The Word in the Wings

A behind-the-scenes look at how GPA artists are engaging with Scripture, from study to studio to presenting a Spirit-filled message on stage.

When you read “The Word in the Wings,” you’re invited to learn about the deep, biblical roots of our performance and about how GPA artists make connections between the biblical texts we study and the art you’ll see on stage.

 

We hope this opens the door for even deeper dialogue between you and God as the story of Scripture presents itself in new, perhaps unexpected ways through the medium of movement.

Without further ado...

From the study: “Lord, where are you going?”

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad
Jesus and the twelve are reclined at dinner…As they converse, the disciples are trying to understand what Jesus is telling them, but Jesus doesn’t exactly clear things up with simple answers to their questions. Instead, he often returns his own questions, challenging the disciples’ assumptions in order to lead them to deeper understanding of his purpose in departing. Along with repetition of verbs describing “going” and departing, a recurring theme throughout this dialogue is the nature of Jesus’s relationship with God the Father. Jesus uses descriptions of this relationship to help the disciples understand where he is going.

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From the studio: Audrey & Katie on dancing Kumi Ori in Walk This Road

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad
With performances of Walk This Road coming up this Easter, I wanted to talk with a few of the dancers about how they experience the story of Holy Week through this ballet. Join me for a wide-ranging conversation with Audrey Hammitt and Katie Mills-Yatsko where they share about themes of expectation and the tension between light and darkness that give the ballet its emotional shape.

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From the study: tension and peace on Palm Sunday

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad
Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter, begins in the church calendar with the observance of Palm Sunday to remember events narrated in John 12 (as well as Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, and Luke 19:28-44). To set the stage: Jesus’s most recent public act before coming to Jerusalem to observe the Passover festival was raising Lazarus from the grave (John 11). This powerful act had caught the attention of lots of his fellow Jews, some who “believed in him” (John 11:45), and others who saw him as a threat to be eliminated (John 11:53, 57). After laying low for a little while (John 11:54), Jesus joined crowds of others preparing to observe the Passover in the center of Jewish religious life.

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How dance does theology: balancing paradox

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad
Shape is a basic element of dance; every movement involves some arrangement of a dancer’s head, arms, legs and other body parts in relation to each other. Shapes of the body, as with shapes in geometry or visual art, may be symmetrical or asymmetrical. While symmetry conveys balance and stability, asymmetry is often more stimulating to thought and emotion (Humphrey 56). Moreover, an asymmetrical shape of the body must either work to maintain balance or move into a subsequent shape.

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How dance does theology: externalizing impulse to tell a different story

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad
Doris Humphrey states that dance often strips down narrative to a small and particular subject matter (39), making room for abstract expression of affect and idea (57). The primary purpose of dancing is not always to narrate events chronologically. Instead, dance latches onto and exaggerates impulse, the idea that motivates a movement, rather than relating the events that precede and follow. Even so, dance does tell a story. But rather than relate ordered events or replicate literal actions, dance externalizes the development of emotions, relationships and abstract ideas that we often process internally and express through dialogue and relatively reserved social actions.

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From the studio: Melody Stanert on producing Walk This Road

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad

At Easter 2021, Glorify Dance Theatre performed Walk This Road, a contemporary ballet exploring the disciples’ emotional journey through Holy Week with Jesus. Artistic Director Melody Stanert has been working tirelessly to bring this show back to the stage for Easter 2022, so I asked her to talk with me about why this ballet is so compelling and meaningful for the church during this season. Listen in on our conversation–and consider helping us bring this show to life again!

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How dance does theology: in every present time

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad
Like other performance media like theater and music, a work of dance must be experienced over time–not all at once like a painting, and not line by line like a poem, but as a continuous development from one movement through a transition into the next. Since the instrument of dance is the human body, which exists continuously throughout the time of the performance, dance requires intentional expression of the intermediate development between main ideas.

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How dance does theology: bound by ground and breath

The Word in the Wings
By Kaya Prasad
Theologian Ellen Davis and her collaborators at Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet suggest that “dance and the art of living as creatures of God…belong together, for dance is quintessentially creaturely stance, gesture, movement. This is the art form that most emphatically marks humans as earth creatures, our bodies grounded by its gravitational pull, playing within and pushing at its limits” (unpublished manuscript). The nature-bound forces of gravity as well as breath govern the interaction between the elements of body and time in choreography. The relationship between environment as expressed in the shaping of rhythm and phrasing makes palpable in performance our place as members of an interdependent, created system.

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How dance does theology: transforming familiar forms

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad
Celeste Miller, from whom I studied choreography at Grinnell College, defines dance as “movement, aware of itself, practiced with intent.” Doris Humphrey, choreographer and dance educator, agrees that movement in dance is supported by purpose (110). Whether the idea is emotional, narrative, geometrical or kinetic, there is some cause motivating the execution of any given movement, and the details of the execution vary based on the particular nature of that cause (Humphrey, 113). Because dance movements express particular motivations, clear communication in dance depends on specificity of movement. The motivation of dance movement thus drives it away from moderate or generic expression.

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How dance does theology: an introduction

The Word in the Wings
By: Kaya Prasad
Glorify Performing Arts exists to create productions that help artists and audiences grow in relationship with God. Just how does dance accomplish this? Through the month of January 2022, The Word in the Wings will feature articles exploring some distinctive ways in which dance expresses meaning and generates theological understanding. This introductory article describes the function of art in Christian practice more generally to provide a framework for the rest of the series.

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