• Susan Pope

Athletes of God

In 1953, Martha Graham wrote an essay titled AN ATHLETE OF GOD. In her essay she

compares the art of dance to life. She talks about what dancers go through on their daily journey. The path of a dancer indeed is not easy. It requires faith, tenacity, passion and courage. I remember taking Graham technique in college and having great difficulty grasping the concepts. The technique felt awkward to me. I didn't like the tension and feeling of being bound in my body. Unfortunately my dislike for the technique in undergrad prevented me from truly learning this codified

technique. Once out of school and teaching dance in a middle school in Washington Heights, NY I used jazz technique as the basis for my dance curriculum. One day our school was fortunate enough to have dancers from the Martha Graham dance company to come give a lecture demo. The visiting dancer explained to the students that Martha Graham had patterned much of her technique from the images of Jesus dying on the cross. I realized then, that's why my body was so uncomfortable with the technique. The contractions and bound movements made sense to me. I gained much respect for technique and wished I had payed more attention in dance class in undergrad.

As I have trained liturgical dancers through the years I have always taught that a dancers training is parallel to that of a Christian. Graham talks about how it takes about 10 years to make a mature dancer. Likewise, it takes years to develop into a mature Christian. Like dancers, Christians seek to be in alignment with the will of God. Dancers constantly seek alignment so as not to cause any dis-ease within their bodies.

So what does Graham mean when she calls dancers "athletes of God?" I believe as dancers we stir up the souls of people. Dancers can bring joy, peace, sorrow and a multitude of emotional experiences to their audience. Dance helps us all to be present in our own lives. It helps us to experience what we feel. I realize I feel the presence of God when I dance. So what do you feel when you dance? Do you consider yourself an "ATHLETE OF GOD?" I do!


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