Learning to speak the universal language of dance

Thursday, August 11, 2005
Dancers from the Dance Theater Ensemble of Carnago, Italy, practiced during dance camp at the Rose Theater at Southwest University. Performances will be held at the theater Friday and Saturday, August 12-13.

The seats of Rose Theatre are empty, but larger-than-life shadows dance along the darkened walls, mimicking the fluid movements of eight people on stage.

Like their dance steps, the conversation between the group flows like poetry. The Italian language and intricate moves hold hostage three young girls peeking through the backstage curtains.

Dreams of someday reflect in the eyes of 12-year-olds Lauren Dumey, Becky Schneider and 13-year-old Holly Hoernig.

Someday, these girls hope to leap, twirl and sway with the same poised grace as the Dance Theatre Ensemble from Carnago, Italy.

For now, they do their best to mimic the movements of the Italian dancers, in Cape Girardeau this week for a worship dance camp and public performances Friday and Saturday at Rose Theatre.

The three Cape Girardeau girls have been practicing with the troupe all week and will have small parts in the upcoming performances.

"We've learned a lot of new techniques, it's challenging and I like that," said Dumey.

They've also learned some Italian words, like "grazie" and "prego", and have taught the Italian visitors a few things as well -- like the hokey pokey and how to say 'What's up, dog.'

"It's so cool to hear them speak in Italian," said Schneider. "It's definitely the language of love."

The dancers are led by former Cape Girardeau resident Dana Goodin Vanoni, who also choreographed the performance.

The troupe's visit is sponsored by Grace United Methodist Church. The Rev. Scott Moon said he hopes the visit will encourage liturgical dance among local churches. Liturgical simply means an "order of worship," Moon said.

"We hope it's a way to assist those congregations that really want to explore using dance," he said. "Dance in worship is as old as worship."

Moon likes liturgical dance because it allows people the chance to worship in a variety of ways -- through auditory, kinetic and emotionally.

"It evokes a team of feelings," he said.

Moon said many people have misunderstandings about what "liturgical dance" means.

Using creative movement and dance in worship has become a national trend in the past 20 or 30 years, but never really took off in local churches, Moon said.

Vanoni said the dance camp is intended to bring together both professional and non-professional -- and even amateur-- dancers who want to add fine arts elements to worship through music and movement.

"Religious and inspirational thought can be successfully integrated into modern performing arts," Vanoni said.

She hopes to return for a larger camp next year as well.

The camp has meant exposure to a new world of dance for the three Cape Girardeau girls.

"It's such a higher level," said Schneider. "I'm not used to it."


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