Campus Minister with Cru at Stanford University, Associate Faculty in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary
We have a guest today, Francesca Cipponeri. Francesca is a dancer and wrote a short reflection and included a performance piece for us.
You can follow Francesca’s work on Instagram @frani_goes_dancing
As a dancer I connect with the world, the art community, and my peers through physical interactions. I find myself giggling and tearing up at movements that I watch and experience with fellow dancers more than the words they actually say to me. Dance is a language of trust and compromise. When you are collaborating together, your bodies must listen to each other to find harmony. If you don’t, you’ll likely end up crashing into each other.
But, COVID-19 has taken away my opportunity to communicate through touch. All I can do now is dance through a screen.
My boyfriend gave me this wild idea to use a projector while dancing during this time of Shelter-In-Place. It was the week that the first 6 counties in California went on strict distancing orders. I had been wanting to carve out more time in my schedule for creative practice, and now, it seemed, the opportunity was presenting itself. I have an incredibly talented friend, Augustin, who is always on board for any adventure you present to him. I asked him if he wanted to try dancing together through a projector, although, I had never worked with a projector before. I felt (and continue to feel) my community around me quickly spiraling as kids were suddenly home from school, vacations vanished, and everyone became a ZOOM expert overnight. In my corner of the world, I saw my artists friends losing work, walking through loss, yet feeling a longing to create. As an artist of faith, my mission is to spread hope. I didn’t have an intended message in mind, I simply wanted to be one more voice of encouragement to artists and non-artists alike. I wanted to lean into the power of presence and check-in when the world was seemingly checking-out.
Augustin and I began with A LOT of trial and error. At one point our sound cut out, I couldn’t see the screen, and together we couldn’t figure out our Right from our Left. The creative process became a guessing game of American Sign Language, pointing, and throwing caution to the wind. At the time, the piece felt like a string of “sure, why not” moments, but the end result proved much more powerful. Everyone who has seen it has diﬀerent opinions on what they feel, so I want you to view it before reading on.
Upon reflection, these bumps that Augustin and I experienced in production are what make the piece so powerful. They are eerily similar to what society is experiencing every day: Each of us is having a communal INDIVIDUAL experience. We are stuck behind walls and screens— attempting to comfort and encourage each other without physical touch. We aren’t always in sync, and we aren’t always sure which way is up. My heart for this piece wasn’t to dictate to anyone how they should be feeling, as we are all on a sliding spectrum. My heart was to join virtual hands and say, “yeah, me too.” At the end of the day, we are still separated, but not alone. Art is not only a cultural barometer, but a culture shifter. Now is the time for artists to step up and shift our audiences to hope.
Photography by Bonnie Sanders