As a Pentecostal Christian, I have been in the church all my life. That said, I have seen my share of liturgical dancing. If that’s not enough, I had the nerve to attend a Catholic university where I learned the origins of the word “liturgical.” Yes, it’s a word from the Holy Bible. But, I digress.
I never would have imagined that there would be a big show, let alone a school, dedicated to liturgical – or formal public worship – dancing.
There’s even a company that makes costumes specifically for this purpose; that’s a lot of cloth. With that in mind, I could never imagine that there would be a massive group of people willing to pay to see the things I see in my own church for free.
I know I sound like some kind of jaded critic, but I’m not. Pastor Vincent and Constance McIntyre, of the McIntyre Institute and the Chapel of
Prayer, recently hosted their annual liturgical dance showcase at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. Just before the May 9 show, I had a quick chance to speak with Mrs. McIntyre.
“We’re bridging the gap of diversity through ministry,” she said.
Diverse this show is. The audience is a little community of different cultures converging in the unity of the Spirit. The only indication that this family is not blood-related is their obvious difference in ethnicity.
So, if I were blind, I’d never know I was sitting in an audience of random church goers and non-church goers alike. Thanks to the people of different nationalities who attend the McIntyre Institute, including Trinidad, Jamaica, Europe, Colombia, Cuba, Africa, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, Haiti and America, the audience is like a random foreign sampling of people.
I did not, however, drive all the way to downtown Miami to look at audience members. I came to see a show. Constance, a classically trained dancer who studied Lester Horton and Martha Graham techniques at Florida State University, choreographed most of the dance numbers in the show. She also took a summer program with the Alvin Ailey School of Dance. So, the bar was set pretty high for the dancers to be pretty good.
The 120-student dance company is not made up entirely of lithe bodies. There are different body types and styles, but the dancers seem to do their best. There were only a few people who stood out as dancers, but the standard of liturgical dancing, which does not require staunch ballet
technique, is achieved. The dancers, who range in age from six years old to “mature” adults are good dancers, nonetheless.
Moving on to the music, I tend to lean toward fast music because it usually picks up my spirits and makes me feel good. I also like good tracks that I can dance to. The music of this show is not my cup of tea. There were only three scenes that caught my attention in terms of the music: “Called 2 Dance Part II,’’ “Waging War’’ and “Motherless Child.’’ Incidentally, these are my favorite pieces of the show, as well.
In “Called 2 Dance,’’ the number itself has an Egyptian feel to it with the vibrant golds, greens and purples. The movements are a mix of belly dance, African Diaspora, and Pan-Hellenic step dancing. I have always been fascinated with ancient Egyptian culture and belly dance, so this caught my attention. I could completely understand why it was chosen as the opening number.
My love for “Waging War” is not because of the song, which is decent. It’s not my favorite gospel song. But the use of vibrant red and props like fake swords and ribbon banners that resemble fire are an awesome display.
“Motherless Child’’ is a great one, as well. Mrs. McIntyre narrates a memory of her mother singing this song, then the dancers proceed to wow the audience with their lithe movements.
Not to say that the rest of the show was a yawn. I don’t like slow music, but darn it if the dancing didn’t affect me in some way. I did manage to get goose bumps on my spiritual side.
My critic side, however, felt like the songs should have been more gripping. Not that the cuter-than-cute, little dancers weren’t gripping in their own right. The musical selection just failed to move the critic side of me.
All in all, I did enjoy the show, especially emcee James Sheppard of 98.3, Grace FM. He caught and held the audience’s attention to keep the show moving.
I also think that the McIntyre Institute is providing a great service for the community and should be recognized for that. And I hope the readers of this fine publication will take this article as pure opinion, plain and simple, and not feel like I am attacking the work executively produced and creatively directed by, according to the McIntyres, God Almighty.
I’m sure He understands my critic side.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
For more information about the McIntyre Institute, log onto www.mcintyreinstitute.com.