For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
    though a person may be weighed down by misery.

Since no one knows the future,
    who can tell someone else what is to come?
As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
    so no one has power over the time of their death.
As no one is discharged in time of war,
    so wickedness will not release those who practice it.

(Ecclesiastes 8:6-8)

 
It was November 26. A typical monochromatic winter afternoon in Germany, drizzling rain and unpleasantly cold. Huddled together waiting for the bus I stood with my group of ten performers hailing from France, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, and Italy. The city bus arrived. We piled and were transported further away from the city into the winding country side of horse pastures and mustard fields. On our journey we exchanged nervous, exited questions about the place we were going and the people we were to meet.
 
Our destination was a newly constructed refugee welcome center just 20 minutes up the hill from us. It was designed to temporarily house up to 700 refugees before placing them in permanent residential units across various cities all over Germany. Our invitation was to to present was a kind of “welcome” and “here is something to enjoy while you wait” performance.
 
I had been asked to create a piece of choreography for this event back in October when I was contemplating my final post for this Spark and Echo residency. Originally I had set a goal of making two dance films based on the selected passages from Ecclesiastes. One was to be a solo and the other a Fakers Club performance in a public space. My 2nd and 3rd posts are variations on these ideas but for my final posting I no longer felt compelled to push in this initial direction. When the opportunity to create something for the refugee camp arose I decided to shift my focus in this direction for the final posting. Working with the last passage from my selection of Ecclesiastes 8:6 – 17 I took inspiration from ideas of time, future, power, meaninglessness, misery, seeing, wisdom, understanding, what is fair and unfair, and joy.
 
We arrived at the complex of building several hours before the schedule performance. First step was to get through security. The refugee building was under very strong protection and entrance required a criminal background check plus lots of paperwork. Patience was difficult to muster with so much anticipation surrounding the event. Once cleared we wound our way through a network of buildings to the enormous mess hall characterized by a shiny, stainless steel industrial kitchen and hundreds of pine tables, chairs and matching plywood walls. We cleared an area of the space to create a makeshift stage. Families with young children, men young and old trickled in and shuffled around to find a seat they liked. The performers also found a seat in the “audience” area. All together about 200 people waited in silence, staring at an empty space.
 

 
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Photo from “3, 2, 1, the future.” (Click on image to zoom.)

 
And then orchestral music begins to swell. One by one the performers stand up on their chairs among the audience. The performers call out each other’s names and begin pass a glowing blue ball above the audience. The music shifts to Afro-Funk and a wild game of toss explodes. The children go nuts. Seamlessly the ball disappears but the game continues and intensifies with an invisible ball. The performers jump and tumble all through the space, catching and passing the imaginary ball. The music stops everyone freezes. The performers slowly and quietly return to their chairs. The audience is trying to contain the giddiness the sport just stirred up. Two girls begin to whisper to each other across the room. They crawl out of their chairs and meet. The other performers come to find them and carry the two girls overhead. As their conversation continues they are floated above audience heads. A new person is picked up and transported through the space as the discussion continues. The group congregates and bodies assemble together to form a house like structure. One girl explores the house as a thunderstorm soundtrack plays in the background. The house of bodies collapses around her. Out of the rubble it rises again and lifts her up on its shoulders. She find pulls out a small bottle in her pocket, looks at it carefully and begins to blow the bubbles through the air. The children gasp with glee. The performers reach out to gently catch the bubbles and they transform into glass marbles. The clunk of marbles hitting the floor relates the silent burst of a thin soapy sphere. One man begins to collect all the marbles one by one. Momentarily halting the play. Who gets to have the marbles? For a tiny moment time is suspended. The man with the marbles looks around and begins to place one in the hands of audience members. The performers return to their seats and dance miniatures dances with the marble. So small they are only intended for people sitting closest to them. The music quiets and everything returns to stillness. Long after the performance the young and old continue to roll the small marble gifted to them through their fingers.
 

 
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Photo from “3, 2, 1, the future.” (Click on image to zoom.)

 
I have almost no documentation of this final project in the series. The reason being security measures meant that video was completely prohibited and only few people were authorized to take photos. Although we have more photos available we are not allowed to use them because the faces of the audience are recognizable. Because most of our performance was intended to be in, among, and through the audience nearly all of our photos have faces of refugees in them. The photos I am posting here are permissible for use.
 
Like all time-based performances, this piece disappeared almost instantly after it emerged. What lingered were only the smiles and beaming eyes. A feeling of joy hovered.
 
It is hard for me to discuss dances in verbal language because I am more interested in visceral and emotional gut reactions. This is why I was drawn to the passages of Ecclesiastes originally. Because I feel the writers ideas through his language. I feel his frustration and confusion and joy and release. The writing is circular and moving around. Not landing on a final answer. It attempts comprehension but finds that it can’t. It can’t understand. I feels disappointing, absurd and hopeless. Yet in the end it feel that the writer focuses on joy.
 
While studying this final passage in my Spark and Echo series I was reminded of another verse in scripture. “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” Luke 10:21
 

 
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Photo from “3, 2, 1, the future.” (Click on image to zoom.)

 
After our small performance vanished it was the laughter of the children that remained. And at the end of my year long residency it is the joyful promise that what is hidden and confused and darkened will be revealed to little children that remains with me.

 

all photos by Dominque Chabot

 

 

Read Stephanie’s first and second, and third post to follow the development of her 2016 Artist in Residence project.

View Stephanie’s previous work created for Spark and Echo Arts: Treasure Heart.

Read Stephanie’s artist bio here.

 

These materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.

 

Help more artists create works on biblical text by donating to Spark and Echo Arts.

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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