So for Solo/Solo, each of us are writing down a solo for someone else to perform. Here's the catch: it had to be composed of pieces of published books, articles, interviews, or reviews. A bit of a collage project, but we were taking everything and arranging it to use as a template for someone to create a dance from.
Below is what Barbara has written for her long-distance dance partner Eliza. Imagine what you think it might look like. If you like, try it out and send it to us. Or just give me some thoughts. I'll pass them on to the dancer and they might end up on stage!
This is a book review by Kathleen Norris for the New York Times about the book “My Bright Abyss” by Christian Wiman, converted into a dance review. Parts have been changed, rearranged, and eliminated.
[This dance] mounts a welcome, insightful and bracing assault on both the complacent pieties of many Christians and the thoughtless bigotry of intellectuals who regard Christian faith as suitable only for idiots or fools. It poses faith as a movement experiment – with novelty and depth.
Wiman has endured dull sermons from liberal pastors who seem embarrassed to mention Jesus, and he has heard from secular fundamentalists who attempt to dismiss his faith with facile reference to psychology. He comments: “To admit that there may be some psychological need informing your return to faith does not preclude or diminish the spiritual imperative, any more than acknowledging the chemical aspects of sexual attraction lessens the mystery of enduring human love.”
Like many artists, after shedding his early religious faith, he transferred “that entire searching intensity” into his work. But eventually Wiman sensed that all those hours of reading, thinking [moving], and writing were leading him back into faith. He began to feel that “human imagination is not simply our means of reaching out to God but God’s means of manifesting himself to us...”
“...because I can feel God only through physical existence, can feel his love only in the love of other people.” His love for his wife and children, he realizes, is both human and entirely sacred. And here the poet comes to the fore, insisting on the right to embrace contradiction without shame. “I believe in absolute truth and absolute contingency, at the same time. And I believe that Christ is the seam soldering together these wholes that our half vision — and our entire clock-bound, logic-locked way of life — shapes as polarities.”
Wiman finds that the integrity of a poem, which is “its own code to its own absolute and irreducible clarity,” is similar to that of a God who lives “not outside of reality but in it, of it, though in ways it takes patience and imagination to perceive.” Both require the use of metaphor, “which can flash us past our plodding resistance and habits into strange new truths.” Christ’s repeated use of metaphor and story, Wiman asserts, is an effective way of asking people to “stake their lives on a story, because existence is not a puzzle to be solved but a narrative to be inherited and undergone and transformed person by person.”
And there is the rub, the necessity of a personal commitment to a particular faith, with its own specific language, rituals and traditions. “You can’t really know a religion from the outside,” Wiman writes, and no matter how much you learn about it, it remains “mere information, so long as your own soul is not at risk.”
With so much at risk for him, he takes the plunge. He creates a physical construct for faith, and accepts that the words and symbols of that construct say something true about reality but are also necessarily limited in their scope.
“You can’t spend your whole life questioning whether movement can represent reality,” he writes. “At some point you have to believe that the inadequacies of the moves you use will be transcended by the presence with which you use them.”
This is, above all, a dance experience, and it evokes compassion. “Compassion is someone else’s suffering flaring in your own nerves. “ Compassion and kinesthesia are the same, and they are rooted in faith. It is a testament to the human ability to respond to grace, even at times of great suffering, and to resolve to live and love more fully.