NEWS

News

A Leaven Dance Company performance, along with the Directors' comments on the nature and purpose of sacred dance, have been selected to appear on the National Sacred Dance Guild's website as a part of their new "Sacred Sundays" program. To see this video, click on Faith in Motion: Leaven Dance Company. The video can be viewed in 4 segments:

  • At 1 Minute. - Dialogue and Dance Segments: The Purpose and Intent of Sacred Dance.
  • At 9:04 - Two Hearts, One Word, a Movement Interpretation of the Visitation of Mary with Elizabeth.
  • At 14:54 - Dance entitled Pathway to Peace.
  • At 20:43 - Leaven Dancers involving audience members in prayer movement.
  • In order to view any of these segments, as the video downloads, you can put your cursor on the bottom of the screen and a timeline will appear. Slide the tab to the minute indicated above and you will be able to start at that point. However, you must wait until the video downloads sufficiently (usually a minute or two, based on your internet speed) in order to move the slider towards the later beginning times.

    Andrea Shearer, Leaven Associate Director, received the 2013 Arts Educator of the Year Award from the Akron Area Arts Alliance. The presentation was made at the biennial Arts Alive! Event which honors distinguished achievement in various art categories.

    Thanks are due to the many supporters of liturgical dance who, at our request, wrote letters to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Liturgy Committee urging them to re-address the issue of affirming dance as an appropriate form for worship, as well as approving a set of norms to insure its most effective use. Michele Summers, Ph.D candidate in Critical Dance Studies at the University of California, Riverside, came to Ohio early in 2013 to interview Leaven Directors, Mihelick and Shearer, to gather information for her dissertation, Forbidden Altars: U.S. Liturgical Dance after the Second Vatican Council. Her dissertation addresses the history and issues of sacred dance in 20th century America. The documents and materials involved in Mihelick's advocacy effort with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are highlighted.

    At the request of the International Sacred Dance Guild, a tribute to Kathryn Mihelick was created and presented by Andrea Shearer at the Festival 2008, detailing her career, achievements, and the spearheading of the Leaven Dance Company Kathryn Mihelick Tribute.

    As usual, the annual Leaven Dance Benefit Raffle has proved to be a successful fundraiser. We thank all who helped with ticket sales and who bought tickets.

    The 2015 winners were:

    Noteworthy Events

    Support and Fund-Raising

    The Leaven Board of Trustees invite you and your friends to share with them in the ministry of the Company by becoming a sustaining member and/or by participating in our annual fundraiser, and/or by adding your name to our mailing list for notification of upcoming events.

    • Patron support for the company exists at five levels:

      • Archangel: $150
      • Angel: $100
      • Sponsor: $50
      • Patron: $25
      • Friend: $10

    • Leaven is a non-profit organization. Your contribution is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.
    • Every year from November through December we hold our annual raffle fundraiser. First prize is $200 or a Gourmet Dinner for six ($800 value) at a private home in Kent. Second prize is $100. Third prize is $50. The raffle winners, who need not be present to win, are chosen directly before Christmas.

    If you are interested in patronage, raffle tickets, or having your name added to our mailing list, please contact the company: kmleaven@neo.rr.com.

    Issues

    Kathryn Mihelick continues in her struggle in defending the role of dance in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. To see a copy of the most current version of her paper, please click Position Paper of Issues of Sacred, Liturgical Dance Movement . (For those of you who have already visited the site, this is an updated version (v4), produced in late 2006.)

    Although our director has been involved in sacred and liturgical dance in both Catholic and non-Catholic churches for twenty-five years, Leaven has run into resistance which began when we produced an ecumenical concert in 1999. It generated a fax from the Vatican to Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, of the Cleveland Diocese, expressing reports of concerns they had received about this "service" that was to take place in the church. The series of events and communications resulting from this incident have been documented in our booklet :"Taking A Stance on Dance," and give evidence of the concerted effort being made by a relatively small group of laity in the United States to prohibit liturgical dance in the Catholic Church. The steps that must be taken to validate it as a desirable and appropriate form of liturgical art are addressed. The position paper contained on this site is the latest ongoing step in this process.

    Bishop Pilla suggested the Position Paper be sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Liturgy Commission Chair and Liturgy Office Director. After receiving the Paper, the USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy informed Ms. Mihelick that they had studied the questions posed in her "Position Paper on Issues of Sacred/Liturgical Dance," "...especially in the light of the definitive point of reference provided by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in its journal, Notitiae, in 1975." She was told that "...liturgical dance has been placed on the November agenda of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy," and that her "...paper will, most certainly, be included with the documentation provided to the Bishop members of the Committee. I thank you for your helpful contribution to this matter."

    The Commission discussed the issue in November, 2001, decided to study it further historically and theologically, and had hoped to continue their deliberations at the June, 2002 meeting. Subsequently, the need for resolving the abuse crisis in the church necessitated tabling this issue at that meeting.

    However, Msgr. Moroney, Executive Director of the USCCB Liturgy Office, informed Ms. Mihelick that the liturgical dance issue was still on the 'front burner' and would be addressed when the crisis issues were resolved. It was scheduled for the June, 2003 meeting.

    After the June, 2003 meeting Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the USCCB and Cardinal Francis George, Chair of the Liturgy Committee advised Ms. Mihelick that they "applauded her dedication to the liturgical reform" and the information and rationale submitted in her Paper; but stated that the bishops "...recalled the large number of liturgical issues before them," adding that "...only a limited number can be adequately prepared for presentation to the (Vatican) Congregation at any given time." They stated that "...the committee is unaware of any significant scholarly studies of a 'historical, anthropological, exegetical, or theological' nature which would indicate the need for a reassessment of the (Vatican) Congregation's previously articulated position." The Committee..."has decided, therefore, not to request a re-examination of the question of dance and the liturgy at this time."

    Following this decision a search was immediately begun to locate scholars in these four academic areas, in addition to Ms. Mihelick, who might be willing to do research into this issue. This included contacting several university departments relative to identifying doctoral candidates for whom this might serve as focus for a dissertation.

    Cardinal George also advised Kathryn that she might write to Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Liturgy Congregation in Rome because "His Eminence has a broad experience of cultural adaptation in the Church and is always ready to provide helpful advice to those who write to him." An opportunity to speak personally with Cardinal Arinze came in June, 2004, when he was in Pittsburgh, PA, as the keynote speaker at the International Serra Conference, to which Kathryn was a delegate. In her dialogue with him he was very definitive in pointing out that this is a cultural issue and, as such, must be addressed by the U.S. bishops, not by the Vatican.

    This necessitated changing the focus of our efforts. Originally directed toward convincing the Vatican Congregation that they must re-address the Notitiae document, our mission was now to prevail upon the U.S. bishops to perceive the cultural nature of the issue and their need to address it. At Msgr. Moroney's request, Ms. Mihelick revised the Position Paper On Issues of Sacred/Liturgical Dance and submitted it to be reviewed at the USCCB Meeting in June, 2005. Copies were also sent to Bishop Donald Trautman, Chair of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, and Cardinal Roger Mahoney, Advisor to the committee. Kathryn spoke with these two clergy at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in February, where she and Andrea danced in liturgy, as did several other dancers in liturgies throughout the entire event. Additional scholarly research had been located and was also forwarded to the Committee; including a doctoral dissertation, a master's degree thesis, excerpts from a book on the value of dance in worship written by three Catholic priests, and two articles supporting liturgical dance.

    The decisions reached at the Bishops' June meeting were relayed to Ms. Mihelick in a letter from Bishop Trautman. He noted that they (1) wished to gather "further guidance from Episcopal Conferences where dance and liturgy have been more closely examined and experienced..." and (2) wanted to "encourage you [Ms. Mihelick] to continue to pursue the question with Cardinal Arinze and to encourage anthropologists and academic liturgists to continue to pursue serious studies of the question...."

    Ms. Mihelick has begun the process of contacting liturgists and liturgical dancers from other Episcopal Conferences to gather testimony affirming the impact of dance as part of the liturgy in their respective cultures. A packet of materials was sent in February, 2006, to Cardinal Arinze in Rome, which included the documents submitted to the U.S. bishops along with several supportive letters gathered from significant liturgists and educators advocating liturgical dance in our country. Cardinal Arinze's reply, in May, 2006, via his Undersecretary advised, "The information that you sent may be helpful to this Congregation in the evaluation of requests from Conferences of bishops regarding the use of dance or movement in worship. However, the reply that His Eminence, Cardinal Arinze, had given to you in June 2004 in Pittsburgh... still remains operative: namely that it is the competence of the Conferences of Bishops to evaluate proposals for the regulation of the gestures of the faithfuland to submit any such decision to this Dicastery according to the norms of the liturgical books... [and] it will also be their responsibility to include documentation supporting such a decision so that it could be evaluated by the Holy See at that time."

    The search for scholars pursuing serious study of the question continues. If you are aware of any studies done, please let us know.

    The data we had collected from 2001 through the early part of 2006 regarding the extent of liturgical dance in our country showed that it was being/or had been done in many churches and Catholic retreat centers throughout the years. (At 8/6/08 the figures stand at 201 churches and 33 retreat centers in 125 of our cities in 36 states.) With this in mind, Kathryn suggested that a set of guidelines for liturgical dance might be advisable. Bishop Trautman, Chair of the Liturgy Committee concurred with this suggestion; prompting Kathryn with the assistance of Andrea Shearer (Leaven Associate Director) to develop a list of suggested "Norms" for consideration by the bishops. Additional research into Pope John Paul ll's "Theology of the Body" and other documents served as a basis of justification for the proposed Norms. These were placed on the Committee's agenda for the November, 2006 meeting.

    In a follow-up letter to this meeting commending Kathryn for her "dedication" and "enthusiasm for the liturgy," Bishop Trautman informed her of the meeting's outcome, stating, "At the conclusion of their deliberations, however, the members of the Committee were left with the rather unambiguous statement of the 1975 'qualified and authoritative sketch' of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments that, in western cultures, dance 'cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever....'" "It was, therefore the view of the members that no further action on this question could be contemplated by this Conference while this 'qualified and authoritative sketch' remained the policy of the Congregation."

    In closing he stated, "Please rest assured that the Committee would be pleased to revisit this question should the Holy See's policy on the question change." So back to Cardinal Arinze we shall go to inform him that the U.S. bishops feel that he, not they, must be the first to move on this.

    Your comments would be welcomed. Please indicate if you are interested in being placed on a list to receive ongoing information of the status of this issue and/or if you would like to be a potential supporter of this effort in the event it becomes advisable to actively mobilize a concerted drive to endorse and insure the effectiveness and legitimacy of liturgical dance. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

    Testimonials

    "All of the congregation and Sacred Arts council of Christ Church wish to once again thank you for the witness you gave to us. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have had in a long time."

    Joe L. Orin, Chairperson, Sacred Arts Council

    "I wanted to attend Covenant Journey Concert Sunday evening, but I wasn't expecting to be moved spiritually by it. I was. EVERYTHING WAS WONDERFUL. What a special way to begin a new week; what a special way to end a beautiful Sunday."

    Janet Stadulis, member, Newman Center Parish

    "What joy you and your dance ensemble have brought to so many, many people. Your dancing brings to life so strongly God's gift for all of us. Your Covenant Journey concert Sunday evening was PROFOUND."

    Ruth Walker, member, Holy Family Church

    "Thank you for coming to Stow-Kent Gardens Senior Home with your inspiring program. You gave us reflections to increase our awareness of how we can bring hope, healing and happiness more fully to our daily lives."

    Rita Warner, Service Coordinator, Stow-Kent Gardens

    "I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation Thursday night at the Health and Wellness workshop. And your performance encompassed all three of the workshop's focuses with emphasis on the body and the spirit. I expected the body part but was impressed by how the spiritual element was so powerful."

    Mary Ann Kenny, workshop participant

    "On behalf of the Rape Crisis Center and the Take Back the Night Committee, we want to thank the Leaven Dance Company for the moving performance of 'Remember, i\It Happens Quietly.' Many of the people who joined us that evening were moved by your work.... The performance added an element of speaking out/sctivism through a different medium…the human form and movement."

    L. Claire Bando, M.S.S.T., Director, Rape Crisis Program, YWCA of Summit County

    "Thank you.... I am especially grateful for the gift you brought to Westminister. Each of you brings such a beautiful spirit to your movement."

    Judith Bryan, Special Events Chair, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, NY

    "Your class was my favorite class the whole week! I enjoyed it so much and I'm going to share the information and everything about the class with my dance director at my congregation. Thank you so much for bringing Worship dance to the American College Dance Festival."

    Dolly Mullen, Assistant Dance Director, Adat HaMashiac Messianic Congretation, Mission Viejo, CA

    "On behalf of those who worked with me on having you come to First Congregational, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your presentations were so worshipful and well done that I know you converted some who wondered how dance could enhance worship. I also know you moved many and delighted many hearts."

    Jean Preslan, Ravenna, OH

    "...no one could resist ... the infectious joy of the eight member ensemble coming together as a heaven-bound community in the jazzy finale."

    Wilma Salisbury, Plain Dealer Dance Critic

    " ...my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your gift of dance shared with us. I have heard nothing but high praises for your time spent with us. Glory be to God for a worshipful time expressed so elegantly!"

    Pastor Jeff Frantz, First Congregational Church, Ravenna, OH

    "...I so much admire the work you are doing."

    Kathryn Karipedes, Professor of Theatre and Arts, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH

    "Your dancing added so much to the evening." [referring to the annual "Messiah Sing" performance] "I continue to rave about how meaningful it is. Your dance company is able to bring creativity and reverence to everything that you do. I will never again hear the Overture, Pastoral Symphony and Hallelujah Chorus without seeing in my mind the striking interpretation you all gave to it. We greatly appreciate your giving of your talent to all of us who were present."

    Excerpt from a letter of Dr. Harry W. Eberts. Executive Director, Akron Area Association of Churches

    "...God works in the most amazing ways ...My association with the Leaven Dance Company continues to bless my life. May you find joy in the dance of life. Thank you."

    Joanne Smole, Wadsworth OH

    "Just a brief note ...for your Important contribution to the success of our recent Christmas Concerts. I've received many complimentary comments about how much the dance contributed to the over-all effectiveness of the presentation. Thank you all so very much!"

    Frank C. Jacobs, Artistic Director, Summit Choral Society, Masterworks Chorale, Akron, OH

    "God bless you for a ministry that is rare and goes deep to touch the soul."

    Shirley Felice, Concert Coordinator, National Transplant Assistance Fund


    Contacts

    Leaven Dance Company
    2292 Lynnwood Drive
    Stow, OH 44224
    Voice: (330) 688-8806
    email:
    kmleaven@neo.rr.com

    webmaster: Thomas J. Froehlich

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