Expressions of Vital
Dance collaborative : REVIEWS
D.E.V.A “ The Sacred Union Within”
“Don’t hesitate, just move. The energy shouldn’t be left up here,” gestures Hazel Aura G., pointing to what would be the back of the stage. “It should be spread everywhere” responds Deb Sawyer. From the top. The big, empty church auditorium fills with slow, jazzy, gypsy music and seven women take their positions, each one jerking in their own sharp, staccato movements, limbs poking out in all directions. A collage of colors, shapes and sizes, their flowing skirts and floating shawls finally synchronize in the running, swaggering, collapsing and aligning of interpretative dance expression.
On Sunday, May 11 the dance collaborative DEVA (Divine Expressions of Vital Alchemy) will perform “The Sacred Union Within,” a spiritual interpretation of Beltane, or May Day, at the Lake Street Church in Evanston. The seven women rehearsing for the upcoming show, under the guidance of DEVA facilitators Hazel G. and D.Sawyer, have been practicing for the last four weeks and are in dress rehearsal stage. “We like to think of ourselves as being a channel for divine energy,” explained Aura G. “We then welcome the audience to be witnesses and start to feel the resonance of that energy themselves.”
The energy Aura G. is referring to for this particular time of year is the height of spring and the “flowering of life.” In DEVA’s interpretive dances the main objective is for the group to communicate both individually and together the ideas that they feel reflect the season. “We are bringing forth the idea of spirit in the body,” explained amateur dancer, priestess and poet, Rowan Roche, in a group discussion about what DEVA is trying to express with their unconventional dance moves. In her large, lime-green dress and homemade ivy crown Roche plays the main role as the maypole in the final climactic scene with the others skipping gleefully around her. “For me it helps because sometimes it has been really hard physically, that’s one of the areas that is a challenge for me,” Roche said. Whether coming together to move, to express themselves spiritually or to just bond as women, DEVA is a reflection of community. Aside from Sawyer, who has been a dancer and is currently teaching ballet, none of the women have professional dance experience. And although a good part of their practice sessions are spent trying to hammer out choreography, these women are not here to achieve a high art form. They are attempting to communicate with the congregation in a way a sermon cannot. “What we have on Sundays is a certain kind of container,” explained Lake Street Church’s Reverend Robert V. Thompson. “When DEVA dances, the container is filled with something different.” That something different is indicative of Lake Street Church’s liberal approach to religion and spirituality. A progressive Baptist community church, the congregation welcomes all “spiritual seekers, regardless of racial, sexual or religious orientation,” with an emphasis on interfaith relations and acceptance. “We are a Christian church that says that you don’t have to be Christian to be a member,” said Thompson, explaining that DEVA is merely an extension of that notion. “When human beings gather in whatever form to celebrate the mystery that is life, it’s really an artistic expression. We’re giving expression to something that cannot be contrived or defined. It’s all symbolic.”
In the spirit of multiculturalism Hazel G. generally begins each DEVA process with a guided meditation on how different cultures celebrate seasonal transitions. Based on the ideas that emerge, music is selected, and the movement begins. “It’s amazing how when you tune yourself into a certain energy you become in touch with a non-physical level and you bring it into the physical level when you move. It’s almost sub-conscience,” Hazel G. said. Each of the women brings something different to the table. All in their 30s and 40s, the seven are a combination of mothers and wives, church members and non-members. Whether it is DEVA dancer Stacey Taheny, whose daughter waits while playing off to the side, or Catherine Willows taking a cell phone call in regards to her hectic home life, when the music begins, they are all focused, together, on the same thing: spiritual expression, both personal and collective.The Sacred Union Within” will be DEVA’s third performance. In November they danced “The Day of the Dead,” and in February “The Quickening,” and although this performance is made up solely of women, DEVA has incorporated men and children in their previous performances. Without male constituencies to represent May Day’s symbolic unity of man and woman, the DEVA women are faced with the challenge of representing that unity within themselves. The result is a combination of very linear, masculine movements with contrasting feminine fluidity and a group of women having a whole lot of fun independent of their profound belief in what they are doing.
From the middle. They line up in can-can form. Big, small, round, straight. Orange, pink, purple, blue skirts. Ivy crowns straight, some crooked. Black Reeboks, barefoot, socks, clogs. Anxious all-round. The music is subtly suspenseful. A consecutive toe point, turn and shoulder roll. Then a simultaneously bend at the waist. They plop down onto each other’s backs. Not so synchronized. Seven women burst out laughing.
Hazel Aura G., DEVA facilitator, (773) 549-3026
Deb Sawyer, DEVA facilitator, (847) 328-2147
Reverend Robert V. Thompson, Lake Street Church, (847) 308-8785
Rowan Roche (Linda Pontarelli), DEVA participant, (708) 867-6192
Other DEVA participants:
Catherine Willows, Nancy Graham-Betend, Stacy Taheny, Diane Yoder
"The Sacred Union Within"
"On the stage at the oldest public building in Evanston
was a performance that
was as old as the ages and as new as a brand new baby opening his/her eyes
for the first time, witnessing the spring. Hands and legs playfully snuck out
their hiding place- creating an atmosphere of wonder and childlike mystery.
The goddess energy began to fill the room with beauty, and the possibility of now.
They danced and radiated a joy of the performance that
possible critical commentary. This was a moment in time , claimed by the intention
and desire of the beautiful dancers, that becomes a place where spirit and art
caress each other - that is, it speaks to the experience of living by an action that rises above itself and into the consciousness of the dancers and the viewers-
and they became one and the same, thru the connectedness and especially
thru Hazel's expression of ecstasy. "
- Michael Burnbam (Wolfy) LSC member
Entering the Void, the Vast and Holy Dark....Hungry, hopeful in this Journey Of Deva....Her Journey, My Journey, Our Journey....
I am She as you are She as WE are SHE and we are all together...
Eyes Wise Open.....Surrenderring to the Fall...Trust. Delicious Delirious Drowning in Her Sacred Well. In the Exstasis...the Anastasis....
the Ressurection.....of She Who Will Rise Again. Tool belt at the ready. Adorned in Crown, Lapiz, Breast Plate, Golden Ring, Sceptor and Robe......I am....Kisser of the Phallus