We started dancing on our first morning at Shakespeare and Company. Tina Packer, its founder, took us on a tour of the 30-acre site. She was keen to show us a class in full swing, led by their Director of Education, Kevin Coleman.
We entered the large rehearsal room to see around fifteen high-school teachers in movement. Having just settled as unobstrusively as possible at one edge of the space – placing our coffees carefully on the floor – the music stopped. Kevin welcomed us and invited us to dance.
I jumped to my feet and, since it would only work with a group of three, the other Paul and Melissa joined me (after only a little hesitation). A.J. was able to remain seated. I was surprised that we then started to learn a prayer dance, an ancient hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary sung by travellers, a song that embraced the glories of nature – moonlight, sunshine – as well as social welfare, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.
The emphasis on the exercise was on our ensembles of three, moving together, turning carefully, feeling that our dance was greater than the sum of its parts. It felt Franciscan, Ignatian, and I was not surprised to learn that Kevin had trained to be a Jesuit before leaving the Church to pursue his vocation in theatre.
In this interview with Kevin he talks about what makes Shakespeare and Company distinctive and includes the three questions that Tina likes to ask and which can be seen on banners in on of the theatre foyers:
What does it mean to be alive?
How must we act?
What must I do?