Last year I was invited to create a piece
for my theology class, in place of a paper. The assignment was to integrate an important aspect of Christian theology into our lives, so making a dance fit the bill quite well.
I had a month to read my text, research, build a concept, attempt to get in shape enough after months of small children and moving across the country, find another dancer, choreograph to that dancer and be ready to perform. No problem. Oh! Gotta cut music, get permission and not fail my other classes, lol. It was fun, and we did it.
This is the first piece I have shown of my work in a long time and the first I’ve performed in a couple years. As an artist I tremble, knowing all to well the critiques that could be made, and the changes I want to make to develop it even more! But as a part of my art journey, the one in which I am not compared to anyone but myself, I am so blessed that God has worked in my life, healing by body to move and having the privilege to perform IN A SEMINARY!! To give glory to God through dance. This is only the beginning.
Below is the write up I prepared and presented before the performance. I was also blessed to be able to speak to the group before hand for several minutes, and Elizabeth and I were able to give some demonstrations concerning the appreciation of dance, but that is not in the video below.
Thank you to the many who bathed this in prayer, supported the project and attended! Special thanks to my mom for the inspirational trip to New York during it’s conception, and most of all to my amazing husband and children who are my heart.
An exposition on the nature of the Trinity
The 5th century of Christianity saw one of the greatest and most vital controversies in Christendom, the nature of Christ. Nestorius had challenged convention by suggesting that Christ had two natures since humanity and divinity could not possibly be combined into one (Dr. Donald Fairbairn, “Lecture on the Great Schism”). In attempting to refute him the church entered into a lengthy dispute which involved, not only the nature of Christ, but the nature of the entire God-head. The conclusion of the Chalcedonian council was that the Trinity had one nature, or ousia, but three persons (Fairbairn, “The Great Schism”). It is easy enough to say in English, but in Greek and Latin there was some continued dispute about whether to say phusis or hypostasis to represent God’s “personness”, but the intention and meaning of both parties was the was the same (Wahba n.d.). Peter Toon, in his book Our Triune God: A Biblical Portrayal of the Trinity, says this about YHWH “He is a marvelous mystery, a plurality in unity, and a unity in plurality,” (Toon, 95), and it is this mystery which Hypostasis seeks to explore.
Every dance begins with a theme and inspiration. The Trinity itself is mine, and more particularly our personal understanding of the Trinity and relationship to it. Because of it’s strong sense of individuality and independence Western thought tends towards pantheism, Toon says, citing observations made by Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America (Toon, 18). In Christianity this tendency appears in the habit of thinking of God as disinterested and detached from us and our daily lives. Or, perhaps He is interested, but He gave us the ability to think for ourselves didn’t He? Herein lies my chorographical theme of Idea, a Christian perception of the God-head more in keeping with classic Greek philosophy than Biblical Christianity. In stark contrast to the invisible Idea is the tangible Object. This theme is meant to show how silly and fruitless it is to try to live with God conversely as a mere physical Object. This dance suggests that neither of these relationships are sufficient, or accurate of the reality of the Trinity, and puts forth for discussion a third alternative embodied in the word hypostasis itself.
1st Corinthians chapter 13 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face.” It is impossible to truly represent the entire God-head through any earthly means, but as Paul suggests in this verse there is a very true sense in which we can see Him and know him. It is dim, a mere shadow of reality (The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis), but true none-the less. The word hypostasis reflects this well. Literally it means understanding and actively it means “that which gives support” (Toon, 41). Toon affirms that it is the active sense which is used by classic Trinitarianism and the Council of Chalcedon to explain how the persons of the Trinity relate to each other. Hypostasis pushes both the active and literal sense of the word by suggesting ways in which a human life lives and interacts with the Trinity the way the God intended. Comfort and support give way to collaboration and togetherness. There is interaction, intimacy and artistry, ultimately telling a story common to all Christians through the movements of the dance.
Dance is the sign language of music. Like any art it can be used for beauty or ugliness, but it is nevertheless powerful because it uses the vulnerability of the human body to impress upon the human soul the intentions of the artist in a way that is personal. As the name Hypostasis suggests, there is a personal God whose mysterious “personness” demands recognition and contemplation. This artist would like to suggest that through the exploration of Hypostasis this evening you contemplate three questions; Who is God? What is my relationship with Him? And, is it what it ought to be? Further, that you allow yourself to be personally affected by the spiritually formative nature of the piece, which all art and creativity naturally bear (Wes Van der Lugt, “The Beauty of Holiness”).
Video: click below
Hypostases – choreography by Rachel Davis, performed by Rachel Davis & Elizabeth Witham</strong
“Festival” by Sigur Ros used with permission. Cut by Nathanael Davis for Hypostasis, 12/4/2015