September 27, 2015

Last Night, At Church

I went to church last night.

But most of the times that I go to any kind of sacred space now, it's not for God or religion. It's to hear the organ playwatch the sunlight stream through the leaded glass windows, or gawk at the architecture. Sometimes I'm looking for traces of when it was a theater. Sometimes I'm chasing ghosts. I will eat the pancakes, admire the flowers, breathe the incense air, and gaze at the multitudes of faces in plaster, marble, and bronze. But I probably won't pray.

Last night, I went to church to watch the first performance of director/choreographer Heidi Duckler's new episodic dance series Sophie & Charlie at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Studio City. (No relation to the lead characters in the movie Letters to Juliet).

There should be more dancing in church, don't you think?

Of course, it's not hard to lure me to an interesting building.

This particular church's ministry actually didn't become affiliated with the Unitarians or the Universalists (once separate entities) until 1960, even though it was founded in 1943.

It began as the Christ Memorial Unity Church, part of the Unity sect of Christianity.

But Reverend Herb Schneider—the founding minister who constructed this building with his own bare hands in 1945—ultimately disagreed with the Unity Church philosophically and theologically and disaffiliated. The church was non-denominational until becoming Unitarian in 1960.

Sophie & Charlie isn't the first dance performance to grace the chapel here—the Karen Fox Dance Troupe and the Sufi Dancers both performed here in the 1970s. The Unitarian Universalists are known for being pretty liberal.

The Heidi Duckler dancers, and the love story that unfolds through their performances, seem to fit right in at this church. They're known for their innovative and economic use of space—floor to rafters—in unexpected venues.

Last night, we attended a funeral in which the officiant seemed to be mourning just as much... the friends and family that the deceased left behind.

And then we witnessed the deceased emerge from his coffin, and in one final dance, depart.

We deposited written messages and blessings into the now open and empty coffin, and returned to our seats, which were now facing the choir loft in the back of the church. Lili Haydn played her violin mournfully.

It was sad and beautiful and confusing—just like life and death and love.

But it was just the beginning of the story of Sophie and Charlie.

He asked her out and she said yes (I think), but now they must go on their first date.

You can catch the next episode, "First Date," on October 1 at Beyond Baroque in Venice, a neat little space that the dance company will use inside and out (as they did at Linda Vista). As with each episode, the next one will feature its own distinct musical performer: a harpist / beatboxer.

And people say LA has no culture.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Linda Vista Hospital Comes Alive With "The Groundskeepers"
A Matter of Place: Dancing Through Chinatown's Changes

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