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Artists in Motion

April 17, 2013

Eleven years ago, when I was Artistic Director for World Youth Day 2002, one of my responsibilities was the Papal Welcome Ceremony. Fr. Tom Rosica, CSB (who was Director of WYD) had suggested that we include a specific liturgical dance group comprised of people with different abilities, and so began my journey with the L’Arche Daybreak Spirit Movers. I can honestly say that the event welcoming Pope John Paul II to WYD was by far the most meaningful of the whole week and that moment, the Spirit Movers dancing to On That Holy Mountain, was the most moving of the whole evening. I later found out from Fr. Rosica that it had also been a moving experience for the Pope!
The Spirit Movers are a sacred dance group composed of people of all abilities. They celebrate the gift of diversity and explore the extraordinary ways our relationships express the love of God and the beauty of the human spirit. For those who’ve never heard of L’Arche or of the vision of Jean Vanier, they need not look further than the Spirit Movers. Although the Spirit Movers is not all that L’Arche Daybreak* does, in a way, they do encompass the spirit of L’Arche. How best to describe a community that is not founded on the word – a community founded instead, on the body, but through a group of dancers – those who communicate best by using their bodies? And these are not the National Ballet with their muscular bodies; they are people with broken bodies – people with disabilities who, like professional dancers, are very much in their bodies.
This year, the Spirit Movers are celebrating their 20 year anniversary. Since their formation, they’ve performed in many venues and have moved many audiences. They also offer retreats and performances for school groups, churches and conferences.
On Monday, April 15th, L’Arche Daybreak hosted Artists in Motion at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. It was an evening in celebration of the Spirit Movers and the main event of the evening was the screening of the Salt + Light TV Production, With Our Own Hands, a film that tells the story of the Spirit Movers, the story of L’Arche and shares the vision of Jean Vanier.
Of course the evening also included dancing. The Spirit Movers were joined by many of their members from previous years, including Marcie Taylor, the founding director and Kathy Kelly who was director at the time of the WYD2002 performance. They joined the current troupe, directed by Anna MacLean.
The evening also included an art exhibit of eleven Daybreak Core member artists. The art was varied and inspiring – these artists are truly talented and creative – the art was varied with traditional canvas paintings as well as digital prints done on an iPad.
Needless to say, the evening was inspiring, moving and uplifting. Carl MacMillan, Director of Daybreak welcomed everyone and most of the L’Arche Daybreak community was present, as well as many of their family members and friends. There were also teachers and students from local schools, people from various faith communities and business leaders from the community. There were also representatives from various governments: Richmond Hill mayor, David Barrow, MPP Reza Moridi and Tom Mastorakis from the office of the local MP, Costas Megegakis. It’s great to see the L’Arche community celebrated and recognised by our government officials.
St. Augustine is known for saying that when we sing we pray twice. I’m sure that if we dance we also pray twice. But if we’re singing while we’re dancing, then we’re praying three times! That’s what this evening was about.
Congratulations to L’Arche Daybreak and the Spirit Movers on this anniversary! Keep doing what you're doing demonstrating the essence of Jean Vanier's vision as ambassadors for L'Arche Daybreak.
To order your copy of With Our Own Hands call 1 888 302 7181
To read more about the Spirit Movers go to Defining Personhood and The Voice of Illness, part 6: In my life
*Daybreak is the second L’Arche community founded. It is in Richmond Hill and was the home of Fr. Henri Nouwen.
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