Daily Bytes | Dance

Missa Brevis: Nexus of Faith, Art and War at RDT and UMOCA

Repertory Dance Theatre rehearses José Limón's Missa Brevis.

Repertory Dance Theatre rehearses José Limón’s Missa Brevis.

Repertory Dance Theatre’s reconstruction of the monumental José Limón classic “Missa Brevis” in its season opener Legacy (Oct. 3-5) is an occasion for rejoicing. Few modern dances have been as celebrated as this deeply moving memento to the courage of the Polish people rising from the ashes of World War II. Choreographed by the lapsed Catholic Limón, the work is a kind of secular prayer set to a mass for organ and choral composed by the famous Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly. Kodaly (pronounced “Co-Die”) created “Missa Brevis in Tempore Belli” or “short mass in a time of war” at the end of WWII under great hardship during the siege of Budapest. Though Kodály’s home was devastated, his manuscripts were later recovered intact and the music’s first performance was given in the cellar of a bombed-out church in the Hungarian capital.

“But more than a commemoration of bravery and spirit under hardship, “Missa Brevis” is also a work that cracks open a deep reflection on how art — in this case dance — connects and disconnects with faith and war,” says RDT director Linda C. Smith.

RDT, in partnership with the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) notes the significance of “Missa Brevis,” a dance for 22 that will appear in both Salt Lake at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and later this winter at Brigham Young University, by hosting a symposium funded by a grant from the Utah Humanities Council. The event is free and open to the public.

Missa Brevis: Nexus of Faith, Art and War will convene at UMOCA Oct. 2 at 7 pm and will feature five individuals, all of whom have a different expertise and thus a different perspective on the subject. Using the dance as a departure point, the panel, which includes Father Andrzej Skrzypiec, pastor of St. Ambrose Catholic Church and a Polish national, will discuss how art is informed by, contradicts, enlarges and interprets religious identity, practice and faith, particularly in a time of modern war.

Contemporary religion and art are sometimes seen as being segmented from each other, even though, traditionally, art and faith have often been fused. What does art and an individual’s response to art look like when survival in a time of war is at stake? Can art function as a prayer, as choreographer Jose Limon intended for his work “Missa Brevis”? Can a non-believer (as with Limón) access and accent expressions of traditional faith through his/her art and thus provide a bridge of understanding among faith communities and nonbelievers? These are some of the questions the panel will explore.

A short excerpt from the 35-minute dance will be screened, and attendees can purchase at the event deeply discounted tickets to Legacy, RDT’s season opener where “Missa Brevis” will be performed, along with other historical modern dance works by Doris Humphrey, Ted Shawn, Bill Evans and Ze’eva Cohen—all legacies in the history of modern dance and of Repertory Dance Theatare.

DATE: Oct. 2, 2013
TIME: 7:00 pm
LOCATION: Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, 20 S. West Temple (801) 328-4201 (adjacent to Abravanel / Symphony Hall)
Free and open to the public

Maximilian Werner, (Asst. Professor, Writing Program UofU and author)

Father Andrzej Skrzypiec (Pastor, St. Ambrose Catholic)
Caroline Prohosky (Contemporary Dance, BYU)
Dr. Jerry L. Jaccard, BYU School of Music, specialist in (Missa Brevis composer) Zoltan Kodaly method
Dodge Billingsley, CFR Media/Combat Films and Research


Excerpt from Limon Company of Missa Brevis.

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