Over the past few years, thanks to the tireless creative and administrative work of dance artists and their supporters, dance of all kinds has become more and more of a presence in the cultural life of this city, not just in the big theater downtown but in galleries, on sidewalks, on film screens, in schools. I feel it most in conversations with casual acquaintances, who’ll tell me they saw some dance here recently and they’re still thinking about it, or who’ll ask what they should see next because the last thing really moved them. The dance community is growing, becoming more established and at the same time bolder and more passionate about following its own heart. I’m proud to be a part of it. (You can experience original site-specific work from many of these groups at the eMerge Dance Festival, produced annually by Living Arts of Tulsa, on April 12, 2014, in the tunnels under downtown Tulsa.)

This week, as we look ahead to spring and anticipate the end-of-season performances coming up from local dancemakers, I’d like to share with you some of their observations on what they have in process. My point in this series is this: the dance you see on stage (or wherever you see it) doesn’t just happen. Like any other art form, dance is made through a long process of thinking, trying, asking, working, building, asking again…. And each artist does it differently, cares more or less about different elements of the process, has different intentions and goals. Artists aren’t just producers of entertainment, though they are certainly and happily that; they are people who create in order to understand. It happens to be one of my favorite things, talking with people about why and how they make what they make, and I hope these thoughts spark something in you as well. Stay tuned throughout the week for updates from more of Tulsa’s movement makers.

Amy McIntosh

Amy McIntosh

We’ll start with Living Water Dance Community‘s founder and director and professor of dance at ORU, Amy McIntosh. I’m always inspired by Amy’s deep thoughtfulness, the way she views dance and life as intimately involved with and informing each other. LWDC spent the last while investigating the idea of justice in a series of intense ensemble dances; that thinking has led them into a linked territory: community.

I continue to have an interest in community and both my husband Jacob and I keep talking about what it means to live in community.  Lately we’ve been talking about how we believe that our family is our first community … that when we seek to live in abundant community with our two boys we establish trust, gift-mindedness, authenticity, and love, and that this generates a living, real entity that changes all of us.  Jacob and I feel the tension of the world to pull the family away from one another, to outsource the opportunity to pass on to the next generation to professionals, and to lure us into believing that the glitter of being able to climb social, corporate, artistic, educational … ladders will give us our identity and make us.  We are finding that we don’t have a lot of tools or role models as 30-something adults to cultivate community within our family due to a culture that we feel seems to value over-scheduling, manic pace, an attitude of more is better, and how fast can we advance.  We believe that what our family needs is to be known, to spend time together, to value one another’s gifts, and to establish a way of life together … and this all takes time.  So we are on an adventure together, growing our living community of a family, and I’m seeking to understand what it means to be integrated as a mom, an artist, a wife, a follower of Christ, a teacher, a friend, a daughter, a sister….  Living Water Dance Company is shifting to be called Living Water Dance Community as an outward expression of what is happening internally with us.  Our upcoming work for eMerge dance festival is based on the following:

What happens when we let go of consumer-based systems of outcomes, profit, competition, and control and embrace cooperation and innovation through community?  How can Peter Block and John McKnight’s text, Abundant Community be practiced through contact improvisation?  “Aliveness is a state of unpredictability, mystery, and fallibility. It requires relatedness, willingness to not know, willingness to face the silence. It requires time, whatever it takes versus how long will this take. What kills aliveness is our need for consistency and control, love of speed, love of knowing and certainty, relationships being transactional, needing to scale up, be performance-oriented, feeling ‘I must get it right’.” –Peter Block

Forging Community will be created from practicing principles of both a consumer-based society from text, Abundant Community (scarcity, fear, competition, control, system…) and principles of an “abundant community” (kindness, generosity, silence, time, cooperation, discovering gifts amongst the people… ) in our rehearsals, forging a new work that is authentically created through lived experience.  Aspects of the work will remain improvisational and will be dependent on the dancers, space, sound, and audience.  We will create our own live sound score using vocals of text and song as part of our performance.

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