When Word Becomes Flesh

4 mins read

Westport Center for the Arts’ Dancing Word initiative brings together poetry and dance – word and action – in an experience that immediately brings John 1:14 to mind.

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”

John 1:14 The Message

John 1:14 is my favorite passage when thinking about what it looks like for faith to be put into action right where we live. While there are words, theological implications and even feelings expressed within the pages of the Bible that I don’t understand, I do understand that a man named Jesus took all those words and ideas about living a good life in service to God and others and actually lived them out.

When words met action, the picture became clear.

In the case of Dancing Word, as poets speak their truth, dancers give it flesh, animation, life.

For those like me who are visual learners, this approach is very helpful.

Dancing Word was born during COVID, when performances were confined to Zoom.

WCA President Scott Myers noticed that Glenn Stewart’s poems were very visual and thought it could perhaps be a more impactful online performance if the poems were interpreted by professional dancers.

“In The Dancing Word, the arts of dance and poetry merge to create a performing art and an interpretative art,” Myers said. “This original art form invites the viewer-listener into a unique, inner experience of beauty and meaning.”

That experience is just as powerful, if not more so, in person.

April 2-3, a diverse group of poets and dancers presented a Dancing Word performance called “Shining the Light, Standing in Truth” at the Westport Presbyterian Church.

Poets engaged issues like homelessness in Kansas City, police brutality, racism, sexism and more and professional dancers ranging in age from 17 to 72 and coming from diverse ethic, geographic and economic backgrounds put the words into motion. As the dancers moved past the audience, stirring up the air, it was almost as if you could feel the words.

If you feel the words, perhaps they have more of a chance to change you? That idea comes with significant potential for transforming our community when the words being animated are Taylor Brown’s lament over police brutality, red lining or the plight of the houseless, Glenn Stewart’s voiced childhood trauma or gender-based injustice, or Karis Harrington’s declaration that she “killed gravity” and can’t be held down anymore.

In Jesus’ day, it took His prophetic voice matched with action to create a stir and following movement that continues to challenge injustice today.

Today, I think it will take prophetic voices inspired by Jesus matched by people willing to put words into action to effect change. While Dancing Word isn’t coming specifically from a Christian perspective, it definitely gives us Christians some food for thought and inspiration for action.

For more WCA events, visit https://wcakc.org/.

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