By: J.C. Mitchell
I brought my mom out to Olivier Wevers’ Whim W’Him, a contemporary dance company in Seattle. Because of a bad ankle, I dropped her off at the door with her ticket as I went to find a parking spot. After a few minutes of searching, I was lucky enough to find street parking near a downtown church I like. For me, going to dance (or any art event) is an act of corporate worship, and for me it is a wonderful event to be moved to laugh, cry, think, and feel deeply through human movement. So I came into the Erikson Theatre Off Broadway, expecting to have such an experience as I listed, having been to many other shows of this company. Mr. Olivier Wevers is the artistic director, and has always had at least one of his works highlighted; however, tonight, he was acting only as host.
This new Whim W’Him Choreographic Shindig, as it is termed, was a result of a call to choreographers around the worldwide, and after getting almost 100 applicants, the decision was left to the dancers themselves. I was intrigued last year when the debonair Olivier stood on stage and announced this consensus method for the Shindig. I thought at that time how refreshing it is to hear of such collaboration. The result of this method was wonderful, and if you are in the Seattle area, I encourage you to go tonight (through 9/19) and here is a review for those interested. The night was filled with three unique works that explored human desire, and I was drawn into what I term worship. But I am not writing this to review this Shindig, but to reflect on this role of host by Mr. Wevers, for it is actually our most important role in the church.
No matter the size of the church, we are inviting people into the space and community. With the tradition and form of our respective denominations or local congregations, we bring them into the dance of searching for the divine. Yes, I am not entering into a community per se when I go to a dance, and the parameters of the interaction are limited to that show printed on my ticket, but I feel we can learn something from Mr. Olivier Wevers’ example, not only supporting other choreographers by having them come create dances with the company, but the fact the dancers are given the ultimate consensus.
Do we in the church, both ministers and lay leaders, truly demonstrate such hospitality to the unique voices in the world (theologies, traditions, methods, etc.), while also supporting those working with us to know which voices they are interested in exploring, and creating the parameters that allow for a spiritual growth that attracts an audience to do the same?
These questions were already in my mind before Mr. Olivier Wevers stepped onto the stage to welcome us to this new Shindig. As he welcomed us that evening with a wonderful smile and joyful energy of being the host, my mother leaned over to me, and said, “That’s the man that helped me to my seat.”
And yes, the best hospitality is achieved when you pick up the towel and serve the social other first.