This past weekend, a group from Texas had the privilege of attending the National Choreographer’s Conference in Atlanta, hosted by the Southern Territory. Katie Hood (Irving), Chloe Hu (Lewisville), Brianna Levi (Bryan/College Station) and Lt. Marianne Villanueva (Pasadena) comprised this small delegation.
The weekend was focused around the theme “Rooted, Growing and Reaching.” In the many classes and workshops we learned new and innovative ways to create choreography, how our performing arts programs can be utilized for social change, and even had opportunities to explore aerial arts!
Special guests such as Jessica Fagerstrom (Western Territory) and Kaitlyn Hardiman (AOK Division) taught us practical and easy-to-understand methods to create choreography. Jessica’s “Timeline Movement Method” taught us how to incorporate storytelling into our choreography in order to efficiently convey the message in a clear and meaningful way to the viewer. Kaitlyn presented methods to place a greater amount of variety in our dance pieces with concepts such as experimenting with positive/negative space of the body, symmetrical/asymmetrical movement and placing choreography in different sequences (on the floor and/or reversed). These processes really allowed us to think outside of the box when it comes to creating meaningful movement!
Blake Lanier (Chicago, IL) is a clinically licensed psychotherapist and circus arts instructor. Over the years, he was able to find a way in combining two of his passions, therapy and aerial arts, for his work with Cirque du Monde, a social intervention program by Cirque du Soleil. Through the teaching of circus arts, Cirque du Monde aims to help at-risk youth by helping them develop confidence and ambition for their lives. Blake’s lecture and workshop provided us with designs to shape performing arts programs that not only strive for excellence in one’s craft, but create a safe learning environment both emotionally and spiritually.
On Saturday evening a Choreographer’s Showcase was held; this was when delegates had the freedom to show dance pieces they’ve developed for feedback and critique. Brianna Levi from Bryan/College Station brought a dance of her own to the conference to share and was greatly moved by the experience: “This weekend was truly inspiring to me! It has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and do what God has created me to do. One of my favorite parts was getting feedback from all of the dancers in the audience. They saw the message through my choreography and the feedback really made me happy! The workshops also opened my mind to more things I could bring back to my church and my community, especially how dance can be used in so many different ways. This weekend was amazing and I would highly recommend the Choreographer’s Conference to other artists in the future. It was eye opening and a true blessing!”
Katie Hood from the Irving Corps took away many things but mostly the spiritual elements: “At the Choreographer’s Conference, not only did I learn about the necessary steps in leading a creative arts class, but also how to strengthen the connection between God and myself when I dance. Every move I make on stage is a move that represents my testimony. My dances have the potential to leave a space for God to work in someone who might be watching. I’m so thankful for this gift and for the opportunity I had to go to Atlanta!”
Lt. Marianne Villanueva from Pasadena summed up the weekend’s impact on her well: “Since I haven’t danced in years I was a little anxious, scared and nervous about the weekend. I was asking myself, ‘what am I doing around these real dancers?’ My main focus was to just get a little bit of knowledge to start dance classes in the Corps. During the Saturday workshop, the Holy Spirit was around us, and touched me in a special way. He freed me from something that had bothered me for a long time – being ashamed of my body. For many years I limited myself in dance because of that, and for the same reason I never went to a dance class. After that session I felt so refreshed and confident in what I loved to do - it’s never too late to start again. One of the biggest lessons during this weekend for me was that DANCING HAS NO LIMITS, NOT YOUR AGE, YOUR GENDER OR EVEN YOUR BODY!”
Thank you to all who helped plan the conference and to all of the leaders who sent delegates from their divisions and territories. We are looking forward to sharing what we learned with others as we continue to strive for growth and excellence in creative arts for the glory of God!