Ballet Lifts Spirit In Church

Liturgical Dance Troupe Celebrates Holy Events

July 24, 1991|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

HAMPSTEAD — The baptism of Leslie Fauconnet's children was one of the most special days of her life.

So Fauconnet, a teacher at the Washington School of Ballet, created a dance -- and a liturgical dance group at Wesley United Methodist Church -- to celebrate the occasion.

"Both of my children had their baptism the same day, so it was a big occasion," said Fauconnet, wife of the Rev. Michael Fauconnet. "Ihad the piece in my head and created a dance about the symbolism of water in baptism -- why water is symbolic.

"It went so well that Ijust kept going."

Fauconnet, 30, came to Carroll with her family when her husband took the pastorship of Wesley in October 1988. Previously, they served at Delmont United Methodist Church in Severn, AnneArundel County.

The group -- which has performed several dances since its debut in December 1989 -- consists of 14 girls in the congregation.

While some of the performers -- aged 4 1/2 to 12 -- have had formal dance training, the troupe is open to any young person in the church who is interested in dance.

"Some of the girls take ballet and are eager to use their talents," said Fauconnet. "Others are just interested in learning. I just asked anyone who was interested."

The baptismal performance was not the first time Fauconnet was involved in liturgical dancing, however.

A 1983 graduate of Butler University in Indianapolis with a bachelor of arts degree in dance, Fauconnet said her first dance in church was a piece she performed for acongregation while living in Silver Spring, Montgomery County.

"I've always looked for anything to do with dance," she said. "They asked for a piece for the service, and I choreographed a piece to be done during Lent."

From there, she became involved with the Sacred Dance Guild that met for workshops about different types of dance in worship at Hood College in Frederick.

"We would do exercises with the same script, and each group would develop their own choreography and we would discuss how they developed," she said. "Each would have a different identity. You would have as many different dances as choreographers."

The dances for Wesley United Methodist -- which are performed at holidays and special occasions, usually between the first and second hymns -- have been well received by the congregation, parishioners said.

"We've gotten a positive response," said Janet Cooke, mother of Caitlin, 6, and Laura, 4. "There seem to be two factions -- the older people have grandchildren in the group and the younger people have children in the group and everybody loves to see someone in their family up there."

The group's most recent performance was at Stone Chapel United Methodist Church in Reisterstown, Baltimore County. In celebration of the chapel being recognized as a historic building, the girls were invited to dance the story of Noah and the Ark on June 1.

"That was a lot of work and it was a longer dance, compared to the others," said Selena Brewer, 12. "It was a lot of fun."

Choreography, as with all the group's pieces, was a cooperative effort between Fauconnet and the girls.

"All of us do it," said groupmember Stephanie Zariello, 11. "Everyone gives their opinion and if they have something to say, they say it."

After reading the Biblical story, each girl demonstrated how she thought the passage could bebest expressed. Bit by bit, the dance evolved.

"I try not to be technical with the girls," said Fauconnet. "Liturgical dancing needs to be open to all people. The overall picture and getting the idea across is most important."

Interpreting the stories to create the choreography has helped the girls better understand the texts they are dancing, group members and parents said.

"Some of the younger kids learn the Bible stories, and I learn about some of the different things (in the stories) I never knew before," said Selena, who played Noah. "I didn't really know all of the (Noah) story in Genesis before. Ionly knew certain parts."

Mary Ann Zariello, Stephanie's mother, said it was "lovely" how the group included the children in church activities, more than in any other congregation to which she had belonged.

"This is a way for them to learn the stories of the Bible without being preached at," she said. "(Fauconnet's) so geared to gettingthe children to being a part of the church, to have something to sayand something to do all the time.

"It's so important for them to feel they are a part of everything."

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