The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Two posts in one day because I forgot about the ballet!

Last night, Sara and I went to the city to see Alonzo King's LINES Ballet. Oh. My. Lanta. It was unbelievably gorgeous. There were two pieces -- "Dust and Light" and "Scheherezade." Both were ineffably gorgeous.

Dust and Light was 12 duets and/or trios of women and men, set to Baroque concertos and some ethereal choral pieces. There was a slight fog machine, resembling dust, and everchanging lighting schemes. The costumes were very simple. It's hard to say much about because it was really just minimalist and breathtaking. In the description of the piece, Alonzo King is quoted as saying, "a tendu isn't just the straightening of the leg, but a ray of light radiating from the sun." That really sums up the radiance of the piece. I couldn't believe it was the "opener" for something else -- this headliner had to be life-altering to top Dust and Light.

And you know, it may have been. The story of Scheherezade comes from One Thousand and One Nights, an old Persian story. In the story, the sultan's wife is unfaithful, so he has her beheaded. For the next 8,000 nights, he marries a virgin and kills her in the morning, until there are simply no virgins left in Persia. The only one left is Scheherezade, the daughter of the vizier. She marries the sultan, and starts to tell him an epic bedtime story. She doesn't finish the story, and so the next day, he doesn't kill her, because he wants to know the end. So for the next 1,001 nights, she tells most of a story, and finishes the story the following evening, before beginning another. Over the course of the 1,001 nights, the sultan is changed, and no longer wishes to kill her.

Scheherezade did not come into this situation looking to see if she could outwit the sultan. She came knowing she could change him. In Persian mythology, the sultan is seen to represent humanity, and our need to hurt after having been hurt. Scheherezade is the savior figure, who changes our hearts and redeems us. A beautiful story and a beautiful ballet.

Just so you can understand how gorgeous these pieces were, here are some photographs. The first two are from Dust and Light, the second two from Scheherezade.






[I got all of these images from www.linesballet.org, which you should visit and buy tickets for the spring season. Sara and I are absolutely going back.]

Live music and live dance are simultaneously the sexiest and holiest experiences possible -- there's a reason they're both called ecstasy.

Anyway, I was once a ballerina, (when I was very small) and so my minimal appreciation for ballet at that time has grown into a very great appreciation at this time. I don't know what the positions are anymore, or what particular poses are called, or what a "phrase" really is or what any of those fancy dancer terms mean...but what I do know is that dance performance moves me. I just love to watch these dancers with their beautiful, strong bodies writhing and flexing and twirling and balancing and falling and leaping and...every other verb-ing.

We were very fortunate that, immediately following our performance, the brilliant Alonzo King came out on stage for a Q&A. He was hilarious in that he didn't take anyone's bullshit, didn't answer any question he didn't feel like, and said some of the most eloquent, profound sentences I would never have expected out of his mouth.

Some rude lady, rather than asking a question, criticized that this performance had not made her feel what it was supposed to make her feel. The description of this ballet says, "As the duets and trios of dancers culminate in an exuberant ensemble, the intimacy of the piece expands and opens outward, immersing the audience in luminous grace." She claimed that she did not experience this luminous grace. And do you know what he said? He said, "Some people are going to feel nothing. Some people are going to feel much. Some people are going to be pierced by this. And you know which you are."

As the story of Scheherezade is Middle Eastern, someone asked what he thought this performance was doing for East versus West dialogue. He said, "All of us are East and West. Left brain, Right brain. All of us are efficiency and spirituality. All of us are Adam and Eve."

Someone asked if he had any advice for the group of dance students she had brought. He replied, "When you do what you do to a high level, it becomes poetry. Whether you are an agriculturalist or a dancer. We are makers and we are doers. But we must know ourselves. Who am I to sing or write or dance if I don't know myself? Know thyself."

...what? He was brilliant and beautiful and as I was furiously scribbling every word out of his mouth, it felt like I was taking sermon notes. Sara and I kept calling out "Amen!" It was absolutely a spiritual experience. We felt the luminous grace.

We'd be better off if I just took some time to try to understand you.

I’m having trouble.