Each week, I begin the process of dropping into Faith Project/THE DOOR by looking back. What have I learned about CHI Awareness Practice? What moments from conversations, the Story Circles, and the Open Studio Showings linger in my mind and what are they revealing about the initial questions of Faith Project/THE DOOR? What about my understanding of faith, contemporary dance, and CHI Awareness Practice has changed? How do I move forward with this new awareness?
This week, I asked dance artists Nikolai McKenzie, Frank Leone, and Kyan Namazi to reflect on the ways that the process has informed their relationships to themselves, their community and the larger whole. Listening to Nikolai, Frank, and Kyan share elements of their journey with KYL/D this season prompted me to return to a conversation I had with Kun-Yang in November.
Kun-Yang spoke of reflection. Embodying active stillness. He questioned, “How does the dancer bring a hyperawareness to space and self? How does the dancer navigate the spaces in between the self and the group and the greater whole?” These are questions that he explores through CHI Awareness Practice.
During the second Open Studio Series, multimedia designer Jared Mezzocchi identified these elements as the individual, the group, and the universe in sharing his creative process during Faith Project. He saw his role as using technology to highlight these elements and spaces in between. I’m inspired by Kun-Yang’s ability to bring so many diverse, creative viewpoints together, navigating similar questions through their own mediums - multimedia, sound, language, set construction, lighting, choreography and the body.
In November, Kun-Yang observed:
“my challenge with approaching religion is my challenge with dance - there are many layers of the people involved - their backgrounds, their race, their religion, their sexuality… we use CHI Awareness Practice to tap into the spaces in between (all of these layers and) connect with ourselves, each other, and something bigger than us. This requires that we surrender, trust, and make ourselves vulnerable to what is unknown.”
In our conversation this week, Nikolai shared,
“The process of creating Faith Project has made me hone into a more discreet, innate concentration that is needed in a group work. There are many bodies and energies involved in the piece and losing track of yourself is easy. Instead, I try to stay true to the answers I found to the three questions posed in the first circle, the questions being "what do you fear, what do you love, and what gives you the most strength/joy. The answer to all is "myself," not in a narcissistic way, but in a solidly determined understanding that, at the end of it all, I am all I have in this world. Therefore, in order to realize my true self, I have to have faith in that self, unwaveringly and graciously loving.”
Frank has also experienced a deepening into his own awareness,
“Faith Project has informed my understanding of CHI by allowing me to incorporate dance on a spiritual journey. The combination of my personal beliefs with those of company collaborators and community leaders have changed my movement in regards to being more in tune with a different level of my subconscious.”
Kyan, a new dancer this season, said that:
“Faith Project has really made me question and explore all aspects of my body and soul and spirit. Kun-Yang has really helped facilitate my journey by proving a kind of base model to build and grow my relationship with space, religion, and myself.”
I asked Nikolai, Frank and Kyan, as I had each of the dance artists, how their own relationship to their individual bodies changed during this process. Nikolai reflected,
“My body and my system -- system referring to energetic body, mind, physical body and spatial relationships to others -- have become attuned to slight changes in the group and the room while still maintaining the self as a unit. My body and system are an ever-fluid, ever-evolving thing (before and during this process). To that end, my relationship with my body has undergone many phases throughout my time with the company in general and whatever nuances and secrets my body has let me be privy to were probably already in the works before the piece began, simply because I am always curious about it and am constantly adding and subtracting from its experiences in order to more fully understand it.”
“Throughout this process my movement has experienced a new level of sensation with space and time. My spiritual reflections have affected my relationship with my body and my fellow dancers.”
“Incredibly,” Kyan declared, “as well as strengthening by core technique, I have also grown more confident in my own body and movement. I have really taken ownership and have been unapologetic when moving through space.
During the past few weeks, I’ve been so grateful to share insights into the dancers’ journey. I’m constantly reminded, as Kimerer and Wally hypothesized, perhaps it’s not that we’re all looking for the same answers, but that we have an awareness that we’re asking the same questions that brings us together.
~ Jessica Warchal-King
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Major support for Faith Project has been provided by The Pew Center for Art & Heritage, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts