Small Step for Dancerkind
|Newsletter of the Friendly FolkDancers||Vol. 4, No. 1 Fall 1996|
Scattergood - Marian Wisby (now going under her new name of Sophie Del La Mar) coordinating a 2 day mini-tour to Scattergood Friends School near West Branch, Iowa. She is exploring dates in February and March of 1997, with specifics soon to follow. If you are interested, you may reach her at: 5555 N. Sheridan Road, Apt. 1216, Chicago, IL 60660 phone: 773-506-1490 email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FGC Program - FGC will be in Virginia in 1997. Demi is willing to co-coordinate, but we could use another coordinator. We have a couple volunteers to lead special theme nights, including Swing and Meditative Dances, so the task is manageable. Call Sandra Helpsmeet at (715) 874-6646.
Europe (1998) - Elizabeth Cave and Henrica Takens-Milne have offered to coordinate a mainland European tour for the FFD in the spring of 1998. They already have a list of 6-8 English/Welsh Friends who might be interested and available for such a tour. We are currently exporing the ways in which we can support a European tour, and especially the emergence of an English FFD. It is unclear at the present just how many American Friends might be included in that tour. Please help support this exciting development with your ideas, energy and prayers.
"Your Email Address, Please"
It can also be accessed through the Quaker dot Org Page (http://www.quaker.org). So far, the web page contains information about upcoming 1997 tours, a copy of our 1995 newsletter, and a couple of reports on past tours, including a very nice article by Rosemary Coffey about the 1996 Kenya tour. An on-line version of this 1996 newsletter will be posted there soon. Mark Helpsmeet reports that he has already gotten several inquiries about FFD from people who learned of us through the web page. Contributions of material for the web page are encouraged. Please submit them on disk or through email to the editors (address above). Also, if you have access to email, and would like to be added to our email mailing list, please send us your email address.
News From Our Dancing Friends
Tour Report: Southern California
Several themes emerged as the tour progressed. Lasagna, lasagna, and more lasagna! Bears in many forms appeared all over; in songs-the three bears fugue, flags-California state, mascots-three little stuffed bears: Blue Bear, Fuzzy and Dancing Bear, Los Osos (bears in Spanish), and a whole slew of cuddly teddy bears at the Unity Church in San Luis Obispo.
Our mission of fostering community and spreading the joy and spiritual energy that dancing gives rise to was enthusiastically shared and appreciatively received. We all had the opportunity to make new friends within the extended Quaker community and many of us hooked up with some relatives or dear old friends. We experimented with the Quaker Quest Game by attempting to eliminate the competitive element and Clemence came up with
the great suggestion of using a world map shower curtain to show where the dances we do come from. Lots of folks loved the intergenerational and prayerful aspects of our program, especially the sleeping foxes dance and the closing Bells of Peace Dance.
Even before the tour was over we began talking about doing a central and/or a northern California tour in the next year or two. So think about joining an FFD tour to CA in early '98!
Tour Report: Kenya
The idea of an FFD tour to Kenya was first suggested in 1988, just after completion of our third tour. At the time it looked to be a nearly impossible undertaking, with questions of international connections, looming cultural differences, not to mention the more mundane, but vitally important questions about who "we" were, what our ministry was, and why how we could possibly afford such a tour.
In 1991 we toured to England and Wales, and in 1993 Scotland and its Friends welcomed us. We learned that we could travel to other countries, both in terms of money and ministry. With the involvement of Rosemary Coffey in the FFD, we also gained another incredibly talented organizer, willing and equal to all tasks.
Traveling to Kenya involved significant departures in procedure from many other FFD tours. Though we Quakers eschew gambling, the expression, "we were playing for higher stakes", captures an important part of what happened to us. Because of communication difficulties involved in dealings between the USA and Kenya, we had to rely heavily on faith. Faith provided an incredibly gifted channel in the person of Gladys Kang'ahi. With her help and the guidance of other Friends who had spent time in Kenya, and of course Divine guidance, we were given the wherewithal to make the tour.
For instance, on this tour we not only rented a vehicle, we rented two of them as well as two drivers. It hadn't occurred to me that we would need drivers, in spite of my Peace Corps experience in Togo, West Africa, but it should have. Without Peter and Humphrey at the helm, we would have had quite an "adventure", not pleasant in all likelihood! They led us down rutted and muddy roads which would have bested almost anyone of mere mortal ability. No simple map could have guided us. You'll just have to take my word for it, driving in Kenya is a task that belongs in a Kenyan's hands!
We did have the foresight to discuss and research about how our folk dancing would be accepted in Kenya. Kenyan Friends developed out of a strong evangelical influence that spread across the USA in the 1800's, a movement which frowned heavily on dancing. At the time, waltzing had supplanted the minuet in England, putting dance partners squarely face-to-face with close body contact for the first time, upping the sensuality and intimacy of the dance. Although we take partner dancing for granted in our culture, it is NOT a given in Kenya, and we and they were very much in doubt as to how it would be accepted. Of course what we do is not standard couple dancing, even when we have partners, so the reception we got was warm. Our ministry, doing an international dance of peace, was warmly embraced by all Kenyan Friends after the initial jitters as to how dance could be a ministry. Interestingly enough, their Kenyan dancing had never been in question because it was not the same "dancing" as was reacted to by the Christian missionaries who brought Quakerism to Kenya. A few words from some dear Kenyan hosts will convey their reaction to our dancing ministry.
Though almost all Friends in the USA and England have long since abandoned separate Men's and Women's Meetings for Business, the practice is very much alive in Kenya and probably was a key factor in our being able to tour throughout Kenya. For one thing, there are some thirteen, or perhaps now fourteen, Yearly Meetings in Kenya, with no umbrella association connecting them in the way that FUM or FGC associates many Yearly Meetings in the USA. That is, there is no such group connecting the Men's Meetings, but there is a group, the United Society of Friends Women (USFW), which as of April 1996, drew together women representing all of the Friends' groups throughout Kenya. Our visit to Kenya was hosted by the USFW, and these women especially spoke deeply to us with their open arms, their hearty welcome and the ample tables. Everywhere we were welcomed warmly, but I think that I have never experienced such a deep sense of welcome and hospitality as I felt from these women, and that feeling seemed shared by all of our tour group. I would further venture to say that these Kenyans have much to teach us about hospitality and welcome. I suspect that this gift explains, at least in part, why Kenyan Quakers are so numerous. What might happen in our Meetings should we learn to welcome visitors with the same warmth? I doubt that the phrase "small Quaker Meeting" would seem so redundant.
We also learned about prayer. Though we have known and touted our dances as a physical prayer for peace, we have often been leery of the kind of verbal prayer which many of us associate with oppressive religious narrowness. Our group experienced it otherwise in Kenya, and though some of us were very comfortable with praying aloud before the tour, the disused prayer muscles of others were rediscovered and renewed. It was awesome to behold.
And we stretched to "bridge the gap". At least in part because we were dealing with "exotic" people and surroundings, we found it in us to stretch, thereby growing spiritually in ways we hadn't foreseen. While we nominally look for "that of God" in everyone, truth is, for many of us, that we grudgingly acknowledge or look for it in Christians in the USA, unless they look "like us". I definitely felt in myself, and I believe I witnessed in others, openness to Christianity and its gifts than many of us would have been guarded against in the USA.
Our ministry to and with Kenyan Friends continues. One of the very exciting fruits of our visit to Kenya is the likelihood that they will attempt to send at least one member to join the FFD on tour each year! For our part, we have included in this year's budget $300 toward enabling such participation, and are seeking some other funds to augment that help. Consider whether you are willing to contribute toward that end.
There were also some seeds planted which promise to bear fruit. There is a possibility of a group of women representing all the Kenyan Yearly Meetings circulating among the YM's, sharing the dances and flavor of each locality, thereby creating a vehicle for bringing them closer together. There was also discussion of using such outreach to ethnic groups in Kenya which have not been part of the Quaker movement. Although Quakers are quite numerous in the Western Provinces of Kenya, they are almost entirely of one large ethnic group. In Nandi YM they are considering reaching and welcoming in their neighbors of other ethnic groups by adopting some of their culture and language into their services.
Many of us have continued our connection and correspondence with Kenyan Friends. Rosemary has undertaken to organize a sort of scholarship fund for one very talented young woman we met on tour. She gave a stirring, clever speech relating to the role of women in Kenya, and we later found out that she might have to abandon her academic career due to lack of funds, something that would be a true loss to Kenya, Africa, and the world, if the glimpse of her we received is any indication. You can contact Rosemary directly if you can help: Rosemary Coffey, 916 Bellefonte Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15232, phone 412-682-0296.
There's much more to share of the trip, but so limited space and time. They offered, almost insist, that we return soon. Demi captured much, including Kenya dancing, on videotape which he promises to edit for us. This tour included five Friends from Northern YM (Mark & Sandra Helpsmeet, Denise Madland, Demi Miller, Grace Valentine), two from Lake Erie YM (Zig Dermer, Rosemary Coffey), one from New York YM (Liseli Haines), one from Britain YM (Elizabeth Cave), and one Kenyan Friend from Nairobi YM (Helen Kavugwi). We visited five of the Kenyan YM. Rosemary edited a masterful trip report and please feel welcome to talk with any of us about our experience.
Tour Report: Friends Committee
on National Legislation Meeting
On Saturday November 11, 1995 twelve Friendly FolkDancers came together at the Holiday Inn in College Park, MD from five states to present a program for the 200+ attenders at the Fridnes Committee on National Legislation (FCLN) Annual Meeting [should be FCNL]. The Friendly FolkDancers with three new dancers, one day of rehearsal as a group, and a performance area that was created only minutes before the program, took the stage at 9 p.m. to present a set of cance medleys that embraced countries that are or have been in conflict. The program was enthusiastically received and more than 100 persons stayed after the demonstration to join us in dancing.
Central among the many factors contributing to the success of this program was the twelve Friendly FolkDancers: Richard Baltaro, Rosemary Coffey, Zig Dermer, Suzanne Farrington, Liseli Haines, Alethea Sandra Helpsmeet, Mark Judkins Helpsmeet, Barbara Houghton, David Houghton, Catherine Krieps,Kathy Lipp, and Katharine Tussing. Many of these persons also helped with the organizational needs, spreading the workload effectively. The co-coordinators, Rosemary Coffey and David Houghton, were blessed to have the help of Sandra for costumes, Mark for dance instruction, Zig for props, staging, and sound system, and Kathy for arrangement of rehearsal space (at the Friends Community School nearby in College Park). Finally a grant of $500 from FCNL made it possible to cover local expenses and even offer some help with travel.
We hope another opportunity for sharing with the FCNL will come up again in the not-too-distant future!!
Although the FFD has been clearing its own pathway in establishing itself as a Quaker Ministry, we are not alone in finding expression to other Friends through art. We've encountered some on tour, including the Quaker Leaveners Arts Base in London. Just a couple years ago a new organization uniting such interests emerged, the Fellowship of Quaker Artists. I found their fall, 1996, newsletter interesting, especially in terms of the evolution of art as ministry among Friends. One article, Artists' Questions, Quaker Questions, I found particularly interesting. It explored the intersection between "artist questions" (Does it advance the art form? How can I use this medium to say what I am meant to say, with power?) and "Quaker questions" (Is it in accord with Friends testimonies--peace, simplicity, equality, community, respect for creation, truth? Does it subvert the domination system and further the reign of God?). Some of the queries which they advanced seemed very applicable to the ministry of the FFD, so I pass them on to you:
What relevance do the "artists' questions" and the "Quaker questions" have to your work?
What are you doing to lift up the "artist' questions" for Quakers, and vice versa?
To get their newsletter and to join, you may contact the Fellowship of Quaker Artists c/o Trenton Monthly Meeting, 142 E. Hanover Street, Trenton, NJ 08608. The newsletter editor is Esther Mürer, Philadelphia, at 215-922-2321.
How Can I Support The Friendly FolkDancers?
There are many ways you can support The Friendly FolkDancers. Here are just a few of the gifts you might be able to share: Join us as a dancer on a tour (did you know that most 11-day tours end up costing less than $200 per dancer? Did you know that you don't have to know all the dances ahead of time?). Encourage someone you know to join us. Sit on a clearness committee for someone considering participating in an tour. Act as part of a support committee for someone who has decided to go on tour. Help make it possible for others to go on tour by making a monetary donation; donations can be directed to any of these funds: general, scholarship, Kenya, or Woodbrook. Consider joining the growing number of individuals and meetings that include us on their annual giving lists. Organize a tour or a mini-tour. Help us find a new logo. Nurture and lead us with your spiritual energy and prayers. Teach us some new dances of a particular ethnic origin. Help us decide on the perfect location for our next tour. Help us with costume design / acquisition / repairs. Hold us in the Light.
All gifts are welcome.