EXODUS

Several times during the performance I had to remind myself a few times to breathe. I’d stopped. There was this one moment, a gesture, where I almost started sobbing even as I was trying to figure out what the gesture meant. It’s amazing to experience an art form that can bypass your head and converse directly with the animal part of you. Maybe the spiritual, too. Dance is such a deep conversation.

This was the third year that I created conceptual blog posts for NOW-ID’s summer performance  (before that I helped write a wedding ceremony for the company’s founders). EXODUS was a 60-minute long multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural work, involving 15 local and international artists, original choreography, opera, music, design, and contemporary dance. The work explored the implications of “exodus” – a mass movement, a coming together both in spite of and because of diversity—regarding what we may learn in collective experience, in spectacle, about collective identity. EXODUS focused on the human necessity to move, whether because of persecution, poverty, religious beliefs or opportunity/adventure. It debuted in Salt Lake City in July 2016 before touring in Denmark.

The blog posts follow the arc of the libretto that the opera singers worked from. You can see all of the info and more photos at http://www.now-id.com.

EXODUS. Set by Nathan Webster & Gary Vlasic, lighting by Cole Adams, photo by David Newkirk

EXODUS. Set by Nathan Webster & Gary Vlasic, lighting by Cole Adams, photo by David Newkirk

1. The First Morning (CRISIS/HOPE)

In the beginning, home is a story you tell yourself

Home is the story which– in some variation– you repeat to yourself every day.

When you have a story, you have a home.

Your story is also the story that your home tells you.

What then is hope?

 

 

Hope is the spark you touch to the center of your home

that sets the story alight.

 

2. HOME

 

Reasons to Leave:

Here is unbearable

There is better

Here will no longer have you

You’re taken there
Whatever the reason for leaving, in some way, you will be broken.

EXODUS. Tara McArthur, photo by Dena Eaton

EXODUS. Tara McArthur, photo by Dena Eaton

 

3. Dream (Separation)

 

When hope is fully ablaze, all you can see is a wild and brilliant future.

When you step out of your old story, you lose your established rhythm.

 

In much the same way that dreams are a vivid scattering of intense images,

these early stories feel so real.

 

The future has no pattern.
Dreams are wings to lift yourself from your life.

EXODUS. Opera singer Jakob Bloch Jespersen, photo by Dena Eaton

EXODUS. Opera singer Jakob Bloch Jespersen, photo by Dena Eaton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Green Green Grove (DREAMS)

 

At a certain point what is behind you has all burned.

 

In the middle

 

–always–

 

There is a payment you didn’t bargain for

 

–or–

 

you did.

 

You asked for exactly this

you promised

but didn’t realize

what it would really cost you
Dreams pry yourself from yourself. They are not wings; they are a sharpened bar.

 

 

5. WAVE/FLIGHT

How do you keep yourself a “me” when those who are telling your story would have you a “they?” Or worse, not have you at all? Tell nothing, see nothing. Turn you invisible with their “they.”

How do you keep yourself a “me” when you are in a wave of “they?” You long for the arrogance of those who retain their “me,” who get to tell the story of you. It is tempting to turn the others around you to “others,” if only to try to find your “me” within the throng of “them,” forgetting you are both “me” and “them.”

 

Do you find yourself through separation or connection?
Do you find yourself at all?

 

Photo by David Newkirk

Photo by David Newkirk

 

6. Border Crossing

In this new place, your body’s roots are exposed. You ripped them from home, and have yet to find suitable soil at first, on arrival.

 

It is the strangest place, arrival,

when the two places you have been coming toward overlay one another:

 

The place that you’ve been headed toward, which is not at all the place you’ve arrived.

 

And the place that is –which you entered– but don’t yet understand.

 

It’s disorienting, this layering of expectation and reality: the place you hoped you’d find, and the place you actually arrived. You have to walk through one to find the other, which is not the one you want.

 

Your body is still adrift, in two places and also in no place. But you walk through the gate.

 

Because you are there.
This is the most difficult border to pass through.

Dancers Tara McArthur & Brian Craig Nelson in EXODUS, photo by David Newkirk

Dancers Tara McArthur & Brian Craig Nelson in EXODUS, photo by David Newkirk

 

7. The Fairest Tree (HOPE/CRISIS)

 

In the end, home is the story you tell yourself

In the end, you must let go of what got you there

to be where you are.

 

This is how we build the new story

This is what love is:

 

Letting go of the heady illusion of hope,

to allow the new story your life tells you every day.

 

In the end, maybe you can love what is unknown–

maybe even more because it is unknown.

 

In the end you will love what you have chosen

–or you won’t–
but either way, in the end, you will have to let the story go.

 

Tara McArthur in EXODUS, photo by Dena Eaton

Tara McArthur in EXODUS, photo by Dena Eaton



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