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ON THE ARTS

Theresa Remick: Building community through performance

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Path of Miracles

The "Path of Miracles" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, at Wesley United Methodist Church.

During the past two years, I’ve had the great fortune to work with a group of 25 presenters, artists, agents, and managers through the Association of Performing Arts Professionals Leadership Fellows Program. Throughout our time together, one of the topics we often discussed was community, particularly what makes a community and how to work in community with our neighbors.

Last week, while attending APAP’s annual conference, I got to see a preview performance of ODC/Dance’s “Path of Miracles,” which the Page Series will present next week at Wesley United Methodist Church. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the music, the strength of the dancers, and the way the piece washed over me — despite sitting in a small New York dance studio. But before the performance even started, choreographer KT Nelson spoke about the piece, and her words landed right in the middle of the conversations I’d been having with my colleagues. Nelson talked about the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route across Northern Spain that, along with Joby Talbot’s music, served as the inspiration for “Path of Miracles.” Nelson walked the Camino before choreographing the piece, and she saw a community come together over the 500-mile journey. Each of the work’s four movements corresponds to one of four main stops along the Camino, and while introducing each section, Nelson described the different ways this community laughed together, shared with each other, and even physically supported each other in times of exhaustion.

“Path of Miracles” brilliantly conveys these moments through movement, and as I watched, I started to realize that in addition to seeing a representation of pilgrim experience, the group of us in attendance was also embarking on a journey together. Dancers led audience members into the performance space, welcoming them into a area that’s usually off limits to us as viewers. A gentle, guiding hand on the shoulder from dancer to audience member held as much meaning as an intimate duet or a breathtaking lift. A dancer performing inches from where I was sitting exposed new details I don’t usually get to see when watching dance: the intricate movement of a toe, the slight shift of one’s eyes. Site specific performances often give audiences a new perspective, but in my experience attending arts events, they rarely create this kind of connection between performer and audience. I felt I was seeing those two years of conversations with my APAP colleagues realized through art.

I’m excited to embark on this journey together with my fellow Winonans next week. As we move through Wesley United Methodist Church together, we will visit with old friends and meet new neighbors. The moments we share along with ODC and the 19 musicians who will perform alongside the dancers will be unique to Winona and to this individual performance. For one hour, we will have created our own special community, and much like the pilgrims who walk the Camino, I hope the experience is one that continues to connect us in the days, months, and years to come.

The Performance Center at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and the Charles Wesley Center for Sacred Music and Arts are members of River Arts Alliance. For more information about RAA, visit riverartsalliance.org and on Facebook.

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