Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Milestone of Misa Criolla

 Happy 275th Anniversary, City of Reading, PA! 

Many celebrations are happening this week and I was fortunate enough to catch some of the fireworks lighting the mountaintop tonight. 

One significant, maybe serendipitous, event happens this Sunday, March 19th at 7pm at St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church in Reading. The Reading Choral Society and Alvernia University Chorus are coming together to share Misa Criolla, among other performances. 

This particular event holds a special place in my heart because:

  • Historically (anthropology and story buff here 😁), the Misa Criolla was the first Catholic Mass to be translated from Latin into a vernacular language, less than 100 years ago. It was translated into Spanish and much of the musical score was based on traditional dances. The way I see it, the Church took a huge step to honor the diversity of its congregations and make the religion more accessible (dare I say more inclusive) by translating its texts. And... the Church recognized that dance was integral to the integration of people and spirituality - at least in the relationship to music. Utilizing sounds associated with physical movement, community, and joy were the bridge between a complicated institution and a new connection to a larger group of people. Please, do your own research because I'm just skimming the historical importance of the work.   
  • The Reading/ Berks area has a large Hispanic population. By producing this performance, Alvernia and the Reading Choral Society are acknowledging this. Perhaps, like in times gone by, this performance is an invitation of inclusion and acceptance from large organizations that might seem "off limits" to some folks. Full disclosure, I'm making assumptions from the sidelines here. But, I like to think that we're in a time of community building, joy creation, and positive perspective shifting. These things take time, but without first steps, the journey can't begin. 
  • This is the first collaborative performance between Reading Choral Society and Alvernia University Chorus. Again, yay for creating community through artistic collaboration! 
  • I was brought into explore how dance could be incorporated as a visual element to compliment the singing and honor the tradition of folk dances on which the music is based. Time and space didn't allow for a choreographic translation of the mass, but I was invited and encouraged to bring dance into the entity of the event. Thank you! 
I'm in the unique position to be directing an ensemble of adult dance artists working at a professional level (JCWK Dance Lab). I'm also leading a group of younger artists who are craving dance education through experiential learning (Alvernia University Dance Company). To honor the Misa Criolla and the groundwork laid by Reading Choral Society and Alvernia University Chorus, I'm bringing these groups together to share dance as part of the celebration of community building and joy creation through artistic/ embodied experience. 
  • The music choice is specific to the above intentions and to acknowledging our contemporary climate. We're dancing to a familiar tune from a recent, popular movie to acknowledge the Misa Criolla's Latin American heritage and in recognition of the moment this event is occurring. (I checked and we're covered by licensing). And, yes, I fully expect that folks in the audience will sing along. Welcome! Singing is a form of embodied expression - the vocal chords are dancing! 
  • The dancers will be wearing white. This is to acknowledge the pure intention of the collaborations. And, white light reflects all colors. 
  • We've been experimenting with wings. We (the dancers, the singers, the community leaders as I witness them) are literally and metaphorically expanding our wings to try new things. We're going to get tangled up as we practice, learn, perform, and try again. But, we can only learn by doing, by making the mistakes, and making the choices to keep going. In dance, as in life, the show must go on. 
  • Both JCWK Dance Lab and Alvernia Dance Company have a diverse group of dancers. By "diverse," I mean different in age, dance experiences, body type, ethic backgrounds, and personal narratives. In bringing them together, I hope to replicate the model I see from RCS and AUC in invitation and inclusion. I deeply believe this is possible through thoughtful mentorship, leadership, and love. 
There's more, I'm sure. 

These are a few of the elements I've been witness to and hold dear. 

Would you join us? 

For tickets and more information, click here

I'm including some rehearsal shots below. 

Members of Alvernia University Dance Company in rehearsal. 

JCWK Dance Lab artists in rehearsal as part of our
Cultural Exchange with The Heritage of Green Hills.
Photo by Paul Laincz

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