Hate crimes, war, murder – these acts of violence barrage the senses daily from all forms of media. In today’s society, it’s easy to become numb and apathetic to their effect, but Visions of Peace calls attention to these events while bringing hope that through an open mind and effective communication, harmony is possible.
As the performance opens, Maria Juan, Diana Mighdoll and Kelly Rayl lie on the stage, representing the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths, bathed in a tranquil blue light. To the tune of a traditional Christian chant, each take a turn conceptualizing their religion, moving delicately and gesturing toward the sky as if praising their respective deities. Once each has had her turn, they gently glide and perform the same dance, showing that despite their differences, all of these religions overlap in their quest for tranquility within their lives through a higher authority.
Enhanced by the basic silver silk costumes that seem to absorb the soft blue and purple lighting, the dancers’ movements come off as fluid and entrancing. They capture the viewer’s attention, and the simplistic, empty set keeps the focus on the message behind each pivot, turn and leap.
The second and third sections expand upon this overarching ideal. “Where There is Listening-” effectively displays the importance of trying to envision oneself in another’s shoes by listening. Pairs of dancers move together and take turns leaning upon one another, showing the give and take of compassionate communication. “Once in the Evening I Thought I Saw” acts as a sort of dream sequence – the dancers move slowly and deliberately, emphasizing their visions of achieving common ground.
Breaking up the quiet calmness of the first three sections is “The Cost of War.” The stage turns furious shades of orange and red as the dancers enter in pain, drawing out each step and carrying ailing children. In what sounds like a lamenting dirge, “Nuestro Senor Elohenou” plays and the dancers flail and fall. The children – the future – are dying because of war, and an overall feeling of great loss and mourning fills the room. Then, to the pulsing beat of a drum, the dancers leave and two males emerge, beginning the war. Their movements are quick and animalistic, each intent on bringing down the other. In this frenzy, however, nothing is achieved. Bob Gonzalez narrates the writings of Yitzhak Rabin and powerfully asserts that peace is an act of both courage and faith, incorporating the prior theme of religion with the misconception that violence provides the truest display of courage.
From there, the performance reinforces the importance of actively spreading and cultivating peace within the community. “Kyrie Eleyson,” a solo performance by Jeanne Travers, shows that this goal begins with one person. It takes one person to act in an unbiased manner and try to talk to another to open up a “Dialogue for Peace.” A cloudy backgound emerges as the cool-colored lights return, and the dancers begin to gather and move as one.
The finale, “Celebration of Peace,” unites the entire cast as they connect their bodies and reach upward. Their collective embrace embodies peace across the world and an optimistic outlook toward the future. Closing with heads and arms held high, they call for faith, but not just faith in a religious power. They call for faith in achieving peace worldwide.