Today is our Dance for Congo, Dance for Love performance. And I am so excited and grateful for the veritable village that has gotten us here. And, it has made me think back on how this has all come about.
Back in the fall of 2016, I started my dance year with equal amounts of trepidation and creativity. I was coming off a tough year, one that had felt like both a teaching and creative failure. I made a decision that I was going to hold classes that were a reflection of what I thought dance should be. I was not going to let busy students, with sometimes sketchy
attendance, change what I wanted to do. I was determined to create a new environment for myself and my students. In order to do this, I needed to really strip away my defenses and really show my full self. Not teacher Liz, not dancer Liz, but my full self, quirks (and there are many), and all. It was frightening for me, as I am someone who hides behind a pretty thick armor. But, I chipped away at the facade, and a very interesting thing happened. All my classes were stronger. My young beginners were making huge strides, and the dancing in the more advanced classes - it was incredible. I realIzed that my students were responding to an environment where being themselves was not only appreciated but hoped for. The more I let down my guard, the more creative I became. Classes were fun and energetic.
The year rolled along beautifully.
One day after listening to random music for inspiration, I found an incredible Thomas Tallis recording of Third Mode Melody. Tallis was the composer for the house of Tudor; no easy
task given different religious affiliations and harsh punishments for non compliance. Add to that the basic hard times of the Middle Ages, and it’s amazing any music got written. This recording is unusual because it is played on a medieval cello created by the musician. This was the kind of obsessive, attention to detail nuttiness I could get behind; it seemed to be the work of a soulmate. I listened to that track over and over again, and movement came to me quickly, almost fully formed. I couldn’t wait to get into the studio, and put it on the bodies of my students, I couldn’t wait to see the dance, not just feel it. It was as beautiful as I imagined, and I believe that moment was the seed of MDC. It was the first time in a very long time that inspiration flowed easily. That version of Tallis had eight dancers, in today’s show we will have three. It has also been a duet, it may be a solo someday, or a big group piece again. The piece stands up strongly because it came truly from heart.
Today, Tallis will start our performance. The first notes of the cello are beautiful, simple; somehow holy. The piece ebbs and flows gently into a first ending. And then, the power and strength of the second movement; low chords, calling for strong deep in the legs movement. In the music I feel the struggle of the Middle Ages: political turmoil, power struggles and corruption. As I created, I felt how little the human story and nature of power had changed. Our world is not so different than those times. We have conveniences and technology that make everyday life easier, but the imbalance of power and opportunity are still as cruel as ever. And like those in medieval times, we are all seeking greater meaning. Again, and again, I find this meaning in my connection with others. I feel it especially with my dancers, who take my ideas, flights of fancy, odd metaphors, and bring them to life.
We are all connected; we are all the same combination of cells and energy.
On an absolute level we are all identical, but our circumstances can be vastly different. So MDC dances to help, in a small way, ease the disparity of our situations. And, I hope to celebrate the absolute power of our connections. I believe this is the power of Tallis, his music proclaims, like joined breath, our humanity.
So I will always start our performances with this piece, no matter how many are dancing. It brings me great joy to know that my company, dancing my choreography, are dancing for such a beautiful cause. We can’t change the fact that our lives are easier for having been born where we are; but we can avoid complacency. We can stop thinking in terms of us and them, and believe in the power of connection. We can give others the gift of our true selves, and hope for the same in return. Everyone of us has gifts to share, and I hope that our work today encourages everyone to let their light shine freely. One light at a time we can change the world.