The Beauty of Introspection

Many thanks to each and every person who came out to see The Beauty of Introspection on September 12! We were blessed to able to share the special evening, our inaugural Fall Season performance for 2015-2016, with a tremendous crowd of regular Ballet 5:8 audience members and quite a few new faces as well.

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A Reasonable Challenge

from the Sigao ekklesia premiere at the [re]claimed gallery

from the Sigao ekklesia premiere at the [re]claimed gallery

Ballet 5:8's newest premiere, Sigao Ekklesia, is set to go onstage tonight at the [re]claimed art gallery in Andersonville, on Chicago's north side. Recent performances of the neoclassical Seasons and The Story of Job fresh in our minds, Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager's new work is a completely different ballet that presents a challenging shift in perspective, technically, artistically, intellectually and emotionally. The beauty of the thing is that Sigao challenges our perspective with captivating results. Sigao begins with a musical setting, Haydn's Stabat Matter, that most of us would associate with church, or religion, after hearing just a few notes. The beautiful, at times haunting score evokes thoughts of the regal and magnificent - stained glass windows, expansive cathedrals and the like. The ballet's challenging juxtaposition, however, becomes apparent as soon as the dancers begin moving. Sigao's movements are hardly classical, nor exclusively balletic, employing a raw expression of emotion and contrast through any kind of movement that communicates.

And, communicate, it does.

Sigao's abstract storyline serves as something of a commentary and reflection on today's church. The work illustrates questions that many of us within - and maybe outside of-  church circles have today about church. We may each resonate with different questions reflected in the work, based on our own experiences. However, the end of the story has something to do with the redemptive narrative that originally brought us, in the church, together in the first place.

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"--and I am the worst of them all. [1Ti 1:15 NLT] 

Layers and Seasons

As any artist knows, there are many layers and seasons involved in the artistic process.

Ballets often begin as a spark of inspiration in the mind of a choreographer, ignited by a piece of music, a sound, a picture, a movement or simply a thought. As the spark grows into flame, the creative process ensues. The original idea grows into a bigger, more completed thought or even a story. As layers of sound, movement and color are added within the creation, they allow that which was elusive at its conception grow into something visible and tangible. The creation - in this case, the ballet -  eventually takes on a life of its own. This life will be the basis for the choreographer and the ballet's dancing artists ability to share the finished creation with others in the context of performance.

The seasons of growth of any idea into an artistic work is not a steady process.

Often, the journey involves fits and starts of inspiration and punctuated by lows of struggle or silence. Some days, the work of art will have taken on so many layers in the span of a day that an observer would not recognize the work in process compared at morning and then evening. Other days, the artistic process is characterized by the choreographer's critical evaluation of every aspect of the tender, developing work. The creation may arise unchanged at the end of the day, or if the choreographer decides, entire sections may be pruned to make way for the creation's new, more mature growth. It is an incredible process to watch.

This week, Ballet 5:8's studios are brimming with the excitement and thrill of a new work that has now, through highs and lows, joys and challenges, fully taken shape. Artistic Director Julianna Slager's newest ballet, The Four Seasons of the Soul, is a mesmerizing, real-life exploration of the seasons that may take your breath away, as it did mine - and on one level, the ballet's storyline is a reflection of the very creative process that was used to create it. Having watched the full, completed product for the first time today, I can honestly say that the intensive 40 minutes of the ballet captures you when you see it. The full ballet easily seems like a breath and an instant - though don't we know from Scripture that life is actually just a breath and an instant?

O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Psalm 39:4-5).

Four Seasons inspires the reflection, introspection and soul-searching that is fitting for any experience that takes a moment to step back from the details and observe the bigger picture (Psalm 90:12).

All in all, if you could be here during a rehearsal run, you would be able to literally feel the eager expectation, thick and electric in the air, as we put the finishing touches on Seasons - and it's counterpart for the fall season, The Story of Job - ahead of upcoming performances on September 27 and October 4. We keep wishing that someone else could see the ballet and understand what we're talking about. But happily, Lord willing, that wish is about to come true.

We can't wait to see you at the theater.

Davenport/Quad Cities, Saturday, 9/27 - Ruth Page Center, Chicago, Saturday 10/4

Modern Day Reflections on Job

On Sunday, March 2nd, Ballet 5:8 experienced a particularly significant "first" in a line of firsts since the company's beginnings in 2012: its first full length program in a theater, in Chicago, its very own city. The Chicago stop on the Spring Series Midwest Tour, at the Beverly Arts Center, proved to be a warm homecoming with an enthusiastic welcome from a crowd that filled the 400-seat theater, save a few corner seats in the balcony. The two-hour program was a beautiful opportunity for Ballet 5:8 to share not  just art, ballet or beauty with the audience, but more fully, a series of ballets infused with the joy of many truths about God the company has been experiencing more fully than before as they have been preparing the program's three ballets, all inspired by concepts and stories in Scripture. One audience member commented:

Thank you Ballet 5:8 for all of your hard work, your dedication to sharing the Gospel, and your humble and gentle attitudes. Being in the audience tonight at the Beverly Arts Center was an amazing experience because of what God is doing through each of you. There were tears, there were laughs, there were little girls watching their role models, but most of all there were lives changed...

With thankfulness toward our Lord for His provision and work through the Chicago performance, we are excited to be looking ahead to the last stop on our three-city spring tour: Spring Arbor, Michigan. The trip to Spring Arbor is planned around our run of The Story of Job scheduled for 7:00pm on Saturday, March 22nd at White Auditorium at Spring Arbor University. The remainder of the weekend includes master classes at local dance studios and an appearance at one of our partner churches, Caring Community Church of Albion. 

Throughout the process of preparing The Story of Job for theaters, the Ballet 5:8 has been learning a lot about Job and his life. It became apparent early in the study that Job is a tale commonly avoided, or at least, procrastinated on, due to its challenging nature found its address of the issue of human suffering. Greater familiarity, and understanding of the story developed through study and closer examination of Job's life. Still, God never quite answers the question of suffering, instead leaving us to chew on the great and powerful reality of God's nature as "I AM."

Interestingly, the apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of a modern-day application of the story of Job and of God's tendency to, mysteriously, allow various kinds of human suffering to continue unhindered, even after the coming of Jesus Christ. Living in a post-resurrection world, Paul was privy to Christ's having conquered death on the cross. Moreover, Paul had seen and experienced miracles. God was certainly capable of ending and alleviating suffering. Yet, we find Paul writing some sobering words, found in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,

But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

As we press in one more time and prepare to share Job's story with Spring Arbor next weekend, please join us in pondering this sobering but beautiful truth. Yes, as Christians, we will likely be called to seasons in our lives, even entire lives of suffering. But we have a more privileged perspective than Job. In Christ, "when I am weak, then I am strong."