Corroborations and Collaborations

From the Networks cyberforum:

“Like the choreography of a beautiful dance, the different ministries of God’s dance partners in the church are working together to bring God’s plan to fruition. God wants to dance with us.” (Brian Johnson – ‘Come Dance with Me’)

I think of myself as a dancer. I only began to dance in 1975, and only spontaneous, Spirit-led stuff, often to the Psalms album by the band ’11:59′.

Then in 1976 I went to the States and Canada for a few weeks with YWAM – for a combination of Montreal Olympics outreach, and witnessing at US bi-centennial events in Philadelphia and Boston. As part of that I received my first 3 repeatable choreographies: “I will sing, I will sing [a song unto the Lord]”, “Father, I adore You” and “We have come into this house”.

The first one I got in the open air in Philadelphia whilst teaching the song, and spontaneously dancing it, so everyone followed what I did – not knowing I didn’t know it either. The second I was led to do in a big school in Quebec during worship but couldn’t because a table was in the way. That evening the team from Basingstoke danced exactly what I was led to do, and I realised what I’d been given was a confirmation for their extant choreography. Then in New Ringgold we were introduced to Louis and Dana Montes de Oca, top soloists from a New York ballet company who’d also worked with Martha Graham’s company. They danced “Easter Song” and taught the original “I keep falling in love with Him” dance. It was so beautiful I couldn’t watch them for crying. The back of my hands were like windscreen wipers clearing my eyes.

That day we were waiting to march round the compound to claim/bless it and standing in the light rain while the guitarists decided whether to keep their instruments dry. One of the girls decided we’d do the dance I’d shown them in ‘Philly’ while we were waiting. She began to loudly sing and dance, “I will sing…” so there was no avoiding joining in and leading it. Dana watched open-mouthed as I taught the dance, their choreography move by move, and wanted to know where I’d learned it. In Boston I led “We have come into this house” but with eyes shut Louis and Dana would start spontaneously dancing all my moves untaught. Trained and untrained God used us side by side – though I couldn’t leap high and long enough to attempt “Easter Song” …

My choreography for “Here I stand” was danced by Ant and Clare Grimley at our wedding years later, and I’m constantly wondering what will be danced at my funeral. That’s the last performance here I really care about. I’ll be going to a place where the choreographic possibilities become endless, where grass sings, hills leap and mountains move when you tell them to.

The moments where it all comes together?  I’ve seen a good few of those with ICDF sometimes as collaborations. In St Andrews [2009 ICDF Conference], Nick Breakspear threw Sodapop Jeanville and me into a slow-motion Via Dolorosa and crucifixion with other dancers. Since then I’ve joined Sodapop in Lyon for a danced “Stations of the Cross” and I have just been on Iona with Nick Breakspear as the steps of our life moved into a bigger pattern that Someone bigger than any of us is choreographing.

Does any of this make sense?

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Baggage in the word “ministry”

My negatives now are about the baggage that the word ‘ministryhas picked up. There’s so muchneed toand self-promotion, the notion that a ministry is a special rather than anordinary‘ person. The words [and example] of Jesus that ‘I am among you as one who serves‘ are a million miles away from what the NOTION of
ministry has become. ( I’m talking church etc, not dance ).

I wonder if that opposite spirit of enabling, availability is something we can emulate. The dance-world, like the term Ministry, is too often aboutLook at me’, stoney faced or a fixed smileand quietly cut-throat. Those are not our experience in ICDF, don’t misunderstand me, but exhausting things we can come into contact with in church circles or in the world of dance, and performance.

Hard to keep our integrity. Hard to stay eager, child-like and open. ‘I am among you as one who serves AND the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.’

Andy

Salt and Light – owning the space

Too often with Christians the tendency is to try to turn every situation into a light and darkness confrontation, an ‘us’ and ‘them’, when people are more warm and receptive if we come in alongside them, celebrating our common ground, shared values and delivering dance that has vitality, tenderness and integrity – sometimes it’s good if it doesn’t take itself too seriously, either! That way we’re being salt, meeting people where they are at. It’s a whole different strategy and brings out the flavour of what is already there first of all. Yes, we carry what God has entrusted to us, but we are to go with respect and an openness to listen, believing that God is at work visiting people’s lives anyway already so our connecting with them or coinciding with what’s going on at a heart-level becomes part of a spiritual chain-of-events. Sensitivity is our responsibility more than attacking systemic mind-sets!

My experience has been that it’s helpful to use men in dance without any apology or awkwardness. It is not unusual for us to invite participation by local dancers or even willing members of the audience at times. Another dance-piece at Halidon Hill mourning the slaughter there of many Scots in a fateful battle was witnessed by a small crowd and the men present were given opportunity if they wished to instead lie on the battlefield swelling the numbers of the slain, as the dance followed the fortunes of one young man who never returned home from his chance to fight the English. The dance concludes as his boots are being salvaged from his body by a local opportunist with a full sack of spoils…

Back to salt and light. I see no reason why we can’t sometimes include dancers or an interactive audience without being sure they are necessarily ‘believers’. What is the occasion? Is it a funeral? then all of us are mourners. Is it a celebration of birth or marriage? don’t we all want to bring a blessing and join the feast? Is it an injustice that needs protesting? or compassion to be expressed in solidarity? At an AA 12-step program, a shared brokenness is the common denominator, in men’s groups promoting rites of passage our shared manhood is the bonding – yes, we are spiritual beings with a hunger for God, but each is individually respected as responsible to explore that relationship. The immediate issue may be feeding the hungry or learning to be a father or finding alternatives to violence, and everyone’s support and contribution is of immediate value – don’t assume it will always be a Christian constituency.

A performance or workshop can create a tangible change in the atmosphere or spiritual climate or even draw down the presence of God amongst those who are present. Tears, healings, questions, even anger at being involuntarily moved by our dancing is not unusual – especially on the streets. But the finest compliment we had as dancers [again a team of lots of guys and one girl] was at a Young Offenders prison unit where one of the guys paused before leaving to say, “Major respect”. It helped that with ‘He still loves me’ from Beyonce’s ‘Fighting Temptations’, we had accidentally[?] chosen to dance to a song from their favourite film.

This is part of a more general question of what it means to be Christian artists. Do we use dance, music, painting, film or poetry just as a medium for propaganda?   Is a Christian writer one who writes obviously Christian things? or a writer who is a Christian which will inevitably colour how they experience everything and so permeate what they write?  Are we to be propaganda merchants? or artists of integrity, caring and passionate people who may also be Christians?

~ Andy Raine

Without any Apology and Awkwardness – Men in Dance

As men in dance I believe our remit is to be setting people at ease. For other men this will happen naturally if we are ‘blokey’ enough, comfortable in our own skins, and physically present without apology. Our dealings with each other when not dancing should be affirming of each other, with respect, able to speak from the heart and listen deeply – but relaxed and able to enjoy hanging out, too.  Our shared culture should not be ‘churchy’ or constrained – it should have the natural relevance that comes from being embedded in everyday culture.

Any information components in our dance should be clear. Any mimed elements must be ‘sharp-sharp’ or not done at all. But what dance excels at is indirect communication that touches the heart before it reaches the understanding. It has an immediate impartation. We recognize its truth in an inward place. This can be even stronger if we experience it as a participant, not just as someone watching and emotionally engaging from a distance.

‘The Dance of Mahanaim’ has been extraordinary gift as a piece to perform or teach, bringing experiences of encounter and reconciliation at random street-corners, men’s groups, international conferences and special events. It was prepared for use in Jerusalem and round the world, but contact us for a script and music file by e-mail

Men love to show off – with a football, or their cars, or their trademark ‘moves’.  They will want to dance in a way that seems natural, and makes them smile with satisfaction.  It should feel natural once they’ve been shown some moves and mastered them. Simple and strong, with conviction and confidence, they want to own the floor, the space, the ground, to feel earthed, but that anything is possible.
Unless they’ve been straight-jacketed into some religious culture, lots of guys these days are comfortable around dance, at least of some kinds.  One favourite trick of mine is to get guys to talk about men’s dancing. Usually they’re very clear about what they don’t like. I ask them to describe or demonstrate dancing that they would feel good about watching or doing.

 
Everyone has at least one signature dance inside them.
Dance is for everyone – that’s why it’s so powerful.
 
~ Andy Raine

Men in your dance workshop?

I think about teaching – you should behave differently, considerately. If you had kids a lot younger in your class you’d address them as a special case or someone older with physical limitations or folk with training only in ballet or only in break-dance and you were mixing them with an altogether different group.  dance feet 049

Men are different. They may not gel easily with your style or planned class. It doesn’t mean you should scrap everything you’ve planned [ though you might!] but that you should take special care bridging the gaps without making them feel self-conscious. One thing may be to say, without making a big fuss, that if anything you’re trying seems awkward for them or feels out of character they should be aware of it and log how they might change it to complement the rest of what’s happening.

A man will be more comfortable with larger moves than fussy ones, and usually with cooperating with gravity instead of defying it. Modern tends to be more that style inevitably. But the most obvious example would be to direct someone to cross the floor. With zero self-consciousness it would be natural for most men to take one step to every two of a woman’s. Most couples walk that way, and make it where they’re going ok. If a move feels satisfying that tends to be the key.

And most men don’t like to be the only one in a class. They like each other as reference points. At some points everyone will be doing the same moves, just with a different accent. At other times it’s nice to exploit contrast. I get very frustrated if there’s men in a workshop who wouldn’t normally be there, and then they have an unsatisfying experience, or if a performance has them just used as padding instead of having any interesting contribution to the whole.

~ Andy Raine “Men in Dance” Network Coordinator

Not men moving like women or constantly dressed up as Jesus…

My passion is to see men’s dance as something earthy, real, inhabited and distinctive, [ ‘the molpai reborn’] and not men moving like women or constantly dressed up as Jesus, and not stuck in some religious cul-de-sac.  A network is a conversation, [and where possible a hug].

Dance is for everyone.

The point is that a word of encouragement, a connection or sense of solidarity is the spark that kindles another guy’s passion to engage with dance, stick with it or take it further, perhaps

to not

feel

isolated.

Andy Raine

ICDF Network Coordinator “Men in Dance”