Monday, March 5, 2012


FEET OF THE DEAD TRANSITIONING (photos by Hallelujah Truth)

Hallelujah for the four elements: water, earth, fire, and air! Hallelujah for the CREATIVE SPIRIT that engages us in the expression of the substance of LIFE! This past weekend in the small town of Decatur, Georgia, I relished my opportunity to walk to the local cemetery to “observe” a mysterious dance performance expressing FIRE!

The compelling experience began for me at 5:30 on Friday evening, March 2, when Alice Teeter and I brandished umbrellas to brave the stormy skies to walk to the oldest cemetery in the Metro Atlanta area. After walking for 20 minutes through Adair dog park into downtown Decatur, past the MARTA station, and witnessing a rainbow and then seeking refuge from pouring rains under the awning of a CVS drugstore, we made it to Bell Street which led us into the heart of the cemetery past the fish pond. (The street name, “Bell,” evoked my memories of John Donne: “for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee….” An appropriately named street leading into the resting place for the dead, I thought!)
FOR WHOM DOES THE BELL TOLL? As the audience is summoned from the cemetery for the beginning of the dance, the mother of the choreographic director, D. Patton White, rings the bell. Notice how wet everything is from the rain that poured from the skies moments earlier!

Terraced green hills rose before us with headstones and monuments made to honor the dead. A glut of cars had collected near a newly terraced space, ordered in intermittent rectangles of green grass and cool brown pebbles. One rectangle had already swallowed up the dead and had small markers to “note” their presence with us. The Beacon Dance performers dressed in all white could be seen from our approaching vantage point. Their ghostly appearance made my toes tingle!

The performance began with the ringing of a small bell, and we witnesses were told to remember that we were entering a sacred space and to be respectful. We passed by the musician, Jon Ciliberto, who had made an original sound score for this performance. He sat there at his keyboard punctuating the recorded sounds with new keystrokes.

SENSING. I was told by one of the dancers that they were instructed to be present to the sounds and sensations surrounding them as the audience entered the environment. Since it was close to sunset, the birds were making riotous chatter, and there were gentle breezes in the soft winter air.

MAKING SENSE OF THE DEAD. I realized where I had seated myself watching the dancers set against the backdrop of the cemetery and the horizon of the city of Decatur, that I was missing the "business" of the dead at the entrance to the performance. I wondered back and discovered them playing the bench as if it were a musical instrument. Who knows what the dead think?
NEWCOMER TO THE CEMETERY. Look closely and you will see a dancer who has descended the stairway in the background. She is shouting in our direction and carrying a suitcase while the other dancing dead are moving about somnolently sensing their world remotely. Yes, I got goose bumps watching her "enter" the stage of the cemetery. Is this the element of fire? As the earthly figures still have capacity to move about but are becoming something else other than flesh?
LIVING AMONG THE DEAD! Notice how audience members (nonwhite clothes) are part of the performance.

FLOATING...FIRE? For me, this dancer stirred discomfort in my breast. He was floating in the cemetery on sound, movement, and color. I could see the city in front of him, beyond the gates of the cemetery, next to a road I drive on almost every day. This position was evoking feelings of life, death, and the "fire" in between.

MEANDERING CONFUSION. As it should be.What are the dead to do? As the sunset and the bird chatter quieted, the dead's dancing came to an end. They left our presence reluctantly but running.

I was so moved by this performance that I returned the following evening with another friend (Melissa Tidwell) to see what would occur in a second "structured improv." I talked with members of the dance group and learned that this performance if the third they have created in their "Elemental Project, 2011-2012. D. Patton White, the choreographic director, told me they had already done water and earth. Next--of course, air! 

One of the aspects I liked about the performance was the diversity of dancers in age, race, gender, and dancing skill. Part of Beacon Dance's mission is to honor the creative process in all of us. It is an inclusive dance group! See more about their mission on their website. They honor the individual and in doing so empower the society we live in! Hallelujah!

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! What do you think of this dance of firey white in the cemetery? Soul blog and let me know what you think! Take a look at this video I took to give you a taste of the sound and movement of these dancers!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thanks to the Beacon Dance performers: Eleanor Brownfield, TJ Chernow, Juana Farfan, Jessica Gaines, Susan Keller, Pricilla Smith, Onur Topal Sumer, and D. Patton White. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm thankful too that Beacon Dance performs throughout the landscape of Decatur. Thanks for posting this. Patton White was truly ghostly in your picture of him, and as the passing wraith in the video. Ciliberto's music is awesome. I felt a cold, weightless timelessness. So beautiful. The vision of a traveling dead person with a suitcase is perfect.