Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Swiss Trip: by Daniel Cossette

Just recently our artistic director Randall Flinn and I were invited to go and teach for a youth discipleship and training intensive called YWAM (Youth With A Mission). The base was in Switzerland!
Myself and Randall arrived at "Jugen Mitt Einen Mission"
We flew overnight from Houston to Frankfurt and then to Zurich. A train carried us over rolling meadows and between picturesque mountains to a small city called Biel, where our contacts drove us the last 30 minutes out into the fairytale farmland of Wiler. The YWAM base is tucked snugly into a fold of land between of two pastures, wrapped around by the winding country road. Randy and I crashed in our room for the afternoon and tried not to succumb to jet lag before the weekend dance seminar commenced that night!
The YWAM Wiler campus, snowing!
Seventeen dancers had assembled from around the world, from Europe, the United Sates, and Africa! Randall took the advanced track and I took the intermediate, and we began to teach. Many of the students in my track had never had modern dance with any emphasis on the American founders’ techniques like Graham and Horton, so we jumped right in to the wonderful world of flat backs, contractions, laterals, and spirals!

The first session went great and I don't know about Randy, but I did okay for not having any sleep. I don’t normally get to work with adults—usually I teach middle schoolers—so it was great to teach people with a little physical discipline.
Sleep was no problem for me by bedtime Swiss time.

The next day we started early with more technique. I taught a couple fun combos throughout the morning’s two sessions. At lunch Randy asked me how it was going. “Did you start your choreography yet?” he asked.

“What choreography?”

“Uh, we’re supposed to choreograph a dance for them to show each other by the end of the seminar tomorrow afternoon.”

“Um,” I replied, “I think I’m done with lunch. I need to go plan…”

I went back to my room and spent some time flipping through songs on my ipod. In the end I chose something that kind of inspired me, and decided the best defense was going to be a good offense: I was going to wing it! I haven’t choreographed much dance. I came late to the dance world and have only been seriously pursuing dance for about 4 years. I have not been to dance college. I was trained as a classical mime, and my college program prepared me to put on hours of mime on stage, but not dance. Sure. I could do this…

That afternoon the students came in and I said, “We’re going to start learning a dance.” And guess what? We did. The song was called Thunder Roll, by Dave and Jess Ray—friends of mine from Houston, TX who have some great music (you can find them on iTunes)—and it’s about where we place our fear and faith. Fear is just faith that evil will happen. Do we fear the thunder, or the God who makes the thunder. I began to dance, and was surprised at what came out. The students were great, taking each part as it came. I found I used a lot of the Doug Varrone style of dance I picked up when a former dancer from his company (Ryan Corristan) set a work on Ad Deum. His style uses lots of rises and falls, and allows momentum to carry the body through circles in space. Combined with some Horton-ish lines I think we pulled off some great lightning and thunder concepts. Over the course of the seminar we got to know a few of the students, and learned a little of what they were facing in life. I pray that they caught the message of the song/dance: to trust in the One who is greater than the storms; we don’t always escape facing them, but God is faithful to carry us through.

By Sunday we had a great product to show for our efforts, and I was so proud of my students who put it together so quick. One student thanked me and said, “I really liked your dance. And it was amazing how you did it: it was like you were making it up as you went!”

 “IIIIII kind of was…”
Me with the dancers from YWAM
Randy and I stayed a few more days in Switzerland to work with other groups, but that was a highlight for me. We got to talk to several of the students afterwards, about the purpose of dance, and art, and what that means for the believer artist. But that’s another topic, and it’d be easier if you’d just come to visit us sometime and hear it for yourself!  ;-)
Everybody from the dance seminar!
How many times have we heard "Don't hang on the barres, dancers!" Well, I guess we had to get it out sometime...

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