This text was discovered in my files a year after my dear friend's departure from this earth. In reading through her notes and words that she chose to share with me, I remembered the work in her rehearsals as being rich and challenging. Not merely difficult physically but challenging in thought and spirit. There was no easy way to embody with work without facing some difficult questions about human nature and the nature of injustice in the world. The one thing that struck me strongest was how fearless Amy was; she wasn't afraid to consider the hard questions nor to challenge the status quo of typical human response with the very risky business of loving fully in and out of the art form. Thank you, Amy.
~ Rachel Bruce Johnson, 2017
"Let Justice Roll Down", a 20-minute group dance work, grew out of McIntosh’s struggle with oppression, injustice, and misplaced power within our communities, along with a pivotal book written by John M. Perkins. After having lived in Jackson, MS for five years, McIntosh moved back home to Tulsa in 2006, and soon after was given a copy of Perkins’ book, “Let Justice Roll Down.” Perkins, a native of Mississippi, now 81, writes of his journey out of racial injustice into renewal, as he discovers his role in pioneering a new way of living in community. Perkins has devoted his life to developing communities where reconciliation and transformation thrive, and where the walls of power are broken down. McIntosh’s work explores power as it seeks to devastate, devour, and deteriorate the very fabric of humanity.
I started this work with a solo last summer (2011), Until It’s Over, which premiered at Exchange 2011. At the time I was predominately working with the emotion of anger. We had just finished building a new play room upstairs in our house and with 2 boys, 5 years and one year at the time, I made use of my space upstairs to dance. A unique corner of the room became the inspiration for the beginning of my solo as it had 3 walls forming a sort of open box that I began playing with and letting my weight fall into the walls, push off them and feel what it was like to be in this partly open, partly closed box like space, walls. This would become important later to the next phase of my work in the group section.
Looking back at my journal I wrote down:
TIME: a sense of time, slowed down, warped, surreal contrasted with it keeps coming up again, surging, ready, on my game
IMAGES: fleshly, purging vs. superhero, “not gonna give up”, unwavering, confident, champion
ACTION: fighting vs. slow motion; stop action, hit a wall; shifting, changing; steady vs. unsteady; falling
TEXTURE: thick, heavy, warped
Things I wrote in my journal:
“What happens when you follow your flesh there just one more time?”
“Imprints under the exterior…pain, anger, fear, loss of purpose, someone who’s been let down”
Feel it deep
On the edge
What do you want
What do you believe in so much you have to bust out, through, and shout it out”
“Participate in the: jealousy, fighting, yelling, knocking down…we don’t always know or understand why but it is there…love…for us that burns, fights, whispers, yells, tugs, knocks us down…love changes everything.”
And then I began the process of building a group work that grew out of this seed of a solo:
I began to imagine these walls I mentioned earlier, I envisioned 3 walls made by the dancers, signifying separation, disillusionment, difference, segregation, loss of connection….
I really wanted this first section of the group work to create an atmosphere with texture and emotion. We began working with 2 words, OPPRESSOR and OPPRESSED. These would become central to the entire work and shed new light on the way I danced the solo a year later when the full work came together.
I began reading another text by John Perkins, With Justice For All: A Strategy for Community Development.
In my journal I wrote:
Jesus said who do you say I am?
Who am I to you?
Healer of my soul
The one who can make me right
The one who can help me trust again
The one who can pick me up and help me begin again, anew
The one who can turn my narrow tunnel into a new opening
The one who can make me feel like I’m just getting started, the one who can ignite a passion in me that I can barely control, that I can’t control, that I don’t want to control
The one thing I don’t want to control
I wrote in my journal: this piece is for my boys, may you tear down wall of oppression in your lifetime that my eyes have only begun to see.
A kingdom turned upside down, a powerful king that suffered and chose death on a cross.
From Perkins’ book:
“Racial and economic exploitation and all forms of elitism…must be challenged biblically.”
“…they will follow their sensuality.”
“…liberation from sin. And we must define sin to include every worn, corporate of individual, that threatens the dignity of man.”
Paraphrased from Perkins’ text and Isaiah 58:
Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice.
Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless and poor.
Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear and do not refuse to help your own relatives.
Rebuild the walls
Restore the ruined houses
Put an end to every oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word
Perkins recounted his experience: “For the first time I saw what hate had done to those people. These policemen were poor. They saw themselves as failures. The only way they knew how to find a sense of worth was by beating us. Their racism made them feel like ‘somebody’. When I saw that I just could hate back, I could only pity them. I really want to preach a gospel that will heal these people, too.”
And then I went on another online journey through the eyes of Jacob Holdt, a sojourner on a quest to live amongst the oppressed and the oppressors. I found his journeys to be surreal and yet a curiosity as he was willing to allow himself to be in the midst of injustice often encountering danger and violence.
I wrote in my journal some quotes from Holdt:
“A journey into this human being behind its terrifying anger. And the more I came to understand and like this human being, the more I saw how I could myself be the cause of anger in a system from which day one forced me onto the side of the oppressor….”
The wolf philosophy-“The road is lonesome and to succeed one must be like a wolf: eat or be eaten, for one can only succeed at the cost or the failure of others.”
“Yet we can only end crippling taboo systems by trying to be completely human toward everyone-thereby risking deeper involvement and love.”
“I did not understand that sunglass-covered hatred, yet it reflected such a shocking distortion of my own perceived humanity that it forced me to ask how I could possibly be seen in such a way. Could I myself be the cause of that anger? Could I myself ever end up harboring such anger?”
HOW DO WE MASK?
I work with University students at Oral Roberts University dance program, and they were the ones that I created this group dance for, later to also be given to Living Water Dance Company, and re-interpreted through each of their eyes.
We used much improvisational play while reading through these journal excerpts and in particular envisioning being the Oppressor and the Oppressed.
Many motifs from the original solo were diminished, enhanced, and torn apart as we created together.
There was a violent aspect, a dangerous element to this dance and to our rehearsals as we teetered on the edge of imagining and truly living out these images.
And then in the middle of our creative process one week there was a violent act that hit our University campus where two students were randomly robbed and shot to death at a Tulsa park. We mourned over this act of violence, this injustice, together, and found new inspiration for our dance. It was becoming in many ways a dance of intercession, a plea each time we rehearsed and danced it for a new way, a way of breaking down these walls of injustice. Even when we didn’t have the power or even know where to begin to act, we began to see that as we corporately came together to unite our spirits in this dance, something was happening, we could sense it and feel it, and it left us both exhausted and alive again.
As this world is no stranger to violence, and we are still seeking to not lose our humanity amongst it, I felt it appropriate to finally post this and dance a dance of intercession once again. ~ Rachel
The resonance Amy Roark-McIntosh has left on the Tulsa dance community is profound but my life personally was deeply enriched by her presence and friendship. Our guest blogger had written a memorial reflection on Amy shortly after her passing and I would like to share it with you all today. In addition, you can read the Tulsa World memorium to Amy here. Today would have been Amy's 40th birthday.
Dance In The Mix welcomes Jessica Collier as our student guest blogger sharing the thoughts she has been developing during her undergraduate work at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK.
May 15, 2015. Howard Auditorium is fairly full, and I stand backstage, surrounded by my fellow ORU dance students. I’m about to perform a choreography project I’ve helped create with my Dance for Worship class, but I’m not thinking about applause or congratulations after; this isn’t one of our end-of-semester dance concerts. The performance is for those attending Amy McIntosh’s funeral service.
The first time I met Amy was at my high school studio – she taught the creative movement class that my younger sister attended for a year or two. I never had much interaction with her during those days, but I remember hearing with excitement the news that ORU was starting a dance major and she would be leaving to help bring that project to fruition. Fast forward four years, and I’m stepping into the Howard studio on campus for the first time, a terrified college freshman testing out the seemingly impossible feat of obtaining two separate four-year degrees in only six.
Amy was the first person to tell me my dream was achievable, and was, doubtlessly, one of the single greatest factors that made it so. I expected to be berated for divided loyalty or laughed out of one degree program or the other, but instead, she sat down with me and talked through each of my anxieties one by one. At first, I was in shock. Here I was with the audacity to tell her I wanted to do something in addition to dance, and she was genuinely excited! It almost seemed that she was more in favor of my crazy plan than I was: I remember her eyes lighting up, and how excitedly she told me that anything could be possible, and she would do everything she could to help me succeed within both majors. I’m not sure why this surprised me so much, or why I expected that I would be told to pick between the two degrees, but the more I worked with her, the more I realized that her outlook on life was decidedly different.
Amy didn’t compartmentalize life. She didn’t believe in the age-old mantra “leave it all at the studio door,” at least not in the conventional sense. She encouraged the ORU dancers to allow our work to be informed and nourished by each aspect of our lives – family and dorm situations, personal emotional struggles and victories – and for me, the experiences of nursing school. She always held us to a high standard of professionalism, but we would spend significant segments of rehearsals simply talking about the spiritual and intellectual meaning behind her pieces, and how the concepts that we were focusing on could apply or relate to our own lives. One semester, she decided to bring her husband and children to rehearsal, allowing them access to the part of her life spent with us and giving us the opportunity to see into the family that she loved so much. I will never forget that – the intense devotion that led Amy to blend the two worlds that any other teacher would have left separate without so much as a second thought. She told us that it would be cheating every part of her life to not allow each area to interact with the others, and she constantly encouraged us to do the same. That holistic, connected mindset was how she lived every moment of her life: each time I found myself in her office, terrified over some potential roadblock to graduation, she reassured me that this was God’s plan for my life and He was able to bring it to fruition, that I could and would be a dancer and a nurse. Because of her mentorship in those early years, I held on to that dream – and in just over a year, I’ll graduate from Oral Roberts University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Performance. I hold her fully responsible.
During my third year in the Dance Program at ORU, Amy was diagnosed with lung cancer. From October to April, she continued to pour heart and soul into all of her students, who had, at this point, become more like her adoptive children. When she was too ill to come into the studio, she would skype in from home, still pushing us in the authoritative but gentle tone we had come to know so well; to jump higher, reach further, risk more. Our hearts broke during those months, but Amy would have none of that. I remember the instructions she gave us just days before she passed: at her memorial service we were all to wear pink and put flowers in our hair. She wanted her home-going to be a joyful event, and in some ways it truly was.
In the days following Amy’s death on Good Friday of 2015, my class worked to put together a tribute for Amy, composed of excerpts from her choreography. We shed a few tears backstage that day at her memorial service, but what I remember most was the performance itself. As we stepped onto the stage that day, a sensation I could only label as joy flooded the auditorium. I’ve been to a few funerals in my two decades of life, but none even remotely resembled this. We danced, rejoicing for Amy’s release from suffering, celebrating her reunion with the Creator she had loved so much throughout her life. As we left the stage at the end of those few brief minutes, I knew that was exactly what she had wanted.
To this day I consider myself blessed to have been able to be a part of that moment. A week after the service, we were still getting comments from attendees about how meaningful and healing the performance had been. To be honest, however, it wasn’t that surprising. That gentle, all-inclusive, worshipful presence was – and still is – the heart of Amy’s legacy.
Dance In The Mix welcomes Jessica Collier as our student guest blogger sharing the thoughts she has been developing during her undergraduate work at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK.
How My Dance Degree Has Helped Me Through Nursing School
“Oh, so you’re going to be a dancing nurse, then? You know, doing spins and leaps while you start people’s IVs?” The first twenty times I heard someone say that when I told them about my double major, I thought it was funny. The next 200+, I didn’t find it quite as humorous. After nearly five years of getting that same joke over and over, however, I’m beginning to think that perhaps the nine-and-a-half out of ten people who ask me this question might actually be onto something.
Currently, I’m on Year Five of a six year degree plan at Oral Roberts University. One of our school’s mottos is “Make No Little Plans Here,” and I’ve certainly done that – I’m tackling two of our most challenging and time-consuming majors available, Nursing and Dance Performance. As a dual-degree student rather than just a double major, I’ve had to say the least a very unique college experience. Many days I lose track of the number of times I change outfits, switching from leotard and tights to scrubs, then into athletic gear for modern class and finally trying to look professional right after as I head to my work study position. I’ve had to extend my time at university an extra two years, simply to fit in all the credits without going over block tuition rates and surrendering an appendage to pay for it (I’m a dancer – I need all of those!). I’m often asked why I chose to go for a full major instead of just a minor or a few sporadic classes in dance, and my standard reply is that I believe both professions have equal importance in my future, so I want to dedicate the same amount of time and effort to both of them. But as time progresses, I think I might change how I answer. I realize now that being a full-time dance student has in many ways made an essential contribution to my success throughout nursing school.
Much like dance, the field of nursing places a high value on performance. Besides hours upon hours spent in lecture halls and memorizing the side effects of hundreds of different drugs, nursing students spend considerable time in simulation labs learning “clinical skills:” starting and stopping an IV, setting up a nasogastric tube, dressing changes, and so on. The instructors give us step-by-step directions on how exactly to perform each skill without contaminating equipment or posing risk to a patient, and at the end of the semester we are required to successfully complete the skills in front of a professor to advance in the program. I had an extremely difficult time with the clinical skills during my third year, until I started thinking of the steps in each process as choreography, like a set of classical ballet variations, if you will. Learning a new piece of choreography takes time and practice, and unless one possesses a most exceptional mind, cannot be completely memorized all in one sitting. Individual steps must be learned before you can hope to string them all together, which reminded me to break each skill down into the smallest possible steps so I could ensure at every point I knew exactly where to place supplies and which hose connects to which tube on the suction equipment. While still paying attention to details, it’s important to remember the basic principles of technique (instead of reminding myself to turn out or pull up through my knees I remember not to touch anything dirty with my sterile gloves), and to be honest, maneuvering around a patient’s bed with hands full of expensive medical equipment is about as difficult as spacing a full-length ballet. Once I began comparing my time in the Sim Lab to a rehearsal for a dance piece, I found myself able to engage with the learning process better – and found my ability to successfully demonstrate the skills significantly improved.
Another important element of nursing practice is what we’ve termed the five-step Nursing Process: assessment, diagnosis, outcome planning, intervention, and evaluation. The semester that this process really made sense to me was the same semester that I completed my second choreography project, a trio dealing with the trauma and ramifications of divorce. As I gathered research to inform my dance piece, I started to notice some similarities between the choreographic process and the nursing process. So far, nearly every dance I’ve considered making begins with observations of a phenomenon or something happening in the world, and the diagnosis of a problem or situation to address. After that, I have to set goals (or in medicalese, “outcomes”) for what the dance work will end up communicating; discover the shapes, movement qualities, and motifs that will meet that artistic need. After creating the movement, I pause to reassess what I have created to determine if it addresses the subject the way I had intended. Noticing the almost perfectly direct correlations between how I create dance and how I care for patients has not only cemented the steps of the nursing process in my mind, but also challenged me to explore how I can be therapeutic and provide opportunities for healing in the way that I choreograph and work with other dancers.
Besides all of that, remaining committed to my dance major has taught me how to manage my time better, cope with stress, remain emotionally stable, and perhaps most importantly, live holistically. I’ve learned through dance that there may always be someone more advanced or more talented than you, but that’s okay. Dance shows me that individuality is acceptable and to be celebrated, which challenges me to learn about the unique needs of each of my patients and care for them in the way that fits them best rather than cutting and pasting dried, formulaic interventions into their plan of care simply because it “matches the problem.” Discovering these correlations and allowing each of my degrees to enrich and inform the other shows clearly that life is meant to be lived all in one piece, not categorized and separated. Opposites do attract, and even the two most diametrically opposed courses of study can relate to each other. So as silly as it may sound at first, I suppose I will be a “dancing nurse.” I’m at least planning to work it into the title of both my senior papers.
Dance In The Mix welcomes Evangeline Bonin as our first student guest blogger sharing thoughts are research she has been developing during her undergraduate work at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK.
After discussing the beginnings of Dance/Movement Therapy and the physical effects of dance in Part I of this series, as well as the emotional and psychological effects of dance in Part II, this third and final issue will highlight the therapeutic effects of dance on a social scale.
Dance has proven to be helpful for those who choose to implement it within their own lives. However, there is another beneficial aspect of dance therapy, which up until now, has not been addressed. Dance is, after all, traditionally a performing art and, as with any performance, there is an audience. One might ask how these performances affect audiences? In the same way that dance affects the dancer, there are several different ways dance can affect viewers. The audience may wish to de-stress and observe a ballet to calm themselves, or they might enjoy the cognitive stimulation that arises when watching complicated footwork. Perhaps they are even looking for emotional release. Any of these circumstances would be an excellent reason to watch a dance performance. Yet, there is something special that occurs when dancers and an audience unite: a community is formed. The crowd is no longer merely a group of spectators; they become emotionally involved. Many times when rehearsing a performance piece, the choreographer will guide the dancers with corrections such as, “Take time here to look at someone,” … “Connect with your audience,” … “What are you communicating?” Just as a piece of music can strike a chord in someone’s heart and produce meaningful tears, so can dance resonate with something inside the individual. Observers can see movement and relate it to something within their own lives. This connection creates an unspoken bond between the dancers and the audience.
There is a plethora of benefits of dance. Improved physical mobility, emotional release, and psychological stability are only a few of these benefits. Dance is a natural kinesthetic response to thoughts, emotions, and external stimuli such as music. Another important influence of dance within a culture is the community created. This desirable bond can be reached through public performances. One need not spend an exorbitant amount of money to take part in dance therapy but can attend performances put on by universities, professional companies, or even get involved in social dances close to home for very little expense. This will also provide support for these departments. Within a university, for example, a dance concert is an excellent opportunity to draw the student body together and give them a reason to relate to one another. Attending events akin to this will broaden the views of those who do not yet dance themselves, as well as give the dancers experience to effectively communicate what they have learned through their movement. If a greater number of people can learn to appreciate this art while the artists learn to share their stories, how much more will that strengthen the bond between “dancer” and “non-dancer,” thus forging unity within an environment? Another example would be social dancing events found within a given city. There are many different organizations that host events such as an evening of swing dance on the weekends. These serve to educate younger generations and aid in social skills – after all, you have to dance with someone – but perhaps most importantly, they draw neighbors, co-workers, and strangers together to form a closely-knit community.
As is seen throughout this series, Dance/Movement Therapy can be an effective tool, firstly, in physical therapy: increasing flexibility, strength, and range of motion in joints and muscles. Secondly, dance can be used in emotional and psychological therapy: promoting self-perception, relieving stress, and even aiding with grief. Thirdly, dance can be practiced as a means of social health: assisting development within a community as well as enhancing social skills. Dance can literally change a life.
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Engelhard, Einat Shuper. "Dance/Movement Therapy During Adolescence – Learning About Adolescence Through the Experiential Movement of Dance/Movement Therapy Students." Arts In Psychotherapy 41.5 (2014): 498-503. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.
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Kolcio, Katja Pylyshenko, Marilynn Danitz, and Margot C. Lehman. "American Dance Therapy Association: Claire Schmais." Branching Out (2000): 89-99. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.
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photo by Nathan Harmon; dancers: Jessica Vokoun & Rachel Bruce Johnson.
PC: Jeanne S. Mam-Luft
It is a simple philosophy here at THE BELL HOUSE; make connections by bringing people together through dance. Art that seeks to defy a fractured view of the world by creating culture that cares for the soul and is concerned with human thriving. For me, it isn’t enough to just make dance for dance’s sake; it is my belief that it is the connective power of people that makes art worth engaging. We do that by taking our interests and talents and challenging the ways we connect them to something tangible in the human experience. It is through these connections and tangibilities that we see the true power of art and dance manifest back to relationships with and through people. In my view, what matters is people; the time and space of making work refract and overlap revealing and creating new possibilities for human connection.