Analysis of Group Piece 1: Living in His Love
(Choreographed by Cameron Cunningham Coryell) by Emily Predovich
The dancers start out standing in the same position with their backs to the audience, the absence of their faces representing the void which existed before Creation (Genesis 1:2). Just as God did not make everything simultaneously, neither do the dancers turn around (reveal themselves) all at once. One group at a time, they rotate clockwise half a turn to show the world whose image they are created in as well as to demonstrate their relation to time. As the movement begins, their relation to space is explored. With a roll of the shoulder, one foot is picked up and placed over the other, just as Jesus crossed our paths. One by one, the dancers’ arms extend outward as His were when they were nailed to the cross. Like a pendulum, the right arm releases to hit the left almost into what would be defined in ballet terms as First Position. For, the moment Jesus paid the price for our sins, His followers took their first steps as eternal beings (John 3:16). Placing their feet in passé, the dancers find themselves in an upright position, because their Savior rose from the dead (Mark 16:6).
With an extension of the leg, lengthened and held to represent newfound strength, the feet step up to Fourth Position (releve). With their arms raised up toward heaven, the dancers flick their wrists and fingers in towards their up-turned faces. To the audience, this may appear symbolic of baptism (1 Peter 3:21). From there, the right arms rotate as the left legs raise into an arabesque, giving the dancers an appearance of toys being wound up to carry out a specific function (Romans 12:4-8). From there, they collapse into their hands on the ground for an inversion because, for an instant, the dancers fell under the allusion they could do this on their own. However, the ground represents the humble understanding that God is the only source of strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and, when pushing against that for support, they find themselves back on their feet.
Yet, as the Israelites failed to remember who parted the Red Sea when they found themselves lost in the wilderness, these living instruments of the Lord’s dance forget who sustains them again (Exodus 32:7-8). This time, however, the lie that caused each dancer to place confidence in him/herself before now creates a frightful sense of self-doubt, initiating a movement of the left arm reaching out to the side. Finally, muscle memory kicks into the other arm and, as it reaches up, the dancers remember where God is (above them). With that, they exit the stage, acknowledging it as a temporary home of earth and flesh, not theirs to own eternally (2 Corinthians 4:18). Along with the dancers, practitioners of parkour clear the stage with a series of flips, in joyful anticipation of what is to come. Left to themselves, two alone remain: one male and one female as they were created in the Beginning. The traceur (masculine definition of a practitioner of parkour) lifts the female dancer into an arabesque as God lifted one of his ribs to create her (Genesis 2:21). Flipping her in his hands and placing her down in the splits, the traceur demonstrates how God turned the concept of wholeness upside down by splitting off a piece of man in order to complete him with the need for a companion (Genesis 2:22). Picking her up once more in passé position, he lets her go to join the onslaught of running dancers appearing back on stage in obedience to the command: “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). As an act of surrender, the dancers tuck their left feet in a passe parallel to their arms extended forward. It is their way of showing God a desire to align their wills with His. Latching the left hand onto the waist and the right hand to the back of the head, they adjust their alignment to perfect ballet technique, facing the audience with a turned out passé. This is meant to demonstrate how God’s guidance has straightened out our crooked ways (Proverbs 3:6). Instead of falling to the ground this time, they collapse from this position in the form of a controlled descent, willingly establishing contact with the foundation of their souls in plank position (1 Corinthians 3:11).
Relishing this moment of common ground, the dancers lie peacefully upon the floor, allowing the parkour practitioners to throw themselves in the air over them, as an act of trust in the protection of the One to Whom they’ve given their lives (Isaiah 28:16). Sitting up in once piece, the dancers turn back to face the audience, proving to them that their trust in the Lord has not been in vain (Jeremiah 39:18). Instead of standing up right away, however, they lie back down, because trusting in the Lord requires patience (Lamentations 3:26). The dancer farthest stage right arises first, her time having come. She represents those who are called to a life of singleness, who live to testify that God alone is our portion (Lamentations 3:24). Following her solo, three dancers stage left of her start up a trio, representing the gift of fellowship God blesses amongst His people (Mathew 2:18). Finally, the two dancers farthest stage left take their turn to demonstrate the gift of friendship, after which the singles, disciples, and friends unite their movements as brothers and sisters of Christ.
Now that they understand who they are in Christ, the dancers are ready to teach the audience. Four of them assume the role of the world, standing by its standards in the same position (a lunge) while the remaining two dancers assume the role of Christians by defying those standards and continuing to dance in the unique way God designed them. This creates a visual of the verse: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 2:12). Casting the role of hypocrites aside, the dancers and parkour practitioners join one another in two lines as preparation for living the Word, not just preaching it. Meeting in the middle, they proceed to march forward as the body of Christ marching into battle. Together, men and woman, Jew and Gentile, raise themselves up onto their toes and fall back onto their heels. For although they have been called to set their minds on heavenly matters (Colossians 3:2), they still serve a purpose down to earth. Suddenly, the group of forgiven sinners turns their heads to the left, accommodating a momentary distraction. However, with a force of will and a roll of the head, the body of believers pulls their gaze back up to God who restores it ahead (out toward the audience).
The first order of business is to lift one another up (Thessalonians 5:11). The person farthest stage left is, therefore, raised into the air and passed through the hands of each individual. Unless all do their parts, she will fall. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). In other words, the spiritual health of the whole body is dependent upon the independent well being of each member.
All exit the stage with the exception of two dancers, who execute a flip at the same exact moment followed by three parkour practitioners performing a series of tricks to the beat of their own timing. This represents the differences of theology that categorize disciples of Christ into various denominations. Each takes with them a piece of the puzzle, but when the dancers are drawn back together into a clump by God’s greatest commandment to love Him and our neighbor, each dancer takes their turn to contribute a movement until they are once again united in an expression of Truth. Only then do the parkour practitioners reenter the stage because they now recognize the Gospel message and, kneeling before it, all bow their heads in humble obedience. This act of submission to Scripture initiates a deep breath exhaled in unison, for the word of God is “alive” and, as demonstrated by a shoulder role, a head look, and two side extensions is also “active”- Hebrews 4:12. To conclude their Bible Study, the men lift one of their own up in prayer and flip him upside down because, as C.S Lewis claimed, prayer doesn’t change God; it changes us. From there, three parkour practitioners join two dancers at the back of the stage. Out of that group, the male performers (who represent teachers) lift and hold the female performers (who represent students) into an arabesque. Altogether, they represent servants of God working behind the scenes while three other dancers (who represent missionaries) come out in front of them toward the center and proceed to execute an expression of Jesus’s love in the front lines. The trio of missionaries conclude their portion of the choreography by jumping into an attitude position while parting an invisible sea with their arms, demonstrating God’s ability to make a way in the wilderness (Isaiah 43:19). Now that they have paved the way, others from the background join them. To complete the same verse in which God says, “Behold, I am doing something new,” the dancers all move to different spots. All accept one squat to the ground reaching their arms out in front of them as if about to pick up a large rock with which to build God’s kingdom.
In the midst of their movements, one dancer remains standing in a pose. She represents Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” Like a lighthouse, she lightens the load on the other dancers’ hearts with the remembrance of God’s gift of peace in the midst of adversity and affliction.
Having completed the construction of another church, the dancers fall into a spin on the ground and pose for a moment to honor the Sabbath because, to them, a seventh day rest is a blessing not a burden(Mark 2:27). To prove this point, two dancers stage left spring up into an inversion with almost the same energy as the lame man whom Jesus told on the Sabbath to pick up his mat and walk (John 5:8). The other two dancers who have not yet matured in their faith roll onto their stomachs, extending their right legs up as a signal for help. Two parkour practitioners respond to this call by dragging the faith of their sisters in Christ back up by the foot. Seeing that they have succeeded in strengthening two dancers into an upright position, the parkour practitioners flip in joyful satisfaction because no victory in Christ is too small to celebrate. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent”- Luke 15:7. The two dancers with stronger faith along with the one who has previously taken on the role of a lighthouse fall to the ground on their way back to the stage. No longer righteous in their own eyes, they humbly accept the aid of the parkour practitioners who take them by the hands into a double stag leap. From there, everyone bows their heads and rolls down, acknowledging the only One who has proved Himself worthy of worship. One by one, they take turns raising their hands to Him in praise.
With one last inversion, the Cloud of Witnesses clear the stage, leaving behind three traceurs who represent the Trinity of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) flipping simultaneously to show that they are One (Mathew 28:19). After this, the dancers reappear on stage in a formation composed of three angles. This is to prepare the audience for the three things Jesus claims be which are about to be revealed to them through three movements. First the dancers extend one of their arms in a straight line to show that Jesus is “the way.” Flipping that arm over so the palm is facing up, they show that Jesus is “the light.” Bringing the other arm around and clasping its hand firmly down upon the upturned palm, they show that Jesus is, without a doubt, “the truth.” Extending both arms upward (indicating the Father) the dancers finish out the rest of the verse (John 14:6) by repeating the same movement half time (rotating the arm and clasping the hands) to reiterate the fact that “no man comes to the Father except through me”- Jesus Christ.
Closing their fingers over their palms, the dancers place both fists on their hips as an indication to the audience that their strength has been renewed. Floating their arms up into the shape of wings, they imitate a soaring eagle, alluding to Isaiah 40:31 where God promises the ability to walk without growing weary to those who hope in Him. Reaching their wings out to the parkour practitioners, the dancers invite them to accept who they’ve just explained God is. For, the Lord is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). He loves us too much to steal our hearts the way the Enemy tries to. He gave His own freely to us that we might give ours willingly to Him. In conclusion, the dancers and parkour practitioners surrender themselves together, kneeling on the ground. One traceur lifts one female dancer and suspends her in the air to demonstrate the fidelity of our relationship with God (Exodus 20:3). As C.S Lewis put it in the third book of the Space Trilogy, “He will have you for no one but Himself in the end.” Finally, all these living instruments of God’s love place themselves in a complete tableau. Together they have identified the true audience of this dance. The stillness of their final stance conveys a response to His proposal which can be summed up in the words of Juliet to Romeo: “I will do it without fear or doubt, to live an unstained wife to my sweet love”- William Shakespeare. For the King of souls has proven Himself the Savior of hearts.