. We don't speak, but float along to Cory Neale's music.
Kimerer has immediately set up several premises for the rest of the First Story Circle.
Through these guided movements, Kimerer has asked us to accept each other as we've come to the workshop. She's established that "movement" need not be extravagant or fancy. By walking in a circle, we've already started a journey together and Cory's music reinforces that we have entered into a new environment and adventure as a community. The twenty some people in the room have developed a connection to each other through 1) the intention of coming to CHI MAC for this Story Circle workshop, 2) moving together and 3) through sound. Isn't this also how religious practices build community? Were we engaging in developing a "religion" of our own? What defines religion? What defines dance?
Kimerer leads us through several series of movement exercises. We move first in small groups; this allowed me to get to know a few members of the community more deeply. We perform for each other in these small groups, establishing a safe space and relationship within our group and then our small group performed for the larger group. I felt safe within my group and because I had formed a deeper relationship with them, I was empowered by and with them when we performed for the larger group. This happens when the company works together for a performance. Doesn't this also reflect what happens in a religious community through practice together? Connection, empathy, and empowerment.
Kimerer asks us, as individuals, to answer three questions with one answer:
What do you most love?
What do you most fear?
From what do you draw your greatest strength?
She invites us to move from these answers - or to find the answers from the movement. We split into two groups and witness each other moving. It's a powerful experience to watch and be watched.
In our final moments together, Kimerer asks us to speak. We verbally share our personal experiences of moving together and our interest in finding the bridge between dance and religion.
One participant is from the Jewish faith. She informs us that Jewish practices traditionally contained a lot of movement but the trauma of the Holocaust has been reflected in and resulted in movement as part of the practice being less free.
One participant is from the Buddhist tradition. She reflects that meditation, a primary practice in Buddhism, is often associated with stillness - but there is actually a lot of physical movement involved and included in practice.
One of the Christian participants reflects on one tradition that follows ideas of St. Luke the Physician - and that there is a way to worship through the care of the body. Another of the Christian participants explains that Liturgical or Praise Dance is a part of her faith practice. There are many references to movement as worship or creation in the Christian Bible. Her reflection reminds me that a faith community often serves a need of creating connection and providing healing. Hadn't we also engaged in that practice for the past 90 minutes?
From an analytical perspective, I felt confused with more questions from the Story Circle than answers. From a kinesthetic perspective, I felt connected, calm, and safe. Maybe that dichotomy (body vs mind, questioning vs resolution) and mystery is part of "religion".
Some of the questions that I will continue to explore:
How does form (religious or dance) restrict movement?
How does form encourage movement?
Do movement and a belief system have to be mutually exclusive?
Is there a practice that both aligns and equally values the body and the mind?
How does compassion feel in my body?
What do I most love?
What do I most fear?
From what do I draw my greatest strength?
What are your initial responses to these questions? I'm interested... please share them in the comments or email me at email@example.com.
I look forward to continuing this journey with you!
~ 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.