“Moving Spirit”: a reflection by Sarah Carlson

“Moving Spirit” was originally conceived to be a movement-based performance art piece exploring embodied spirituality and its emergence at Moravian Seminary, an institution that has traditionally practiced a more sedentary style of worship. The project was community-based uniting DanceLink’s professional dancers with Spiritual Directors from Moravian Seminary. Composer Vernon J. Mobley was engaged to create an original score for the project that would be produced & directed by myself, Sarah Carlson, the Artistic Director of DanceLink. Due to Covid-19, the project format shifted from a live staged performance to a screen dance platform. In July 2020, the cast met via Zoom and in-person to rehearse and reflect upon personal experiences of the embodied sacred. Original movement motifs were drawn from written reflections by the cast members and were later videoed by Marco Calderon onsite at Moravian Seminary. The video footage sought to capture the soul and texture of the space itself along with the living, moving spirit of the cast members within it.

Navigating the risks and constraints of Covid was stressful at times. One of my performers was not comfortable removing her mask inside which provoked the decision to film outside. Thankfully, these outside shots ended up being some of the most vivid and moving of the project. Vernon Mobley’s score was composed after filming was compete and, when layered on the footage, added an uplifting, meditative tone. Indeed, the fervent, sustained organ notes are not unlike what one might hear in worship. “Moving Spirit” was presented as part of the IceHouse Tonight online series and was followed by a 45 min panel discussion on embodied spirituality including Marcella Kraybill-Greggo (Faculty, Moravian Seminary), Jennika Borger (Chaplain, Moravian College, Margaret Wallert (Reverend & Spiritual Director) and myself. I was particularly pleased with the flow & substance of this discussion and the degree to which it further unpacked the themes of the project. This effort was my first substantial screen dance project and while I certainly learned a lot along the way, I am also proud of the result. Overall, I believe “Moving Spirit” presents a unique perspective on the modern evolution of Moravian Seminary, one of the Lehigh Valley’s oldest and most cherished institutions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.