The Word in the Wings
From the studio: Amber Aufiero on dancing in Walk This Road
By: KAYA PRASAD
Amber Aufiero is a first soloist with Glorify Dance Theatre. For Amber, dance is a powerful medium that forges connection and expresses in ways beyond words. It’s both personal and communal, and dancing allows her to walk the line between vulnerability and security. Amber has graciously shared some of her heartfelt reflections on her expression in movement and her role in Walk This Road.
One dance Amber performs in Walk This Road is Abide with Me. Melody described this dance in rehearsal once by saying that even though it’s a duet with two dancers on stage, it’s really about how each one individually relates to God and processes what’s happening to Jesus in the days before he is crucified. I’ve asked Amber to narrate a little of her own processing throughout the piece. She says,
Although I am still thinking about the choreography, I find moments in this piece that connect me to Jesus in a way that feels almost literal. There is a moment where I rise onto pointe and reach my hand up as far as I can and grab for Jesus’s hand. I feel that Jesus does reach for my hand and holds it tightly. I like to feel that relationship during the entire song as I dance, and stepping off the stage I also carry that hand-hold with me.
It is an independent piece to dance, but because I am dancing with another dancer I like to feel that hand-hold between us also, whether that is portrayed through eye contact or a smile. This is the case for this piece because Jesus is holding both of our hands and we are both living different lives.
Amber also dances the solo Via Dolorosa, which may feel like the climax of the story as the song lyrics concretely narrate some events of Good Friday. Amber’s sharp yet supple movement matches the drama of the music. Amber shares about the perspective she engages, the emotions that fill her during this dance, and how that translates to her movement quality:
This is my favorite piece to dance because of the drama. This song pours out the love in my heart for Jesus. I dance this piece as an onlooker. In the beginning I am simply walking towards the audience, and during those steps I imagine myself walking towards the cross. It feels like my eyes can’t even blink at the sight on the cross because it is so intense. I feel hesitation in my steps as I feel a heavy and light heart guiding me yet slowing down my pace.
My favorite part of this piece is when the vocalist sings, “But he chose to walk that road out of his love for you and me.” It feels lighter in that moment as I take a moment to slow down from the buildup of the story and movements. I feel completely vulnerable and personal in that moment and get to place my hands to my heart when she says, “he walked that road out of his love.” And better yet, I get to turn around to the audience, and when she sings the words, “for you,” I get to gesture to the audience, which feels so amazing because it brings us all together. And then when she sings, “and me,” I place my hands to my heart and that is the most touching moment of this entire piece. This is also the moment my heart rate starts to drop, so it’s overall a beautiful moment and feels a little like the calm after the storm. Although I still feel a heaviness, there is a sense of gratefulness and peace and amazement.
At the end of the piece I face the back of the stage where the cross is, and I reach my hands out to shape my body as the cross. I then come out of this position and walk towards the cross, but this time I see it empty. It is very emotional and sheds a tear every time on stage! I am so excited to perform this amazing dance again this year.
Amber also says that Via Dolorosa is the part of the ballet where she feels the deepest sense of connectedness. Not only does she feel personally connected to the Easter story in this dance, but she also senses that everyone witnessing the dance is present together before the cross of Christ, so this moment embodies the truth that the grace worked out there is available to everyone.
Because of the distinctive capacities dance has for personal expression and meaning-making, Amber has been able to relate to the Easter story in deeper ways since dancing Walk This Road. She explains,
For me, telling the story of Easter and Holy Week through dance becomes very personal. Dancing allows me to open my heart fully so I can explore it entirely. When dancing, there is no pressure or planning involved about how to talk about how I feel. Dancing is my language.
Having the experience to dance the journey of Holy Week allows me to explore the depths of the story on different levels than I’m able to when I am not dancing but learning it in a different way. I become completely comfortable in the vulnerability of my own heart. To dissect my heart is to move to it.
I understand myself and my heart very well. Simply putting my experience in words depletes value from my whole heart experience. I am sure you have been told at some point from somebody that they just cannot find the words for how they feel…well, when I run out of words and still feel a passionate drive in my heart for something, as soon as I move my body from those words’ inspiration, I have suddenly found those missing words. They are feelings, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak the extremes of my heart while remaining private in my vulnerable heart. My unspoken words are the motives behind my movement, and to me, those are words.
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