By Ellin Youse
A & E Editor
For centuries, humans have danced for their desires. We dance for rain, for harvest, for weddings, for coming of age ceremonies, for hope, and for support. As long as there have been human communities, there has been dance. Dance is a means of expression and often, an expression of longing. Last Saturday, the world danced out its longing for peace.
Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, Earthdance came to Ohio Wesleyan to benefit Main Street Delaware for their work nurturing the Delaware community. There were nine featured performances, including one student group choreographed by senior Katie Sponseller.
Earthdance is a synchronized, multi-location dance celebration aimed at raising money and awareness for various charities. Beginning in 1996, the world’s first Earthdance began, and has since grown into a planetary dance party for peace by affiliating with various international peace events, organizations and companies.
Earthdance is held in over 600 locations in 80 countries and exhibits outdoor trance parties, destination music festivals, public gatherings, concerts, campouts, flashmobs and house parties all connected via social networking sites. The goal is to allow the music and performance genres to represent their geographic homes, and thus an Earthdance performance can be anything from a belly dance to a dubstep concert.
Despite the diversity of the total Earthdance experience, it does incorporate a Global Link-Up. The events begin with a playing of the Prayer for Peace music track at the same time for all locations, something the Earthdance website calls “a profound moment of shared intention for peace.” The website explains that the link-up is an affirmation of peace on all levels from personal, family, community and nations.
Earthdance is an annual event that has taken place on September 21 for the past 12 years. September 21 is The United Nations Peace Day, a day devoted to commemorating and strengthening ideas of peace between peoples and nations. Earthdance aligned its mission with the U.N. in 1999, and has since partnered with local peace, sustainability or social justice charity to raise profits to support their work.
“After dancing in Earthdance last year I was really excited for the opportunity to choreograph,” Sponseller said. “There are so many talented and diverse groups that represent the movement that they love at Earth Dance. The idea of showing off some of our OWU dancers alongside these groups made choreographing an easy decision.”
Sponseller said it was Earthdance’s unique combination of community and diversity that inspired her while choreographing the dance.
“All of the student dancers that were in my piece represent a different aspect of OWU’s dance community whether they are involved in Orchesis, Terpsicorps, or they just love to dance,” Sponseller said.
On a grander scale, Sponseller said the vast range of cultural performances allows the event to give Delaware an impact that exceeds the social norms of small town Ohio.
“The variety in groups that come to perform is truly incredible,” Sponseller said. “Dancers of all levels are given the opportunity to show their interests and passions through dancing which is an important and beautiful concept throughout the world.”
Professor Rashana Smith said she is grateful that “our tiny town of Delaware” is able to house an event that represents global diversity.
“Earthdance is a real opportunity to think more broadly about the concepts of community,” Smith said. “Dance is about bringing people together, and since this is an event that could have played out in the big city of Columbus, it’s great that Delaware was chosen for its location.”
Sponseller agreed with Smith, saying the OWU and Delaware communities are lucky to hold the event each year.
“I think that holding Earth Dance at OWU is slightly surprising because it has the potential to be a huge event,” Sponseller said. “However, I think that it is great for the Delaware community to hold an event like this one and it also proves that dance is everywhere, not just in big cities.”
Israeli folk dancers, belly dancers, yoga and OWU students and professors all comprised the day’s events, but Sponseller said it was the dance of a local artist that captivated her most of all.
“My favorite dance was performed by Francine Butler who is a teacher at Hayes [high school],” Sponseller said. “She moved beautifully and gracefully, it was a true treat to be able to see her do what she loves.”
Smith said that the emphasis on individual movement represented in Earthdance is quintessential of what dance is in a historical and social perspective.
“Dance is something that not only fixates on self expression and, it brings people together,” Smith said. “I wish more students would participate in the event as it is such a huge opportunity, but I think those students who do perform gain an understanding of what it is like to contribute to something on a global scale.”