Moving Words

Army On Its Toes Dance Company partnered with spoken word artist Jovanie Smith to devise a piece for Fuego. 

“For me it starts off with an intimate moment with God . Really allowing myself to be in a comfortable space, to be vulnerable and free.” Smith describes her process for the beginnings of a spoken word. She had never worked with dancers before.”At first I was quite nervous because I didn’t know what to really expect and was very hard on myself, making sure that I set the tone for them.”

The content of the piece was fiery, emotive and full.

But if I say I will not mention his word or speak his name,
His word is in my heart like a fire,
A fire shut up in my bones,
I am weary of holding it in
Indeed, I cannot

Jeremiah 20:9

Normally, lyrics with that kind of power makes it easier to loose yourself in the rhythm… but there was no music to escape into. The dancers fully depended on Smith for tempo and listened closely for changes in tone and heightened emotion. The backing track was there for atmosphere only, all musical queues were felt and executed moment-by-moment. So, while the audience witnessed a visual dance in front of them, a second dance was taking place between the speaker and the dancers on stage.

Smith continues, “I loved the creative blend between the dancers and myself. I appreciated their ministry and their acceptance of me. It was fun. To see their bodies move to the words and the expression that they gave at the same time I expressed myself really motivated me express more.”

Dancer, Olivia Renkel commented, “Every time we did it, the experience was different. It was amazing to build off the energy of Jovanie, it really gave me the ability to be in the moment as opposed to already knowing exactly how the performance was going to be.”

The choreography was devised by the dancers themselves. This process was explored at TAM Conservatory this past summer where Joe Frost from Belhaven University was brought in as a guest Artistic Director. The devised theatre method creates a more inclusive environment than the traditional ‘director/choreographer vs. actor/dancer’ format. The dancers were the choreographers, each stretching themselves to give ideas and listen to others. Everyone had to be flexible and willing to try anything.

The Army On Its Toes Dance Company was one of the first things to be seen on the Fuego stage. Chuck Goodin remarked, “I loved the piece. It really set the tone for the weekend.”

Company’s next performance will take place at the Worship Arts Convocation in March 2017.

Company dancers for this performance listed in alphabetical order: Luie Colon, Natalia Cruz, Evangeline Miller, Abigail Pastin, Emily Pastin, Olivia Renkel and Evelyn Stickland.