Joyful & Triumphant: Exploring Perspectives in Peace through Dance

Leave a comment

December 19, 2013 by Nicole

winter-concertThe Center for Contemporary Dance will present its annual winter concert, Joyful & Triumphant, on Saturday, December 21 at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, FL.

Craig Johnson, Executive Director at CCD, explains that the show aims to “unite the beauty of contemporary dance and the powerful intention of peace-making, [and] offer audiences something unique for the holiday season.” The performance also comes with a message that’s perfect for the season – it’s a celebration of diversity that provides a glimpse at what the world might look like when we choose the highest calling of peace.

The concert features a diverse cast of more than 80 students and was choreographed by faculty members from The Center for Contemporary Dance, including Artistic Director Dario J. Moore, Director of Pre-Professional Programs Jeré James, and Studio Manager Jennia Shanley, as well as new choreography from returning pre-professional graduates. Selections from the organization’s professional ensembles include performances by Moore Dance Project, Dawn Branch Works, Coby Project and Mary Love Dance Projects.

I had a chance to talk to the choreographers about their work for the concert. Below you’ll their notes, which will give you a sneak peek at the dance works being presented, and each choreographer’s perspective on peace and what that could mean in different moments.

The Blessing
Music Credit:  Vera Lynn, Bless this House
Choreography by: Dario J. Moore, Artistic Director
The Blessing is my personal prayer for all of Humanity. It asks that we be Blessed with the capacity to practice here on earth – today! – Heaven/Utopia/Nirvana. It is about Peace and Standing Still, knowing that we are in The Presence of The Most High. Above all, The Blessing is about Joy, Peace and Love to You this holiday season!

Descendant of the Sea
Music Credit:  Finding Nemo soundtrack, Nemo Egg
Choreography by: Jeré James, Director of Pre-Professional Programs
This is another solo piece and it’s really about the peace of the ocean. It starts out very tranquil – it goes through ebbs and flows, just like our lives. You go through your calm, then the waves start to pick up and your life gets rocky. But then the sea settles again. This piece portrays that.

Annie’s Dream
Music Credit:  From the stage musical “Annie,” Tomorrow (original cast); Pentatonix, Carol of the Bells
Choreography by: Dario J. Moore, Artistic Director
Celebrating the genuine Spirit of our Children literally requires peace in practicum. In “Annie’s Dream”, my dancers created movements that imagined shenanigans on a snow day, that we may learn from them as they conspire with one another at play and even in their collaborative efforts to create this work. And in honor of the 35th Anniversary of the musical ‘Annie’ this FUN TIMES movement also celebrates what Annie would have wanted for the children who were left behind.

Modern Family
Music Credit:   Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Home
Choreography by: Jeré James, Director of Pre-Professional Programs
Always, in general, I want my audiences to feel warm from watching my choreography, and I think this piece really sets a tone for that. It’s about that time around the holidays when you’re just all together and hanging out with your family. This has a 30s vibe to it and it’s about a mother and a father with their kids and they’re outside with the clothesline and spending time with each other. I was inspired by this time of year and thinking about what that feels like, spending time with your family and appreciating that time and those memories. They’re experiencing the peace of family and having family around.

Music Credit:  Sigur Rós, Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do
Choreography by: Nikki Pena, Coby Project
When my company was asked to be part of this performance of “perspectives on peace”, my mind began trying to organize a lot of random thoughts on this idea of peace. What continued to resonate with me was the idea of the self and how one’s self-perception impacts their overall interaction with the world. Reflections focuses on dancers working to find peace and stillness within themselves through the use of improvisational movement. Coby Project is a diverse group of dancers yet we all have similarities that unite us as a company. As improv artists, we thrive on exploring and discussing personal choices and interactions so what better way to explore the idea of peace but through the one thing that has helped us all find our own needed personal peace: improv.  We tend to not spend extensive amounts of time working on rehearsing movement or with the music because then it can become predictable and unauthentic. We do, however, discuss concepts well in advance through a variety exercises. This enables dancers to feel confident and clear with the ideas so when they are asked to improvise with the assigned piece of music, they also can experience the piece in a new way and allow audience members to feel the rush and excitement of the unknown.  Improvisation in itself promotes the idea of peace. It provides the dancers with the opportunity to experience creating in the moment which requires a sense of stillness in the midst of chaos. I hope audience members recognize the need for peace within the individual and its larger impact on the whole community. The world ultimately begins to become a reflection of individuals who are shaping it. If we want the world to embrace peace, love, and acceptance it must begin within ourselves.

Egregious Fermata
Music Credit:  Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, The Journey
Choreography by: Jeré James, Director of Pre-Professional Programs
I always tell my dancers that dance is more than just steps, we’re telling stories with our bodies. Here, they’re portraying a family in a historical event, the Holocaust. They’re a family that’s been imprisoned. Even though they are in a terrible situation, they’re in a terrible situation together. It’s about a kind of tranquility, a peace that comes from leaning on each other and the sense of family. That even if they’re behind bars, they’re still together and they still have each other. And then, in the end for them, they still have Alana’s character [in Awakening] and they get a peace knowing that she’s carrying on. She’s ok.

התעוררות (Awakening)
Music Credit:  Philip Glass, The Hours
Choreography by: Jeré James, Director of Pre-Professional Programs
This is a solo for a pre-professional student and it grew out of the group piece, Egregious Fermata, which confronts the Holocaust and one family’s struggle. This solo allowed me to continue with this character and it’s about her moment of peace. She’s torn between her family that’s been imprisoned and getting a new life for herself. The dance is about her having a moment of peace as she begins to understand that her family wants her to go – they tell her to go on. They are all able to come to the understanding that she’ll be the one who gets to set the tone for the future.

Cry for Peace
Choreography by: Dawn Stewart-Branch
Music Credit:  Michael Jackson, Earth Song
The year is 2068 and The Lord has returned to safely secure his followers as He sets out to purge the earth of the Lost. The Lost are many, and the chosen are few so in effort of saving the world, the children of The Lost unite in prayer…They humbly cry out for peace to The Lord. As The Lord begins the process He hears the prayers of His children crying out, “Lord if 10 people are found willing to repent, will you spare them?” Then, Lord if 20 people are found, will you spare them? Lord, if you find more than 20 people to repent than surely there is a chance to find more? If so, will you spare them too? Please? This is our Cry….

Celestial Journey
Music Credit:  Goldmund (Keith Kenniff), Threnody
Choreography by: Mary Love, Mary Love Dance Projects
This work is actually a selection from a pre-existing repertory we created last year entitled Light/Dark,  which was a full evening program that explored themes of duality within the human psyche. Celestial Bodies comes from some of the work in Light/Dark that explores scientific understandings as metaphors for experiences we have in our everyday lives. On the molecular level, and in many other ways, human beings serve as small microcosms of the greater workings of the universe. This particular dance has as its focal point the birth and death of stars. Just like human life, the miracle of the small but meaningful interactions that unfold throughout the lives of the stars shapes them in unique ways. I was inspired by some of the initial research I conducted for the ballet, which included looking at images taken from the Hubble telescope, particularly those of nebulas and supernovas. The images are stunning and started this idea I had that the life and death of a star could be metaphors for our own lives. The dance is very minimal, which is intended to create a meditative space for the audience. I hope they can use the moment to appreciate something special about the miracle of life. This dance celebrates the beauty of simply existing, thereby celebrating living with and in an internal peace. It also acknowledges that we are all connected on the universal scale. The dance recognizes the peaceful unity we share because we are all experiencing the world together, regardless of our different backgrounds.

Music Credit:  Imogen Heap, Cumulus
Choreography by: Denzil Rodriques, dance major at George Mason University
This piece is about someone evolving through a difficult time and into a state of peace. It’s a personal reflection and perspective on an individual peace. This work was really inspired by the music. It spoke to me as a dancer and as a choreographer. I hope the audience will also be inspired and feel a spiritual connection to this work for the holiday season.

Be Still
Music/Sound Credit:  Nina Simone, Strange Fruit; Howard A. Roberts, Processional; Martin Luther King, Jr. (spoken word); Nikki Giovanni, Peace Be Still with spoken word
Choreography by: Dawn Stewart-Branch
The scene is set in the 1960s in the Deep South when segregation was at its peak and the emergence of change was escalating. We journey through a time when lynchings were the norm and silence meant survival. As the Earth mourned our beloved ancestors which were lost to such triviality, prayers were eventually answered…and the Birth of “The Movement “was born. The work demonstrates finding the peace of the moment….even just before something bigger begins.

Illusions of Oz
Choreography by: Dawn Stewart-Branch
Music Credit:  Glee soundtrack, Rainbow Connection
I had a story in my mind while creating this dance. And my story was going back to the land and time of OZ.  But in my vision, OZ was a master painter, whose colors of choice were black and white. He was the authority on color in his land and like a dictator he demanded everyone share his views. Frustrated by the rigid rules of OZ, a gifted young painter named Dorothy, questioned the true meaning of color. In deep thought, she drifted off to sleep and dreamed in color – vibrant colors! The colors in her dream had come to life and danced as children in the field. They moved gracefully from one end of the field to the next in unison, which formed a medley of colors like a rainbow. As the young painter continued to dream she thought, “What a beautiful world it would be if people had the freedom to choose their own colors and paint their own rainbows.” The dance shows finding peace in your own desires and learning that it’s ok to want them and to paint with your own brush.

Music Credit:  John Legend, True Colors
Choreography by: Jeré James, Director of Pre-Professional Programs
This is a companion piece to another work in the show, Illusions of Oz, and it’s about equality for everyone. The young ladies in the piece all represent the different colors in the color spectrum. The reds are my fire and I tell the oranges they’re my Florida oranges. They yellow is the sun and the blue is the sky. There’s a young man in the piece and he’s my conductor. The colors are his notes. He’s directing them throughout the dance. The dance is about equality – everyone being accepted as beautiful no matter the shape, size, color, whatever, and creating a big beautiful rainbow together. To me, that’s peace in itself: everyone being accepted for just who they are. I hope the choreography makes the audience feel good. I want them to go home and say I watched something and now I feel inspired.

Letting Go
Music Credit:  Max Richter, Embers
Choreography by: Dawn Stewart-Branch
This piece is about three young girls, each experiencing difficult journeys. They watch over each other as they battle through tough times. They learn that “Letting Go” – necessary in order to come to peace – is challenging but made easier through communication and fellowship.

The Paradox
Music Credit:  The Album Leaf, Another Day
Choreography by: Amparo Padilla, pre-professional graduate & current student at Miami’s New World School of the Arts
My piece is about two people who mirror each other, as if they’re in a parallel universe or alternate reality. The spark that inspired this piece was from an individual that entered my life who taught me that you can lean on people and that life is about this journey and we each have our own. You can’t have negative things holding you down – I was really shown the positive side to life. This piece is really personal. It’s about my life and where I am now. I hope the audience feels how negativity affected me and how I’ve overcome it. It addresses “Perspectives in Peace” as these two opposites (light and dark) get showered in light and the darkness to become one. Through that process, you can find inner peace and share it with the world.

Thine Wings Bequeathed
Music Credit:  Ray Charles, Let It Be
Choreography by: Jeré James, Director of Pre-Professional Programs
For this piece, the idea of a dove really inspired the work, with the dove itself being a symbol of peace. All of my dancers will have doves on their hands – the doves are really leading the piece. When it begins, all the little doves are sitting together in a partridge tree. Then each dove descends from the tree, one at a time. They each take their own path, just like they take their own paths in life, but then they come back to where they started. This work features our pre-professionals and I’ve really challenged myself choreographically and my dancers – we’ve pushed each other to go further.

The Prayer
Music Credit:  Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli
Choreography by: Jennia Shanley, Studio Manager
The Prayer is about a group of people coming together to lift one another up, providing hope and encouragement for each other. It is about finding inner peace during difficult times, and hoping for strength and peace for others who might be suffering. It is about creating beauty in the world, even when things seem bleak or hopeless. My father was very ill a few months ago. He lives in Mexico, and I was unable to be with him during that time. It was difficult – all I could do was hope for the best and let him know I was thinking about him and that I loved him. Thankfully, he is doing much better now.  This song is one of his favorite songs, and I created this dance with him in mind. It’s important to remember that art is a process-oriented event. It’s not 100% about the final product, although seeing the dance come together on stage with the lights and costumes is very impactful. With dance, we rely on people – physical beings with their own unique gifts, stories, challenges and strengths to produce something on stage that is meaningful. It’s a tall order. We have to be patient and kind to one another during the creative process. Sometimes it is challenging. But if we are willing to face those challenges and work together, we can make something beautiful happen.  As an artist, it is a wonderful experience to have people who are willing and able to produce a vision that means something– we are communicating ideas that are much bigger than ourselves: hope, love and peace. All the dancers have been so open to trying new movement, and they have been supportive of each other during the process. I get tingles when I see them walk into the studio and give each other hugs and start reviewing choreography. Or when an older dancer helps a child go over the steps. It’s all a part of the bonding experience that occurs when people dedicate themselves to reaching outside of themselves and helping others along the way. I hope the audience feels uplifted and inspired. I want this dance to lift people up and feel inspired to create their own bit of peace and beauty in the world. I would love for them to feel compelled to hold their loved ones a little tighter during and after the show!

Gliding on a Memory
Music Credit:  David West, Pat Milliken and Lorenzo Martinez, Carol of the Bells
Choreography by: Mila Makarova
To some, the theme for Gliding on a Memory wouldn’t immediately appear to be “peaceful.” Children’s winter games like snowball fights and “crack the whip” seem to generate more bruises and cold, wet clothing than feelings of peace. But for me, a singular memory of peace is of the calm of an evening snowfall. I cherish the images I retain from my childhood in Wisconsin: the silence of the snow, the flying freedom of skating on ice, and the camaraderie of siblings who both challenged and supported me. With Gliding on a Memory, I hope to invoke the feelings of happiness, joy and freedom that find their wings during states of peace.


Joyful & Triumphant is intended for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. All proceeds from the performance benefit CCD’s cornerstone campaign Give Kids the Arts!, which annually provides more than 3,000 underserved children access to free dance education experiences.

Tickets are $12 if purchased in advance and $15 at the door. Call (407) 695-8366 or purchase online.

See you there!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: