Psalm 147b

Friday I had the pleasure of watching eight Performers girls dance my choreography to the Sons of Korah’s Psalm 147b. It felt so normal being back in the studio at Alwin’s – although it’s been years since I danced in that same studio as one of them. In 2009 I watched the 25th anniversary production of Christmas Joy, which was my sister’s last year in the production. It has been seven years since I was a Performer and trained at Alwin School of the Dance. That makes me feel so old! It makes me wonder what I have accomplished in those seven years?! I am not doing what I planned to be when I left to train with Boston Ballet seven years ago. But looking back I cannot regret the way life led me. I wouldn’t have matured in ways I have and learned the things I did if I did not have the experiences I did. It took me this long to heed God’s call on my life to use my gifts to give Him glory.  Watching them perform the piece was a good reminder that it’s not about me. It’s not about them, either, not even the girls I chose for solo work. It’s all about the Lord.

He has been so merciful and faithful to chase after me and draw me to Him. He has given my dancing back to me when I wanted to run away from it because of painful experiences. He has been so good. I must repeat these things over and over to remind myself this is why I create dance – in gratitude and amazement of God’s goodness and majesty. His faithfulness and immeasurable beauty I see in the consistencies and magnificence of nature, in the sunset, in the stars at night, in the high mountain peaks covered with snow and the massive ocean foaming and whipping with waves, in the human form in graceful dance or powerful movement. I agree with the Psalmist who attempts to proclaim the Lord’s magnificence and our insufficient, futile efforts to impress him. The God of the universe! What do we have to offer him?!

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
   nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
   in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (Psalm 147:10-11)

I was reading one of Joshua Harris’ books recently that I found on the shelf at home, and he was talking about God’s gift of freedom from past sexual sin, or sin of any sort, really, by getting perspective of the cross. It’s relevant to Psalm 147 when trying to understand what it meant to Jesus Christ to die for us, and why he deserves out praise. The Lord over the universe, the part of the Trinity that helped God the Father to design creation and people in his own image, (Colossians 1:17) came not only to live a perfect life among sinners, but to die a sinner’s death as a perfect, blameless man, experiencing all the weight of the sins of all the peoples of the world while in agony on the cross, and being rejected not only by those he loved and was dying for, but by his own father in heaven. That baffles me – to have such great love to lay down your life for people who revile you, while your all-powerful father hides his face from you. Left alone in the world to bear the sins of the world.

“He feels dirty. Human wickedness has starts to crawl upon his spotless being – the living excrement from our souls. The apple of the Father’s eye turns brown with rot. His father!

He must face his father like this!

From heaven the father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross.” (When Boy Meets Girl. Harris, J. p. 177)

The story doesn’t end there though. Christ conquered death: he died and was buried, rose on the third day and ascended into heaven,  to the glory of his Father in heaven. The Father was well-pleased with his Son’s sacrifice, and considers his son’s sacrifice rather than our sins. He is in heaven sitting at the right hand of God the Father ruling over the earth. At the throne of his heavenly father he makes intercession for us. (Isaiah 53:12) That is cause to praise him!

Psalm 147b talks about the God’s might and power as reasons we should extol him; it says the Lord delights in those who fear his name. (vs. 11) Our hope is in his steadfast love – that has saved us. We cannot gain his favor or approval – it is already paid for, done and approved. The Psalmist urges Zion to “extol the Lord” and praise God Jerusalem.”(vs. 12) He goes on to talk about how he strengthens the fortress (gates) of the city, and blesses your children within you (vs. 13) He grants us peace and “satisfies us with the finest of wheat.”(vs. 14) His Word commands the universe. He speaks his word and the ice melts. He keeps all his promises.

Christ boldly endured the cross. We can boldly praise him. That is why I felt the need to express boldness and confidence in the movement for this Psalm, not  interpretive dance. While Latin dances are typically associated with being macho or flirtatious, I think adding a little of the flamenco style movement accentuated the piece because of its boldness and power. The music also had Latin/Spanish guitar influence, and I let the music inspire the movement. I seldom pull movement out of thin air – the music becomes the blood in my veins that create the dance. For so long I stifled it because I wanted to pursue my dream, not God’s dream for me. I will not let regret and frustration rule me. I look forward to the ways God is shaping and changing me. In His goodness He is showing me that I please Him with my gift even when it is not me performing. I am doubly blessed, to transfer this gift to so many wonderful young girls and multiply the praises to God in their worshipful bodies and hearts.

Thank you to Wendy Miner and the Performers for allowing me this opportunity. I am looking forward to our next creation!

Scroll to 9:35 for the last run-through of the dance.

Looking forward to working with the girls again to clean it up and see it performed in its finished product next spring!

P.S. They’ll be wearing all black or a dark shade flamenco-type skirts for the performance.

Fundraising Gala, Flamenco, Future Prospects

Our annual fundraiser was on April 30, and this was the first time I was involved in putting it on- more than I ever intended to be. The first USC Dance gala I experienced was when the program was 3 years old, in 2008 when I performed as a guest shortly after leaving Columbia City Ballet – we had the third annual fund-raising gala on the Koger Center stage after the NYCB performance. The next year, 2009, I was actually enrolled in the university, and the gala and performance were in celebration of opening a new building, a huge accomplishment for the program and Susan Anderson.  In 2010 I missed the gala and the NYCB performance because I was studying abroad, which was well-worth it.  I had become tired of the program and frustrated by my seemingly futile persistence to keep dancing in college.  This year I was ready to be back in the throng of things, yet was not expecting to be one of the organizers of the whole shebang – my work study job in dance department director’s office had already proved to be a far bigger job than the title entailed.

Nonetheless, I was glad to have work. I will refrain from all the details, but putting on a gala to impress and draw wealthy donors is one hell-of- a-lot of work! And exhausting! It would have helped if we were a bit more organized… After seeing all the background, I really learned to appreciate all that Susan has done for the program. In the end, Come Dance With US(C) turned out better than I expected, and we raised a lot of scholarship money for the department.

Unfortunately working at the Dance Department does not necessarily equal dancing more, although I am always “present” and in their view. But that is no one’s fault but my own either…I just can’t do everything! I still would rather be dancing than working in the office…but I have to pay the rent somehow, and at least I am surrounded by it all… I take that back. I’d rather not be surrounded by it all. Detachment from all the drama and stress surrounding the dance world has always been my safe haven. Thaddeus told me in evaluations I distance myself too much from the other dancers and need be more a part of the “group”  – although that context is in technique class, where I try to escape from the monotony of the day. It’s nice to have something familiar I can return to and ground myself in, and take ballet or modern class with respected staff while getting my degree – I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that after I graduate.  I need to not force myself into a desk job or something I think would be a “good decision” after college, because I will hate it if I cannot be dancing. Again, I would rather be dancing…

The best part of the night was the flamenco dancers, Jose de Guadalupe and Rina Menosky. Jose has formed his own flamenco dance performing company, Flamenco Arts, consisting of himself and his partner. His pianist, Richard A. Smith, came with them from Greenville, SC.  As part of my job with Susan, I was responsible for getting many of the guest performers and musicians to come, and I was already excited about seeing real flamenco dancers after my research project on Flamenco dance.

I stood gripping poor Lauren’s arm during their performance.  Both of them were stunning, captivating, fierce, sexy, thrilling, shocking, seductive and powerful artists on that stage.  Their performance fueled the fire in me to learn this newly discovered dance passion. I regret not learning flamenco from my ballet instructors and contacts in Albuquerque growing up, but it’s never to late. And if  I want to find a new challenge in a dance form other than ballet for the future of my dancing life, flamenco holds that challenge.

I have been rolling this over in my head for a few weeks now, and from both the project on flamenco in Dr. Parrish’s class, to watching and talking to Jose and Rina, to my research into Spanish guitar and interviews with guitar professor Christopher Berg, my visit to Spain, background in New Mexican culture, and inclination to use my analytical skills in combination with writing and the physicality of movement, I have decided to gear my Fulbright proposal for grad school in Dance Anthropology. At University Roehampton London in the UK, I could study Flamenco and Spanish cultural dance specifically, as just one branch of my degree. I find various cultures fascinating, but mostly what role dance plays in that. I would love find a job that allows me to dig up culturally rich dance forms, learn to dance it, master to the art form, travel, and write about dance in my adventures. I think I am slowly coming closer to my ideal job… all hypothetical. I wonder who I could find to pay me to write a dancing version of the Lonely Planet? When you see it on bookshelves (or in Kindle websites or whatever) you better believe it was me!

Psalms Project Beginnings

The last few weeks have between ruthlessly busy, but I manage to spend my spare moments (or nights up late) finding music to the Psalms. God has once again immensely blessed me in this process (and the other big “g”, Google has helped a lot too!).  Last blog post I talked about the Sons of Korah, whose song Psalm 117 I have decided to use for my piece for the USC Dance student choreography showcase next month.

Recently I discovered the Band Trinity from the Netherlands, whose music is an eclectic mix of new world and old world feel, with Latin American influence since three of the four band members grew up in Peru before returning to their homeland. They have trained in Celtic music as well, specifically Irish, and play numerous different sorts of whistles, flutes, and other instruments I will not attempt to list, but am impressed by nonetheless.  They sing in Spanish, English, as well as Dutch.  Similar to the Sons of Korah in their world music tone and passion to worship God in their cultures, I can more closely ally with Trinity because they are close to my age.  I know it sounds silly to say that, but I have been in contact with one of the band members who was exceedingly generous with me sending me back the information I asked for in a  timely manner over email.  Their songs are due to be out on iTunes in April 2011.  In the meantime, he sent me two of their MP3s – I was ecstatic!  Another link I discovered between my now two new favorite bands, he told me, was that Trinity has covered the Sons of Korah in a tour throughout the Netherlands!  What a small world, to use a cliche phrase, and a wonderful world enabled by internet and social networking -these things wouldn’t have been possible back in the Gilded Age…

A third group I recently discovered, The Psalms Project, has taken up the commission to “dress historical treasures in 21st century sounds,”as their website states.  Psalters set to Genevian melodies from the 16th century tunes in the Genevan Psalter of 1562, produced under the leadership of John Calvin, already exist in many other languages, but they needed recreating in English, and in modern voice. This group of professional musicians, under the guidance of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, have contributed to the making the Psalms Unplugged which is now available to order off their website (I should be paid to advertise).

I am really excited about all these developments, and am ready to get in the studio!  Must make more time to do that this week, because my audition for dancers is this Thursday for Psalm 117!

My next step is to research Latin dance moves that be incorporated into my piece.  I regret not having learned Flamenco  from my dance  instructors in New Mexico while I was growing up.  While in Spain last spring, the most powerful dance experience I have had watching dancer perform happened late one night in the streets of Barcelona where a man captivated a large audience of passers-by with his intense, hot and sweaty Flamenco dance to the beats of a drum his comrade made come from a simple box.  This dance I am creating can also be a tribute to my Spanish ballet teacher and master Luis Fuentes who taught me from ages 11 to 14 in Albuquerque, and then private lessons while I was at Boston Ballet School in 2005.  In addition to Flamenco, I am also drawing on sign and ‘worship arts’  but I am determined that my dances will not in any way be liturgical, but my personal excellence.