Dancer Helen Hale created this beautiful and contemplative dance piece in response to the theme of eavesdropping and Genesis 18:9-15.
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9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
I imagine Abraham and the three men/the Lord picnicking at a distance. Maybe their vantage point is the opening image of this video, of the tree, far away. I imagine the Lord asking, “Where is your wife Sarah?” and Abraham saying, “There, in the tree.”
I am curious about the way in which the Lord announces the promise of a son to Abraham, and not to Sarah. Rather than getting the news directly, she overhears it as she’s listening outside. God even asks Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?” And only addresses Sarah when she denies her laughter, saying, “Yes, you did laugh.”
For a long time I read into this passage a lack of intimacy, a kind of chiding, from the Lord to Sarah, but as I’ve paddled in the pool of this scripture I’ve come to imagine the Lord engaging in a romance with Sarah from a distance—an exchange of knowing looks from across the room. He doesn’t really need to ask anyone why Sarah laughed. He full well knows. He’s been anticipating her response to this absurdly unexpected news. In my interpretation, Sarah, in her moment of surprise and incredulity says, “What? After I am worn out from miles and miles and miles and years and years and years of dancing this adagio in the hot sun will I now have the pleasure of this mist on my face?” Furthermore, as it turns out, the Liszt composition I chose for the sound is entitled “Consolation.” I am certain Sarah needed much consoling along the road to ninety.
My first name is Sarah, after this Sarah. Wildly enough, while working on this piece, I have received absurdly unexpected news that a door in my life that I thought was closed forever has been re-opened. Coincidence? Fulfillment of a promise that I’ve been moving toward while so often thinking it had disappeared, mirage-like, in the sweltering Heat of Life?
Throughout Sarah’s long slow dance, the Lord so patiently awaits her arrival, and she so patiently moves towards Him with great longsuffering. He prompts her to laugh, and as she laughs, He joins her! –Sharing an undeniable joy from which new life is born.
Helen Hale is a choreographer and performer, and the director of Helen Hale Dance. Her work has been presented by The High Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, The Galleries at Moore, The Hambidge Center, Dance Truck, Dashboard Co-op, The Lucky Penny, BurnAway Magazine, MINT Gallery, Art on the Atlanta BeltLine, and WonderRoot Community Arts Center, among others. Helen received a BFA from Temple University (PA) in 2009 and has performed with companies and choreographers around the country including Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, Staibdance, Dishman + Co., PushPush Theater, Tahni Holt, Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, Duende Dance Theater, Meg Foley/Moving Parts, Troupe Hellas, and Ground Delivery Dance Theater. After a long period of research and collaboration with musicians and visual artists in Atlanta, Helen has returned to Philadelphia where she is currently reworking her one-woman show, Sanity Ceremonies, performing with Kun- Yang Lin/Dancers, and seriously committing to creative playtime in developing a new body of work with collaborator, Maggie Ginestra.