BYU Dance Faculty and Students Attend Conference, Make Interfaith Connections through Contemporary Choreography
Leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have long promoted empathy and encouraged interfaith relations. BYU has a Council for Interfaith Engagement where Department of Dance faculty Marin Leggat Roper represents the College of Fine Arts and Communications. In June 2023, Roper co-presented a 45-minute workshop at the Conference on Religion and Spirituality in Society (CRSS) in Athens, Greece. Her team was made up of Jordan Haltermand (a dance education student) and Erik Stern (Weber State University dance faculty and member of the Brith Sholem Jewish Congregation in Ogden, Utah).
The workshop, titled “Daven: Examining Embodied Exploration and Choreographic Collaboration as a Model of Interfaith Engagement,” stemmed from a choreographic collaboration between Halterman and Stern. Roper said, “Halterman and Stern explored ways the body is used as a tool in divine connection within their individual faith traditions, and structured their explorations into a five-minute contemporary dance solo entitled ‘Daven,’ the Yiddish word for prayer.”
Through the process, participants discovered how choreographic collaboration can increase religious literacy and interfaith engagement and promote empathy. Halterman said the project and choreographic process changed her view of interfaith relations. “Before, I felt that there was a need to agree or believe in a similar idea between different religions and spiritual practices. This experience expanded my ability to connect with others through feeling and sensation-based processes by listening to them and to my body to find sources of understanding and openness within myself."
This discovery was no surprise to Roper — her research focuses on the intersection of dance and religious identity. She currently serves on the Council for Interfaith Engagement at BYU. “The mission of this Council is to support religious literacy and interfaith leadership among our BYU student body,” Roper said. “This kind of interfaith choreographic collaboration is one way that can happen and I'd love to continue facilitating interfaith choreographic collaborations like ‘Daven’ with other dance majors.”
Prior to CRSS, Halterman and three other dance majors performed their interfaith choreographic collaborations as part of the BYU Kennedy Center’s Fall 2022 lecture series. Dance majors Baylee Van Patten, Abagail Steele and Alyssa Liljenquist partnered with Veena Basavarajaiah (Bangalore, India), Tanatchaporn Kittikong (Khon Kaen, Thailand) and Lisa Ford Moulton (Ohio, USA). The lecture series, “The Global Religious Experience,” and video of the dances can be viewed online.