The possibility of a dream, an impossible dream, is work. Two people who share a dream, a dream of 30 years lasting, if not larger than life, becomes a life well spent working their dream out, through thick and thin: a one room school house renovated into an eloquent dance studio with tall, bright windows, a landscaped garden, bird residencies, an abundance of mementoes, and most important, a highly supportive state-wide audience in a place called Ladysmith, a small town in Wisconsin. If not Valhalla, surely, without a doubt, Chalice Stream is a solid place for the soft edge of victory.
Barry Lynn is a 94 year old choreographer/dancer who still goes through his paces with enthusiasm. Here’s a dancer with an extraordinary professional and educational career who never takes no for an answer. Sharp witted, with a mind as clear as a well toned bell, Lynn knows exactly how to fine tune his ineffable sense of humor into trenchant comment and philosophical musing. Above all else, he still moves with a fabric of flairs equivalent to a spider trimming his nest with eloquent forbearance. Watching him work within the confines of his age is like playing time with exuberance.
On the other hand, and it is another hand, Michael Doran at 60 is a picture of an impeccable Adonis, with a reverent side. Soft spoken, hard working, bearing both intelligence and good looks, Doran holds his position as lead dancer, teacher, roustabout, and defender of the faith, with justifiable pride and unfettered possessiveness. Doran carefully allots his time between house, studio and landscape work, creative dance, and teaching, often with no end in sight. All of it would be useless if it wasn’t for the devotion of Chalice Stream‘s audiences: locals, visitors, and aficionados from all over Wisconsin, and beyond.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, a dance may be worth a thousand pictures. But they work hand in hand, in one form or another. The summer concerts this year involved not only 30 years of experience at Chalice Stream, and hundreds of performances, but also highlighted the work of their students – all with appropriate titles and danced accordingly.
Barry Lynn emphasizes the importance of a title in dance work. “Titles set the audience’s mind in the direction you want to go”, he said. His contribution at the latest concert was titled “A Saint, a Sinner, and Homo Confusion”. This comic, untangling dance episode is the “story of what happens when circumstances bring together a saint, a sinner, and the earthling Homo Sapiens, better known as Homo confusion”. Lynn’s engaging ability to amplify movement for eloquent effect, within the flash of magically fabricated gestures, stopped age in its tracks - with hilarious results. In short, Lynn has a bedrock of lifetime incidents and memories, all balanced by the stories he tells en route. Stories are as much a part of the dance environment at Chalicestream, as the sunlight bathing the studio on a bright summer day.
Michael Doran uses dance with a spiritual bent, while simultaneously keeping his lyrical sense of movement down home. Doran has a somber, quietly ecstatic side to him. A good will ambassador for Chalice Stream, Doran has a way with gesture and flowing fabrics that welcomes the viewer with eloquence and clarity of design. “In This Very Room” the opening gambit for this summer’s dance concerts, draped the space with both secular and spiritual themes: “Unchained Melody”, “Crossing” (an “impression” suggestive of Tibetan roots), and “Ave Maria”, with music by Bach/Gounod grounded the offerings. Doran has choreographed three Ave Maria’s in recent years, each “a dance of both veneration and dedication to the timeless figure of the Virgin Mary, a healing mother to a sorrowing world”. When Doran was awarded a Wisconsin State Council’s “Distinction Award” in 2002, he commented on the genesis of his work: “I saw a way through dance as theatre to find my own place on stage where I could work out a synthesis of the sacred/secular influences I had felt, and in whose service I sought to dedicate myself”.
Lynn and Doran are masters of using fabric and design to lift dance, and together they pick and choose the fabrics they use with great taste and functionality. Result: a never wavering lyricism, bequeathed with worldly and other worldly references, done with well chosen turns and eloquent footwork there, here, and now.
Lynn’s highly disciplined dance stories also include magical tales from “another time, another place”. Carefully delineated, flowing, eloquent work that captures the imagination and cancels pessimism with titles like “Follow the Wings”, “The Ghostly Prince”, ”Hajid and the Four Cards”, “Krishnor and the Gold Armband”, “King Shatkor and the Missing Key”, etc. All danced with an astonishing array of costumes and props that would be the envy of any theatrical or dance designer. Lynn and Doran’s mastery of generic form, established over the years, captures the heart of their vibrant, defining spirit through the essential movement motif of each dance.
Rosalie Jones, the artistic director of Daystar: Contemporary Dance Drama of Indian America, has been a guest artist at Chalice Stream over the years. She commented on Lynn’s influence on her as a “lifetime teacher, mentor and friend”:
“I met Barry years ago in Salt Lake City. After studying music in Spokane, I decided I wanted to dance. So I enrolled in the University of Utah’s dance program. Then I went to see a Barry Lynn concert. Here was a dancer who came out and spoke to the audience. I had never seen a dancer speak to the audience. So I contacted Barry. I learned more from Barry in his classes than I did at the University. His interest was in the person who was his student; who the person was, why were we there, what were we after? All done with excellent training. He encouraged my idea to bring the Native American dance heritage together with modern dance. “Yes you can do that”, he said, “and it is possible to make that happen”. At the summer concert, Jones performed “The Spirits Dance” to honor the Anishinaabe people (of Canada) and the Ojibway and Chippewa peoples of the Great Lakes.
Lynn and Doran’s interest in guiding students is central to their work at Chalice Stream, and, also, at a second studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Students are encouraged to create from their own ensuing dynamic, without rubberstamping their mentors. Emphasis is on discovery, and the application of specific dance training that challenges the student, without twisting a person into a physical cocoon, or playing copy cat. Students developing work alongside their mentors has a genuine communal feel.
“We think that dance as a fine art can, like the chalice, nourish, uplift, ennoble and sustain; and we hope that our work here will, like the two streams that run through our land, offer pictorial beauty and be a source for reflection on the journey we are taking through life”.
Rare, very rare, indeed.