The Word in the Wings

The Word in the Wings  > From the studio: Emily, Audrey and Lindsey on dancing in Come Alive

From the studio: Emily, Audrey and Lindsey on dancing in Come Alive

By: KAYA PRASAD

As Glorify Dance Theatre prepares to perform Come Alive, I have spoken with several of the dancers about how they portray their characters in connection with narratives about resurrection from Scripture. Emily, Audrey and Lindsey each share some biblical and personal inspiration for their artistic choices in how they embody the message of resurrection hope in this original ballet.

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Emily’s character, Zoe, goes through a rollercoaster of experiences, emotions, and attitudes toward God over the course of the story. Emily shares some thoughts about how her character develops.

Hello Sunshine feels very carefree. We’re just kids hanging out outside; it’s light. At this point, I’m still enjoying the innocence of pure, childlike faith because I haven’t experienced anything that would make me doubt God.

But then Zoe learns that her mom has died, and she’s angry with God. Prove Me Wrong is genuinely expressive of the tension between the faith I had in a good God and the terrible thing I’ve just experienced. In this moment Zoe is like the widow in 1 Kings 17. She takes Elijah in and God sustains her family with a miracle, but then her son dies anyway because of sickness, and she understandably seems angry at Elijah and God. In Prove Me Wrong, there are moments where I’m almost talking to God, but then I decide to turn away. It’s like God is there, in the back of my mind, but why would I turn to God when he’s hurt me? 

Once I get to college and party with my friends, they’re here for me and they love me. It satisfies me in the moment, but it won’t last. In those moments I’m challenged to show how my character has a mask on to hide her pain. The club scenes should feel empty and fake, like the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 when they come together but there’s no breath in them.

My heart aches for my character because I believe in the end she stays on the path of pursuing her sorority friends and partying. In my own college experience, there was one girl who I witnessed “come alive,” come to the Lord and get baptized, but towards the end of college she walked away. Seeing her choose that path instead of faith was really sad.

Once someone has tasted and seen, if they walk away, maybe they haven’t truly experienced the goodness of God–or they’re suppressing it. That’s something I have to decide for my character. Is she suppressing the truth because she’s mad at God, or has she really not experienced God yet?

Emily Bronkema, Company Artist

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Audrey contrasts the motivations of two of her characters, drawing on the narrative in Mark 5 to describe movement qualities that help convey those different motivations to the audience.

Mark 5 tells a story about a woman with chronic illness. Her day-to-day situation probably feels hopeless; she’s spent all she has but it isn’t enough. Then she comes to Jesus believing that he can do what all the doctors couldn’t. He heals her and tells her to live into her newfound wholeness.

Contrast that with the friends of a father who asks Jesus to heal his dying daughter. They think Jesus is too late–maybe they think this girl was too insignificant to merit Jesus’s attention, so they tell the girl’s father to give up. But Jesus shows how God the Father values his daughters, and he restores both the woman and the girl to life. When we’ve been healed by Jesus, whether physically or spiritually, we get to live it out. That’s part of our testimony: Go and be healed.

When I dance as a student in the psychology club, I feel a heaviness. The movement may be precise, but there’s tension–the anxiety of relying on professors or classmates or achievements to be able to approve of myself. Like the woman spending money on doctors that can’t help her, I spend all my energy to achieve honors and accolades–to perform all my actions precisely and correctly–but by the end of Viva you can see that leaves me empty inside. There’s nothing left to motivate the movement and it becomes inane.

Since the woman was getting worse all these years, I wonder how much of it was just desperation and hopelessness that affected the physical. My mom has chronic illness, and I see that the physical and emotional can create a negative feedback loop. When you do everything you can but nothing gets better, you come to the end of yourself, and that’s when you need other people the most.

Contrast that with the Bible study: there’s a lot of interaction with other people. There’s a dialogue about the hope we have. When Kia joins the group, there’s rejoicing, because we’re looking out for the good of other people. The movement is not done just to be seen; it’s done to express the joy and the hope that we have. I’m going to do my best, but if I can’t be THE best, I’m not going to be shaken because I’m driven by faith that God can do what I can’t do for myself, what no one else can. In terms of movement quality, I wonder, how can we suspend movements, like we’re floating? The movement is easier because we’re not bearing our own burdens; we’ve cast them on Jesus.

Audrey Hammitt, Company Artist

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Lindsey shares a personal story that parallels one message in Come Alive, that it’s important to devote time and energy to activities that replenish us rather than draining us. This involves seeking out God’s presence with intention.

In Come Alive, I dance as one of Zoe’s sorority friends who are looking to be fulfilled through partying and socializing. In real life, I enjoy partying, but I do it with balance. I drink water, then I get out on the floor and dance! But partying is not the only thing I do, and it’s not my ultimate source of joy. I understand that if it leads to addiction of some kind, I would become wasted–physically and spiritually.

Intentions matter: am I going in looking to be filled by drinking and partying? Do I spend my week looking forward to Friday night? No, there are lots of things that fill me: spending time with the fam, going outside to use my hands or play with the dog, and also going out with my friends. I try to do everything with the attitude that church isn’t just on Sunday. I do all these things to their fullest potential, being filled with life from God’s spirit.

Junior year of college, I had just transferred to West Chester and felt so full of life. They had a ballet program with Brandywine Ballet, and I was so excited to start the program. I had all these intentions of sticking to the schedule and doing well. 

But then there was this guy I was seeing, and I liked everything about him, but he didn’t respect my schedule or my goals. He had a rough home life and would ask me to just come over and keep him company, so I would neglect rehearsing and studying, and I started to feel so drained. Instead of balancing, I was getting all wrapped up in him, but even the supposed compassion of fixing his problems wasn’t giving me life.

One performance, after I’d been hanging out with him, I really felt I didn’t perform my best. I became really depressed, because I decided not to see him anymore, and then I didn’t want to do anything anymore. I felt like I’d let him down, though in retrospect I understand that he wasn’t pouring anything good into me. Now I’m more disciplined with ballet class, and I try to balance that with other things–including relationships with people who pour into me.

In Mark 5, the multitudes are touching Jesus, bumping up against him, but nothing significant happens when they touch him. Their interactions are different from the one woman who reaches out with the intention of being healed–with faith. A lot of my movements in these dances as a sorority girl are repetitive. My movements happen over and over again without developing, so they don’t mean much, just like the crowd repetitively bumping up against Jesus without accomplishing anything. When it’s just about being part of the crowd or getting the guy, not about genuine relationships, it isn’t life-giving.

Lindsey Cornish, Company Artist

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Glorify Dance Theatre performs Come Alive on May 20-21, 2022. Get your tickets here!

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