Image, a journal of religious humanism, will launch it’s multi-arts Glen Workshop East June 12-19, 2011, on the campus of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA, and I’ll be leading “Dance as Spiritual Path,” meeting in the college’s gorgeous dance studio. This festival of arts is themed “Acts of Attention: Art as Discovery” and will include presentations by faculty in fiction, poetry, songwriting, storytelling and painting as well as chapel services.
For information or to register, write or call Image, 3307 Third Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119, (206) 281-2988, or see http://imagejournal.org/page/events/the-glen-workshop/2011/east/.
After a lifetime of teaching, choreographing and dancing in concert and church settings I published The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family.
Professor Jeany Snider of faith-based Rosebud School of Theatre Arts in Alberta, Canada, adopted the book for her course on Faith and Art, and one student was sufficiently moved by the book to write to me. I wrote back, met Jeany by e-mail, and suggested that I visit the school.
The content that I proposed to teach had been evolving from my book, as old and new strands of my life rewove themselves into forms I was just discovering. “Arts as Spiritual Path” a week-long workshop, to Rosebud, and some forty-eight e-mails and sixteen months later, I went there. The plane flew into Calgary, Alberta over an ocean of snow, rivers just shadowed dents in the surface, and roads, lines drawn as though by a ruler, on and on, never turning.
Driving from Calgary an hour and a half to Rosebud (one turn), I marveled at the light pouring over rolling hills and shadow pooling in valleys.
On arrival I discovered an almost utopian community. You can walk in ten minutes from one end of the hamlet to the other, and teachers and staff know each of the twenty-eight students intimately. Students, faculty and community members volunteer to feed visitors like me—a lunch here, a dinner there. Here is life without advertising, billboards, or television. The youngest students told me they’ve stopped using their smart phones except to call home.
I began the week with movement improvisation, and my first surprise was that the students were so free and proficient, so ready to accept each other’s weight and try new ways of moving. They were already incorporating dance and drama regularly in the services of their non-denominational community church.
My second surprise was that despite familiarity with faith in art, some in the class and community harbored doubts about whether artistic symbols could join hands with words to point to the sacred.
The class progressed to work with text, exploring possible relationships between text and motion, writing a body story, and preparing liturgical dance. I look forward to continuing these kinds of exploration at the Glen in June.
On Sunday the students danced about walking in darkness and finding light, and I knew that the glow of this community transcended sun on snow.