The Divinity School Center for Reconciliation and Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts co-hosted the Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet at the invitation of Ellen Davis, Ph.D., Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, on March 8. The ballet company performed interpretations of Psalms at a Goodson Chapel service and shared insights on the intersection of dance and reconciliation during a lunch discussion.
The performance, titled “Roar of Nations,” was based on renditions of various Psalms on God’s comfort and God’s majesty over the nations. The dances were accompanied by readings in Hebrew by Davis and Laura Lieber, professor of religious studies at Duke University.
Kendall Vanderslice, M.T.S. ’19, who is completing a Certificate in Theology and Arts and helped moderate the lunch discussion with Ekklesia, said she first learned to value dance as a form of embodied prayer through her previous dance training. “Dance allows us to express with our bodies what we cannot put into words,” she said. “This is especially important for the church that is often skeptical of bodies.”
The lunch panel explored how dance can lead to a better understanding of the body and how it can inspire reconciliation. Ekklesia Artistic Director Elisa Schroth said their performances is intended to inspire a call to action, whether it’s reconciliation with one another or in the world.
Said Vanderslice, “Reconciliation is not just an abstract form of healing—it involves the need for healing embodied relationships. Art, movement, and dance allow us to re-imagine the relationship of our bodies to one another, to creation, and to God as the reconciled relationships for which we strive.”
Ekklesia is based in Connecticut. Their repertory addresses issues such as poverty, inequality, and human suffering through transformative dance.