The Word in the Wings

The Word in the Wings  > Season Preview with Melody Mendoza (Part II)

Season Preview with Melody Mendoza (Part II)

By: KAYA WEAVER

Read Part II of my conversation with Artistic Director Melody Mendoza as she describes some unique elements of the Glorify Dance Theatre’s performance lineup for Spring 2024. If you missed it last week, you can read about our upcoming fall shows in Part I.

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Kaya: …That will certainly keep us busy through the fall. Even so, I know you’ve already started thinking about the spring, so let’s talk about Reflecting El Roi.

When you and I had a conversation about Walk this Road back in 2022, you shared about how working on the ballet and extending it from just Easter weekend to include all of Holy Week gave you an opportunity to consider the significance of all seven days leading up to Easter. At this early stage, what is Reflecting El Roi leading you to contemplate about the significance of Lent, the longer season leading up to Holy Week and Easter?

 

Melody: I wanted something that allowed time to pause and reflect, and I like the double-entendre of “reflecting” in the title. It means reflecting on our choices, but also seeing if those choices reflect Christ. 

I’m not someone who grew up paying attention to liturgical seasons, so my main idea when I think of lent is that people give up chocolate or social media. It’s not a bad thing to give something up, but what is it being replaced by?

The rhythm we’re going to take with this show will be a little bit different from most of our shows because we’re going to be adding in also some live drama and music from our Theatrical Productions department that we’re soft-launching in 2024. There will be a beautiful movement phrase followed by a spoken word or dramatic reading of Scripture–something having to do with the movement phrase you just saw. Then there will be music with nothing else happening on stage at that moment because I want the audience to have time to pause and reflect. You can watch the person playing the instrument, but also if you’re a journaler, if you’re a doodler, or if you just want to close your eyes and pray, you’ll have that moment to connect to what you see and let it sink in.

A lot of times we consume media, scrolling through reels one after the next, and we don’t often pause and really let ourselves digest what we saw; we just consume, consume, consume. I want this show that’s being performed during Lent to provide built-in time for people to pause and to reflect and to let it really sink into their hearts. I’m looking forward to personally growing in my understanding of what Lent is truly about and how to live it out in a way that’s going to strengthen my relationship with God.

 

Kaya: Even the discipline of pausing to digest or reflect connects to what we’ve discussed regarding the themes for the fall shows. Contemplative worship services are something I’ve seen a lot for Good Friday, so the format might feel familiar to some in our audience, but you’ll be adding the element of dance. It’ll be something familiar and something new–a great way to go deeper with something important.

This season’s final MainStage performance will take a different tone as Regina’s Journey fits into the fairy tale genre.

 

Melody: And it brings in kids!

 

Kaya: What inspired you to use the genre of fantasy or fairy tale for Regina’s Journey?

 

Melody: I’ll come right to the point and say, God. I had a plan for what I wanted to do in May, and as I was figuring out logistics, it just wasn’t going to work. So I sat in my backyard and said, “Ok God, we need something new!” I started jotting down what turned into a fairy tale. 

If you’re like me, you want to be at the goal and you don’t want to go along the journey. I think, “Let’s just get to the part where we know it all!” I wanted to create a ballet that showed the importance of how we get stronger as we go through life’s journey. 

In this story, Regina is the daughter of the leader of the village, and she’s going to lead soon, so her mother says, “There’s a book of wisdom on the top of the hill, and you need to follow the path to get to it, and then you’ll get everything you need to become a good leader.” Regina goes over the river, into the woods, and up the hill, and she meets the forest gremlin on the way who tries to distract her. 

It has a lot of fun elements that are not particularly realistic; most of us probably aren’t going to have little frogs teach us how to cross a river, but we are going to have to do things like study for tests, and being able to make the disciplined choice to study will help you get to a better place in life. This story is definitely more light-hearted than the rest of the season, but it has a message of pushing through when things get hard, and not just pushing through by our own power but following the wisdom we have in the Bible. When we’re making those life choices, are we staying true to what God says?

 

Kaya: The theme of choosing God’s wisdom over our own “wisdom” is huge throughout Scripture. When you first described the story to me, I immediately thought of Proverbs with the narrator warning the reader not to let sinners lead them astray from following the path of wisdom. Is there a particular significance to you of Proverbs or other Scripture about wisdom that connects to your heart behind this show?

 

Melody: I would say it’s that theme that’s throughout the Bible, when people are following God and they’re making good choices, versus “No, the giants are too big! We’re not going to go into the land.”

 

Kaya: You mentioned that you’re bringing in some younger performers for this show. Can you share anything about what part they will play?

 

Melody: When I was praying about doing this show, I kept seeing moments where I thought, “I really want to have kids in this production.” I really want to have a Preparatory Company, which we’ve done in the past, with those aspiring ballet dancers that are a lot younger than our professional company. The students will be ages 6 to 12 years old.

The first scene opens in the village where we meet the Prep Company as villagers and learn that this is where Regina’s from and these are her friends. We see them having fun and loving where they’re living.  As Regina goes on her journey, a different group of Prep Company dancers will be the little frogs that help her navigate the river.  Later, she encounters the forest gremlin who tries to capture her, so there’s a bunch of tension and and drama. Regina tries to come up with an escape, and the Prep Company will also play bats who are involved there. 

The students are there to give the story more energy and life in a way that only kids can! You can look at our Prep Company page for all the audition information.

 

Kaya: It sounds like the Prep Company dancers will get action-packed, high-energy roles to move the story along. Also, as the young dancers portray the villagers at the beginning, how they love where they live and how happy and peaceful the village sounds, it seems like part of what motivates Regina and her mother to rule wisely is something like the garden of Eden, or the kingdom of God, that is characterized by peace and joy.

I love that you and I can have conversations like this even before the choreography is set that offer a window into your choreographic, storytelling mind to show how dance and performance work for you as a medium for delving into important concepts in the life of Christian faith. 

I’m also looking forward to inviting our audience into this conversation through our two Dance & Dialogue shows this season, where they’ll get to see some dances performed as well as contribute to the conversation about how it works theologically for them. Let’s talk a little about this season’s Dance & Dialogue themes before we wrap up our conversation.

 

Melody: These events foster so much unique conversation because we’re hearing things from multiple viewpoints about how people connect to each dance, and we get to see people who are not familiar with dance learn how to appreciate it a little bit more. This year we’re going to dive into two themes: creativity and interpretation. 

In October, we’re looking at God as Creator. If you look at the world around you, it’s so creatively designed. There’s so much uniqueness, and there’s beauty throughout the entire world. If we’re created in God’s image and God put us on the earth and said, “Take care of it,” that definitely involves creativity. With each piece that we present, I’ll share about the creativity that I put into the pieces–what motivates me, where I find inspiration–and then, Kaya, you’re talking about God as Creator and how that connects to the dances.

In February, we’re focusing on interpretation. Some dances have a very clear-cut story, but other dances you look at and say, “What did I just see??” We want to dive into questions of how we interpret movement, especially through the lens of faith. You can even apply this to secular performances. At our company everything is very rooted in Scripture, but you could go to see a studio recital and learn to interpret those dances in a way that can connect to faith and inspire you. 

At this Dance & Dialogue we’ll share some of the intended interpretation of certain pieces, but then we also are really looking forward to the conversation where audience members will be able to share their own interpretation. The thing that I love about dance is that most of the time there’s no wrong interpretation. Often times there are things that are obvious, so if you interpret it differently I might wonder, “How did you get that?” But the conversation never goes to, “That was wrong; get out!” It starts a dialogue: What movement did you see that made you have that feeling? That’s the beauty of art, that God is able to speak through it to each person individually.

Those shows only have 25 seats to keep it small so we can have those intimate conversations, so I would encourage people to get their tickets on the sooner side, and tickets are available now for October and February.

 

Kaya: I’m hearing a connection between the two themes of creativity and interpretation. If we’re approaching all humanly created things through the lens that God as Creator has a role in what we’re creating and how we’re creating, then we can look at the things that people create, whether they’re intended to be rooted in Christian faith or not, and ask, “Where do I see God, the ultimate Creator, in this?” and “How does God’s presence in this shape how I interpret it?”

This is going to be a fun season!

 

Melody: Invite your friends! Bring your Bible study group, bring your kid’s second-grade class…we want this art to inspire you, and in order for us to do that, you have to come! We look forward to seeing you, and please tell your family and friends. Let’s connect to God this year by making some beautiful art!

 

Kaya: Yes, let’s!

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Scripture quotations in this post are from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition.

Mark your calendars and book your tickets (pricing is pay-what-you-will) for Dance & Dialogue or the Mixed Repertoire performance. I hope to see you there!

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Glorify Dance Theatre Presents

May 3-4

This is a family-friendly ballet that kids of ALL ages will enjoy!