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
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.