Monday, May 10, 2010

size doesn't matter, but what about position?

Tomorrow I'll be performing my liturgical dance in class. I'll give you a beat for that to sink in, because if you've seen me recently, you've admired my pretty blue crutches and my intimidating medical boot. It's been two weeks since my injury, and a slow healing.
But yes, tomorrow I'll be performing a solo dance. From a seated position.

The first Sunday of these weeks of injury, I sang in choir seated (while the rest of the choir stood). That felt ridiculous, so ever since, when I sing, I've been standing up on crutches. Tiresome, a little wobbly, but there is just something you lose when you sit down. A little volume and power, and a lot of the sense of actually being there.

I practiced a sermon (Fallen Grapes, below) in a chair and just about boiled with frustration... for a couple of reasons. One is expressive. You can't lean, sway, or get up on your toes for an important point when you're seated. The other is a funny thing about authority. Think about it -- in most churches the preacher is elevated, either theater-style on a stage, or medieval-style in a pulpit. In some cases you are as high as five or six feet above the congregation (in cathedrals, even more). They do this to you because they believe something in your words will be out of the ordinary, even divine, and worthy of greater attention. When you are face-to-face on a level plain, there is no such implicit expectation.
When I preached in class I asked for a stool, and someone scoured the building and found me one. This way I was able to preach from the pulpit -- for which I was grateful. It was exactly the same height as I would be standing, but somehow it still limited me. I stood up on one foot for the last minute of the sermon, possibly frightening my more anxious classmates. I had to -- there was too much energy coursing through me, and like electricity it needed to be grounded to the floor, and reach up to the sky.

Dancing while seated will be an interesting adventure. Apparently (and ahead of time, mind you), I inspire my classmates. If I can do this awkward task, they feel they can get over their hesitations and just dance. I'm hoping I will be able to "just dance" myself, forgetting all the turns and leaps I've left out of the choreography, forgetting what is not and focusing on what is -- hands, arms, back and head are all working perfectly well. I have to let whatever dance (or sermon, or poem) I have within me have its place, even when the legs don't cooperate.

Number one comment I get about my singing is... "such a big voice from such a little body!" I like surprising people with that. And usually I use body language and position to extend the Authority and Presence that my tiny body doesn't give me naturally.
But it is hard to be made even smaller than I am, not in body but in position, by being sat down when I want to stand, by having crutches in my hands that keep me from gesturing, by slowly slowly hopping places instead of striding confidently. I guess I have to be even more hidden, more secret, and hopefully more surprising, as I lose the external supports and only have the core of the message that I bring.