Natalie Rhodes Wilson and Professor Pat Debenham, Dance
Over the course of this year my creative project entitled, “Dance: Expressions of Life,” has evolved from portraying a tragic accident in my life to encompassing a lifetime of internal growth that includes more than the accident itself. The concluding stages of the work are still in progress. The final performance is scheduled to be held in the Richard Building Theatre in December 1997.
Successful and soul-stretching best describe the project as a whole. Although the scheduled time frame was not completely met as outlined, the results from the prolonged process are far superior to the original plan. After beginning work on this project, life began to work on me. The creation process was slowed and the final performance postponed in consequence of the physical and emotional trials that bombarded me throughout the past year. These experiences include a variety of turning points in my life: injuries, marriage, winning a National Dance Championship, and having a loved one diagnosed with cancer. Each day brought new emotions, experiences and trials.
These same culprits that delayed the schedule are in reality what made this project reach a deeper level of clarity and expression. The project was originally developed for three dancers to display, through dance, a trying experience in my past covering injury, recovery, failure and faith. Due to the myriad of unexpected events in my life since December of 1996, the creative work has evolved to include eight dancers who will present a variety of triumphs and tragedies that weave throughout my life. These recent experiences are fresh and vivid in my mind, adding depth to the choreography and performance because of the emotions and physical movement styles they generate. Relying on journals and memories to evoke and create movement of triumph and trial is no longer necessary. I look to yesterday and today to define the heights and depths of emotional and physical experience as I work on the choreography and refinement of the music.
Through this creative project I have gained the strength to create and perform choreography that truly reflects life. This knowledge will assist me throughout my graduate and professional dance career. My career goal is to focus on choreography and the creation of dance works that uplift the mind and enlarge the soul. The gospel, with its center on the Plan of Salvation, is reflected in this creative project. Why am I here? Why is my life so difficult? Why does this bring me joy? Portrayed through dance, the answers to the question, “why” open windows of the soul and allow the heart to be touched. Those beyond feeling and hardened by life are those who are living but not experiencing. These individuals will find comfort and hope through the magic of dance when viewing this piece. This elevating process occurs even without the audience’s awareness.
The show begins with a young girl dancing alone on the vast stage. A soft melody laced with, “I am a Child of God,” follows her movement. Soon, other young female dancers enter and the audience sees the girl struggling. She is surrounded by others, yet at times feels very alone.
Traces of the hymn, “Called to Serve,” now enter into the accompaniment and we find an older dancer struggling with the decision to go forward into the unknown or remain with familiar securities. Two dancers are then seen as a companionship of sister missionaries moving throughout the stage. When the music nearly reaches a climax, the lights go dark red and the stage is enveloped in silence. The principal dancer lies alone in a heap.
A struggle of faith and recovery begins. Dancers continue to come on and off the stage but the dancer is oblivious to their attempts to assist until finally a tall man dressed in white walks regally through the center of the stage. The struggle of the dancer is now displayed through the pendulum emotions that sway her between yearning for assistance, inner fear, anger and faith in this newly sent help. We see the man finally cradling the dancer and carrying her off the stage without her acknowledgment. The piece concludes as the curtains close on a duet sequence with soft, cheerful accompaniment.
The most difficult realization during work on this project is that no more than 800 individuals will ever view this piece in person. Of these, most in attendance are connected with the Department of Dance. My desire is to expose non-dancers to the depth and expression of purity this dance possesses. Though this project will be recorded and available to these individuals, the strength of the live dancer’s performance is lost when viewed on video. I am still actively striving to facilitate a way for many more individuals to view this creative project.
The world is in need of creative dance works that edify and rejoice in the beautiful gift of the human body. The body has been debased for too long in less-than-wholesome-art. My knowledge of the power that purity in dance can bring into peoples’ lives is strengthened through this project. It is now my responsibility to present this knowledge to the world through my future endeavors. The world is famished for purity. I will continue to create pieces like my present creative project in order to uplift and cleanse.