Anna rehearsing choreography with flutist & harpist.
Double click to view intro clip as 22.3 MB Windows Media Player file Mac users may need to download: Windows Media Player for Mac OS X 9.0
Anna's Dance is the compelling story of a woman's struggle to express her faith and love for community through sacred dance. Anna Douthwright (1942-2003) began her work in Canada in the late 1960's as a Roman Catholic Montessori teacher. Newly arrived in London Ontario from England, with her husband David, Anna had earlier tried to use movement and dance as a means to express her faith as a missionary in Alaska. She began to take formal dance instruction herself in the late 1980's just before she was diagnosed with cancer. Beginning more formally with her self, her children and other children in the neighborhood, Anna became involved in choreographing more and more ambitious sacred dance productions in the 1990's. Arising from her faith and the community in which she lived, Anna produced a series of sacred dance productions including Gwinna (based on the Barbara Helen Berger book), Donkey's Dream (based on the Barbara Helen Berger book), The Book of Ruth, Missa Gaia (based on the Earth Mass by Paul Winter and Paul Hartley with Karen Ann Schuessler and the Village Singers) and Jubilate Deo, (based on the lives of 12 saints of the twentieth century including Dorothy Day, Catherine de Houk Dougherty, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero and Jean Vanier).
Shortly after their arrival in London, Ontario, Anna and David began a family and made a conscious commitment to participate in forming an intentional faith community in downtown London, led by a young Roman Catholic priest by the name of Marcel Gervais, now retired Archbishop of Ottawa. Anna's family together with others moved into a downtown neighborhood together to form a faith-based community. Anna's dance grew out of this community in very profound and spiritual ways.
Anna worked to draw dance out of people, to help them express the dance inside of them in a collaborative process. They may not even have known what was inside them prior to becoming involved with Anna. She often worked with people who had not been involved in formal dance training. Rather than trying to emulate professional dance productions already popular elsewhere, Anna and those drawn to work closely with her, sought inspiration from dance everywhere to develop entirely new dance creations that are unique and adapted to the spirituality and talents of those involved in their production.
Although Anna has sometimes encountered resistance in her love for dance, even from the faith community itself, her love for dance also profoundly enriched her faith community, and the lives of many others far and wide. Her works are deeply spiritual both in terms of their conception but also in terms of their ongoing faithfulness to deep and rediscovered religious traditions.
At the same time Anna worked in dance, she struggled with cancer. She drew inspiration from her struggles while her dance provided meaning and purpose. A sample of some of her choreography for Martin Luther King using the music of Marion Williams, "I've Come So Far" (from her Shanachie, Born to Sing the Gospel CD) can be seen at this link
Anna's own family struggled to understand her life and work but came to appreciate her work with the passing of time. Her daughter Ruth now initiates dance from many cultures and traditions to continue Anna's work.