Curator for Spark+Echo Arts and dancer Elizabeth Dishman responds to the theme of "Dancing" from Judges 21:16-24 with her company of dancers, Coriolis.
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16 ¶ Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin? 17 And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel. 18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin. 19 Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah. 20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; 21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. 23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. 24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.
I initially found this passage really funny and bizarre: the Israelite tribesman make an oath not to give their daughters to the tribe of Benjamin for wives, but later feel sorry for their brothers, whose clan will die out. So they come up with this great idea to have the Benjamites SNATCH and marry the young women who go out to dance in the fields. That way no one breaks the oath, and Benjamin lives on. Such a good idea… It struck me as hilarious, so I imagined a light-hearted dance of joyous, unsuspecting young ladies being watched by a man with marriage on his mind.
However, the background story to this scene is horribly grim, involving gang rape, murder and a hideous call to justice from a man bereft of his concubine (Judges 19-21:15). Saving this darker content for a future dance, I decided to create the work based on my initial response to the dancing in the field scenario, but I also thought about what it would be like to try to build a real marriage out of this abrupt and non-mutual courtship. Hence the second section, which reflects the awkwardness and struggle that might have ensued (“so…now what do we do?”). In that culture the groom may not have tried as hard to become a good friend and lover, but I imagined a more present-day pair honestly searching for their footing in an intimate, stolen dance.
Elizabeth Dishman is the Artistic Director of Dishman + Co. Choreography, a Brooklyn-based experimental dance company founded in 2001. Originally from Colorado, she studied Voice Performance at Emory University, and Choreography at The Ohio State University. In pursuit of ineffable junctures between the abstract and theatrical, the universal and deeply personal, Elizabeth and her collaborators devote themselves to scrupulous exploration and ardent play, probing the elusiveness of live performance in search of lasting things. Over 15 years and 40+ original works, Dishman + Co.’s choreography has been described by critics as “complex skeins and cerebral dreams”, “bodies in rigorous concentration”, and “playful and provocative…raw humanity seeps in”. www.DishmanAndCo.org