Welcome to the June 2009 edition of Artist's Work B.e.n.c.h.!

Welcome to the e-magazine/blog for Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h., the Inland Empire's Christian fine arts organization! We hope you will find this to be a useful, enjoyable and worthwhile resource. Here are the newest items in the blog. Just click on the titles to go to the articles:

Local Profile: Remembering Woodworking Legend Sam Maloof (1916-2009)

Artist Profile: Thomas Blackshear

Fine Arts Bible Study #8

Poetry Corner: "O Sweet Irrational Worship" by Thomas Merton

A Brief History of Dance (3,500 years in under 4,000 words)

Master Class: The Five C's of Songwriting for Corporate Worship

Happenings: Artistic Events Around the Inland Empire

Book Club: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (born and raised in the I.E.)

The Cafe for June

Christian Songwriters' Showcase (big changes coming!)

So, brew a cup of coffee, herbal tea, or whatever you like, and stay a while. This page will be updated monthly with new articles and interviews. Enjoy!You are part of a growing group.

What is Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h? This is a place for Christian artists in the Inland Empire of Southern California to mix, network, relax, share, and learn. What types of Christian artists?

1. Visual arts (sculpture, painting, glass blowing, etc.)
2. Dance (performing, choreography, etc. )
3. Music (playing, writing, learning, singing, etc.)
4. Creative writing (poetry, stories, etc.)
5. Drama/theater (acting, playwriting, directing, etc.)
6. ??????

Artists Work B.e.n.c.h. is for Christian artists: simply, people who are Christians and who are also artists. Some Christian artists make art exclusively for Christians, but many use their talents in secular ways as well (writing screenplays for television, jingles, playing in a philharmonic orchestra, acting in a community theater, displaying their paintings in a gallery, etc.) All are welcome here.

Christians follow the Creator of the Universe, and therefore should be the most creative people in the world. The church has historically been the patron of great artists. Hildegard, the writer of the very first opera, was a nun. Michelangelo, Donatello, Edward Hicks, and many others made art for church and used church subjects.

But, today, Christian art is not considered "forward" or "interesting" in many circles. This reputation is well-deserved in most cases. Christian art has become a punchline. In our own little way we hope to change some of that perception.

What does Artist's Work B.e.n.c.h. stand for?

B=BUILD new Christian artists, ministries, avenues.

E=ENCOURAGE Christian artists to use their talents.

N=NETWORK with Christian artists, churches.

C=COORDINATE opportunities for Christian artists to use/exhibit their talents.

H=HELP Christian artists and help churches utilize artists.

This group is for people who fit one or more of these categories:1.) Just starting out2.)Being used mightily for God3.)Frustrated4.)Seasoned professional5.)Curious6.) Talented amateur7.)Wanting to learn/improve8.)Not sure if God can use your talent9.)Good enough to teach others10.)Wondering if your talent (flower arranging, calligraphy, photography, etc.) even qualifies as art.

Christian artists--unite! Let's be creative, interesting, and forward thinking enough to lead the artistic world, while still making quality pieces that reflect our worldview.

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Happenings: Artistic Events Around the Inland Empire

For August, 2009 Happenings, click here.

Looking for some fun stuff to do this month? You've found the right place! Check out our schedule of music and arts events around the Inland Empire for June 2009.

June 4 - Auditions - Redlands

Lifehouse Theater, at 1135 N. Church St. in Redlands, is holding auditions for an upcoming production of "Little House on the Prairie", based upon the beloved stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The show is scheduled to run from August 15 through September 20, 2009. Contact (909) 335-3037 for more information.

June 5-Sept. 25 - Praising in the Park - Yucaipa

Every Friday evening at 6:30 PM, from June 5th through September 25th, Bear Witness Ministries of Yucaipa presents a series of worship concerts at the Yucaipa Community Park Amphitheater, 34900 Oak Glen Rd. in Yucaipa. Each week the worship band from a different local church comes to the park to perform and share in Bear Witness' ministries. For more information, click here.

June 6 - Gospel Concert - Temecula

Southwest Christian Church presents a night of uplifting contemporary gospel music with the Vintage Gospel Lads and the Gospel Truth Quartet. The show begins at 6:30 PM and is free of charge. Southwest Christian Church is at 28030 Del Rio Road, Temecula, CA 92590. E-mail
church@southwestchristianchurch.us for more information.

June 7 - "The Rave" - Chino

At 6:30 PM, Long Beach rockers Envera and DJ Steve headline "The Rave" at New Hope Christian Fellowship, 13333 Ramona Ave. in Chino. More info: (909) 702-3736 or http://www.myspace.com/chinorave .

Through June 14 - Peter Pan - Redlands

Lifehouse Theater, at 1135 N. Church St. in Redlands, presents their original musical "Peter Pan", the timeless story of the boy who never grew up. Tickets are $5 to $19 per person. Contact (909) 335-3037 for more information.

June 19-20 - The Art of BBQ - Riverside

Interested in the fine art of grilling? (Yes, ladies, the men DO think it's an art form!) Magnolia Ave. Baptist Church at 8351 Magnolia Ave., Riverside hosts the 6th Annual Burnt Offerings Invitation BBQ Competition, coordinated by the Christian Men's Barbeque Association. Call (714) 319-1782 for more information.

June 26 - Xtreme Tour Event 2009 - Murrieta

From 5:00 to 11:00 PM, Mulligan Family Fun Center hosts the Extreme Tour Event with Christian bands performing all night long! Tickets are $15.99 per person and include unlimited use of most game and entertainment areas, plus two slices of delicious pizza. Mulligan is at 24950 Madison Avenue, Murrieta. Call (951) 696-9696 or e-mail info1@mulliganmurrieta.com .

June 27 - Christian Poets - Riverside

Christian poets Candace Q. Butler (above, a.k.a. "Breeze") and Lily will read their works from 12:30-2:30 pm at the Riverside Public Library, 3581 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside. 951-826-5201 for more information.

June 27 - Southern Gospel Concert - Highland

Immanuel Baptist Church presents The Booth Brothers on “The Blind Man Tour” at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $16.00 per person and can be purchased via itickets.com. Immanuel is at 28355 E. Baseline in Highland. Call (800) 965-9324.

June 27 - Christian Songwriters' Showcase - Highland??

Each month Artists' Work B.e.n.c.h. hosts the Christian Songwriters' Showcase, featuring four artists (like Big Bear's Cliff Sliger, above) performing their original works for an intimate audience. Due to some schedule changes, we are no longer holding the event at GFE Coffee in Highland. We are still seeking a new venue for the June showcase, which will feature Paravell, Daniel Sanchez and two other artists TBA. Keep checking back here for an update on the new location, or e-mail us before the event!

June 27-August 2 - "Zorro" - Redlands

Lifehouse Theater, at 1135 N. Church St. in Redlands, presents "Zorro", the exciting tale of the mysterious Mexican crusader for justice. Tickets are $5 to $19 per person. Contact (909) 335-3037 for more information.

The Cafe for June

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas, so here are some ideas that you might be able to use for your art and creative process.

June birthstone: Pearl, flower: Rose
To learn how to make a rose out of money, click here.

June is Great Outdoors Month. If you spend time in the Great Outdoors this month, learn a little more about the feathered friends you see. Click here.

June is zoo and aquarium month. Wolf cubs (pictured above) were born in May at Moonridge Zoo in Big Bear. To find out more about Moonridge Zoo, click here.

The second week in June is National Clay Week. Click here to go to the American Museum of Ceramic Art website. The museum is right in our own backyard in Pomona.

June 1- Donut Day. Learn how to make calorie-free donuts. Click here.

June 2nd Radio was patented in 1896. For an interesting timeline on radio history, click here.

June 3rd is the anniversary of the First U.S. Spacewalk by astronaut Ed White in 1965. For a look at the Smithsonian's Air and Space collections, click here.

June 4th- Aesop's Birthday. Read some of the stories you remember, and learn about others of Aesop's fables that you have never read. Click here for a nice online collection of Aesop's Fables.

June 5th Richard Scarry's birthday. He was an author of children's books, born in 1919. Click here to see some of the books he wrote and drew.

June 6th · First Drive-in Movie Theater Opens in New Jersey in 1933. For an interesting look at drive in theaters of the past, click here. ·

June 8th- Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday. Born in 1867, he is America's most well-known and celebrated architect. Celebrate his birthday by going to the Anderton Court Shops on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, a building Wright designed (pictured above). Click here for more information about Wright.

June 12th Anne Frank's birthday, born in 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The secret annex that she and her family hid in is now a museum. Click here to see that museum. Consider celebrating this by starting a journal of your own. A facsimile of Ann Frank's journal is pictured above. Below, see a collection of pictures and an actress reading Ann Frank's words.

June 14th Caldecott Medal first awarded in 1937. To learn which books over the years have won this award, and to learn more about the award, click here. ·

June 14-Flag Day. Proudly display your stars and stripes. Click here for more information on the holiday.

June 16th- National Fudge Day (as if you need to wait for a special day for this treat). Below is a video about the oldest sweet shop in England. I don't know if they actually sell fudge, but it's an interesting video nonetheless.

June 18th-International Picnic Day. To celebrate this day, why not have a picnic? If you want to make it extra special, click here .

June 19th- Juneteenth

On this date in 1865, Major General Gordon Granger in Galveston, TX read a special order from President Lincoln that informed Texans that the slaves were free. Surprisingly, this was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed (January 1, 1863). In this day of instant news coverage, it seems strange that there was a time when news traveled this slowly. Some historians surmise that several people in Texas did know about the Emancipation Proclamation, but they simply did not tell the slaves about it. Whatever the case, June 19th became the celebration called "Juneteenth." Click here for recipes and ideas to celebrate. The photograph above was from a Juneteenth celebration in the year 1900.

June 20th Bald Eagle Day. Click here for information on eagles.

June 21st is both Father's Day and the first day of summer. Click here for a great website that has gift ideas for dads, along with crafts the kids can make.

June 23rd Johannes Gutenberg's birthday. He was born in 1400, and he is credited by many as the European inventor of the moveable type printing press. Out of the 180 Bibles he is known to have printed, only 48 in the world today. Eleven of those 48 are in the U.S.A., and one is at the Huntington Library in San Marino near Pasadena (that one is pictured above). Click here for information on visiting the Huntington Library and botanical gardens. If you have never been, it's a beautiful estate with famous artworks, rare books, and a huge and beautiful garden walk.

June 25th Eric Carle's birthday, author of several children's books. To learn more about him, click here.

June 25th-LEON Day. LEON is NOEL spelled backwards. It means six months until Christmas. If you are planning to make some Christmas gifts this year, it might be time to start thinking about buying supplies so you won't be caught in mid-December with a million hours of work left to finish your gifts.

Day June 30th Superman's Birthday. Below are two videos with different Superman themes. The top one is the theme song from the 1940's, and the one below it, while not visually stimulating, is the John Williams theme from the Superman movies.

Book Club: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Our book club selection for the second quarter of 2009 is The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, the nationally renowned choreographer who grew up in San Bernardino. Here are the discussion questions for those who have read this book.

Chapter 1- On page 9, Tharp writes, "No one can give you your subject matter, your creative content; if they could, it would be their creation and not yours. But there's a process that generates creativity--and you can learn it. And you can make it habitual." What are some creative habits you learned about that you could use? Do you have any creative habits that you already use?

Chapter 2-On page 20, Tharp writes, "This...is what rituals of preparation give us: they arm us with confidence and self-relaince." How do you prepare to create your art? Do you have any rituals you use? Do you agree or disagree that rituals are important?

Chapter 3-Which do you think characterizes you better: zoe or bios? What are some of the things that shape your creative DNA?

Chapter 4- On page 64, Tharp writes, "Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art, if it is not art itself. Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we're experiencing now with what we have experienced before." How can understanding your memory and thinking about the past and how it relates to the present help you be more creative? Finish this sentence: Something I am doing right now that is related to my past is ___________.

Chapter 5- How do you organize for your projects? Do you use a system like Tharp's box, or do you have any system at all? Do you think technology aids or hinders your organizational process for preparing for a project?

Chapter 6-on page 99, Tharp writes, "When you're in scratching mode, the tiniest microcell of an idea will get you going." What activities can you do to scratch? What projects do you have on hold that maybe need some scratching? Where can you scratch to revive those projects? How do you know when to scratch deeper and when to admit failure and give up on a particular project?

Chapter 7-On page 122 Tharp says, "It's tempting to try to rein in the unruliness of the creative process, especially at the start." On page 124, she writes, "Another trap is the belief that everything has to be perfect before you can take the next step." How can perfectionism kill a project? Describe something you made in which you went through the creative process to produce it. How did the project begin? How did you know you were ready to move on to the next step? How did you get over roadblocks in the creative process?

Chapter 8-How does a piece's spine help it? Can you think of a piece you have heard, watched, saw, or experienced lately that seemed to not have a spine?

Chapter 9-What is your skill set that you bring to your art? What have you done lately to improve your skill?

Chapter 10-What is the difference between a rut and a groove? How can you get out of a creative rut? What things have you tried that did not work well for you? How do you recognize a groove? How can you stay in a groove?

Chapter 11-On page 217, Tharp writes, "We lose sight of the fact that we weren't searching for a formula when we first did something great; we were in unexplored territory, following our instincts and passions wherever they might lead us. It's only when we look back that we see a path, and it's only there because we blazed it." How can losing your fear of failure help you in the creative process? What times have you reined in an interesting idea to make it more palatable to a person/group, and ended up with mediocre products?

Chapter 12- On what skills are you trying to achieve mastery? What can you do to keep running, pushing forward? Have you ever felt like you had developed a skill so well that you finally "arrived" as a "master?" What did it take to get to that point?

Christian Songwriters' Showcase

We had some big surprises at the May 30th Christian Songwriters' Showcase, none bigger than an abrupt change of venue!

Because of economic considerations, GFE Coffee in Highland has cut back their hours to close at 2:00 PM. While we understand such budget cuts, we weren't actually notified of the change, which made for some confusion when we showed up at 3:30 in the afternoon. Thanks to some frantic phone calling and the kindness of Pastor Dave Robson at Highland Hills Church, we were able to move everything down a couple of blocks to the United Methodist Church on the corner of Baseline and Church Street. Undying gratitude to Pastor Robson for his assistance, and to the folks at GFE for opening their doors to us for the past several months.

Above: Ann Lynn (top); Cliff Sliger (bottom)

We also owe a huge debt to Phil Vecchio of pop.vox.music, a fellowship of Christian artists who network and support each other's efforts. Thanks to Phil we were able to line up three pop.vox acts for the May showcase: husband-and-wife duo Ann Lynn of Big Bear; spirited rocker Cliff Sliger, also of Big Bear; and the cheerful insanity of Jeff Mayfield, the leader of Son of Heatwave. Also on the roster but not a pop.vox artist was Marc DeCock, a powerful performer and writer who hails from Costa Mesa.

We are still seeking a venue for the June 27th showcase, and we welcome any suggestions you might have for venues in the San Bernardino/Highland/Redlands area. So far the bill includes Daniel Sanchez from St. John Bosco Church, and the band Paravell (also a pop.vox.music artist!) More to come!

Below: Jeff Mayfield (top); Marc DeCock and band (bottom)

Artist Profile: Thomas Blackshear

Thomas Blackshear II grew up knowing what he wanted to do. He confesses, “I always tell everybody that when I was about 5 or 6 years old, I wanted to be an artist and an ice cream man,” Thomas says with a smile. “When the ice cream truck would come by, I saw that man inside got all those dimes and I thought that would be great!”

Above: Thomas Blackshear at age 4

At a young age, he created drawings by tracing pictures from books as many times as it took for him to learn to draw the same pictures without tracing. He recalls, “I think my parents realized I could draw when I brought home a drawing of a cow that looked like a cow!”

Although Thomas was born in Waco, Texas, his dad was an air force pilot, so he moved often during his childhood, living in New York, New Orleans, and Atlanta.

But it was the book Stuart Little that really made Thomas into an artist when he read it as a seventh grader. In the book, the mouse Stuart uses his own creativity to make useful items as he searches for true happiness. “I could relate to Stuart in his tiny world,” Thomas says. “I made him shoes and clothes. He had skates and a little rug by his matchbox bed. I made everything just like it was in the book. The only thing I didn’t have was Stuart himself.”

Through his parents’ divorce during his formative years, Thomas found a deep faith in God’s provision and God’s plan.

“I decided to be an illustrator when I was in high school,” Thomas says. “To me, commercial artists knew how to paint. Plus, I had a fantastic high school art teacher, Curtis Patterson, whom I met when I was a junior. He was the first art teacher I developed a close relationship with. He took an interest in my work and gave me assignments that opened up my mind. It was Curtis’s encouragement that really helped me in becoming an artist. We’re still buddies to this day.”

Another experience helped form Thomas’ self-image. “Right up through my junior year of high school I was always considered the artist of the school,” Thomas remembers. “It had always been that way for me.” Then, students began talking about another artist in the school. “I kept hearing about this guy for a long time before I ever met him, then I finally saw this guy with a painting. I knew after just one glance that he was one of the best artists I’d seen in my life. I learned so much from meeting him. It was really a blessing. I was shocked,” he admits. “He was so good I couldn’t touch him and there was nothing I could do. Up to that point, I always had to be the best. When I met him I realized there would always be somebody better. I realized the best you can do is to just be the best you can be.”
Thomas and that younger artist in his school became friends. “I had to respect him just because of the talent he had and I learned a lot from him.” Still, talent alone, without determination, won’t make a person succeed. After high school Thomas would return home and visit his friend. “I started developing and learning as an artist when I was in art school, and I would come back home and show him my progress,” Thomas recalls. “I would ask him what he had been working on and he’d say, ‘Thomas, I don’t do that anymore,’ and it made me so sad.”

After high school, Blackshear went to the Institute of Art and the Academy of Art, both in Chicago. There, he refined his skills and eventually got a job as an illustrator for Hallmark Cards.

“One of my goals at Hallmark was to work with Mark English. I was thrilled when I was able to get into his class.” English and Blackshear were a good mix and soon English took Thomas on as his apprentice. When asked why he was so bent on working with Mark English, Thomas points out that English has “won more awards than anyone in the business with the exception of Norman Rockwell.” Even as a young adult, Thomas Blackshear II knew the importance of surrounding himself with examples of excellence.

With his career taking off, Thomas tried to reconnect with an old friend from his college days. Ami Smith was a budding writer and close friend at one time, but after college, they lost contact.

“I went to the Academy to see if anyone had a number for Ami Smith,” he recalls. “I was surprised to find that the Academy office had it! The thing is, it really shouldn’t have happened,” Thomas says. Ami had just moved back to Wisconsin and she couldn’t imagine how anyone could have had her number. “That’s why I felt it was a divine appointment,” Thomas says. “God brought us together.”

Ami had been going through a lot of struggles in her life, and during that visit to Wisconsin, Thomas was able to pray with Ami and help her understand how much God loved her.

In 1982, Thomas decided to become a freelance illustrator. It was exciting, but it was also a trap. Becoming overwhelmed with work and deadlines caused Thomas to cut off ties to friends and family. He found that he was working so hard that he didn’t have them time to “create the art that was inside of me.” He describes further, “When you’re in the middle of something like this you don’t realize what is happening to you. I realize now that I was really dealing with depression. I began to lose confidence in myself as an artist, and that’s the only thing I had ever really been confident about!” While attending a friend’s wedding, many old buddies asked Thomas what he had been doing. “I told them I was just working, working, working. I realized I had lost the joy I once had in my art. That was a revelation.”

Thomas and Ami kept in touch, and fell in love. Thomas describes the first inklings that his feelings for her were more than friendship. His friends told him, “Just pray for her. If God turns her heart, you’ll know it’s meant to be. That’s why I know we were truly brought together by God.” They were soon married.

But Thomas’s artistic challenges continued. Feeling trapped by his workload and in the depths of despair, Thomas told Ami that all he had left was Jesus. As he heard himself say those words and realized what he was saying, he added, “and Jesus is all I need!” With that, the depression seemed to lift off like a dark cloud breaking apart in the sun.

By this time, although still quite young, Thomas Blackshear had created a phenomenal amount of work. He had made over 140 illustrations for Lucasfilm, Universal Studios, Anheuser-Busch, 7-Up, Paramount, Smirnoff Vodka, Coca-Cola, Milton Bradley, Disney, and National Geographic. Thomas credits his success to God. “I couldn’t do it without him,” he says. “So many things that have come my way during my career are blessings from God.”

Jerry Pinkney, one of the few well-known black illustrators, gave Thomas a call. “(He) called to tell me that he was working on a series of stamps for the U.S. Postal Service,” Thomas recalls.

“He was looking for someone to finish the job because he wasn’t able to. That was a blessing from God. I didn’t ask to do the stamps, I was just given the job. “

Thomas got many other jobs, but then the Hamilton Collection commissioned Thomas to do a series of four collector plates. This commission was important because it would give Thomas more financial freedom, which would lead to more creative freedom as well.

Thomas remembers well when the Hamilton Collection first called and asked if he could design a plate for The Wizard of Oz. He had been flooded with work from other clients and was up late almost every night. He had promised his wife Ami that he would not take any new commissions until he finished some commitments he had already made. Thomas told Ami about the Hamilton Collection calling, and told her, ““I don’t think I can take it.” But she surprised him by saying, “Take it, Thomas! This is what we prayed about!”

Looking back, Thomas says, ““The thing that I keep seeing is that everything that has happened in my life that was successful was given to me by God. He led me to it through an open door. All my success and talent is from God. He gave it to me.”
Now Thomas has a prolific career as a collectible artist. He creates projects such as Christmas tree ornaments, plates, figurines, and limited edition prints.
Still, Thomas Blackshear II had a vision beyond the incredible success he had already attained.

“I always knew I wanted to create Ebony Visions,” he says. “As an artist who happens to be black, I had distinct ideas about what I’d like to see in the line.” The elegant, compelling figures he created for the collection are a blend of both Art Nouveau and African culture, which Thomas calls “Afro-Nouveau.”

Interestingly, the line was not created exclusively for an African American audience. As Thomas says, “The collection reflects not only my visions as a black man and the unique visions of black people, it represents visions we all share, regardless of the color of our skin. Emotions like hope, love, tenderness, faith, and serenity know no boundaries.”

An attitude of praise and gratitude permeates Thomas’s life and work. “Everything I’ve accomplished is only because of what God has done for me,” he says. “All I’ve done is taken the talent He’s given me and worked at it.”

On February 18, 1998, Thomas and Ami got a new “commission.” After several miscarriages, Elisha Thomas Blackshear was born. Ami described her feeling about being a new mother. “Every day I’m in awe of his fragile beauty…his bright, trusting eyes that look up at me, his dancing smile when I kiss his little feet, the perfect curve of his soft, tiny fingers…” As a talented writer, artist and designer herself, Ami has found her focus shifting since Elisha was born. She writes in her journal every day and creates memory albums recording Elisha’s precious childhood days. “I like to write poems, thoughts, and record all the sweet things that happen from day to day.”

“I can see now how God had a plan for things to happen at certain times over the course of my lifetime,” Thomas says. “It was God who gave me my talent, who has blessed my life with love and joy, and opened up all the doors. All I had to do was just walk through.”

Thomas Blackshear Online: http://www.blackshearonline.com/

To view past profiles on Artists Work B.e.n.c.h, click below:

Dr. He Qi
Sandra Bowden
Laura Kramer (Psalm 23 Jewelry)
Chris Schlarb

John Newton
Vincent van Gogh

Local Profile: Remembering Sam Maloof (1916-2009)

On May 21, 2009, a local artisan who was declared a “living treasure of California” by the state legislature, passed away at the age of 93. Sam Maloof of Rancho Cucamonga was a truly legendary woodworker, one of the greatest artisans of his field. His furniture, from his signature rocking chairs up to larger pieces, commanded great respect and hefty prices. Maloof’s works found their way into not only into the homes and offices of celebrities and CEOs, but the Smithsonian, the White House, and even the Vatican. His homestead is now a museum in Alta Loma and the home of the Sam and Alfrieda Maloof Foundation. Jay Rodriguez, the Foundation’s former president, said, “In my mind, he was really the most famous woodworker in the entire world.” Local newspaper publisher Bob Balzer echoed the sentiment: "He was one of the most creative people I've ever met. Not only was he an outstanding craftsman, but a phenomenal artist and sculptor."

Samuel Solomon Maloof was born in Lebanon on January 24, 1916. When he was a child his parents immigrated to the United States, settling in the farm town of Chino, California. While still in high school, he won a poster contest and landed a job as a commercial artist in Claremont, working with industrial designers in the area. He taught himself the art of woodworking along the way, despite not having any friends or contacts who practiced it.

Following World War II, Maloof decided to turn his self-taught love of woodworking into a career. His connections with industrial designers opened doors for sales to people like famed designer Henry Dreyfuss. Maloof undertook U.S. State Department tours to locales around the world, where he not only studied local design but made more sales connections. His imagination was perhaps his greatest tool. Rodriguez said, “He would get an inspiration for a piece that he would see in his head and he would freehand cut out the piece and put it together to make it fulfill what he dreamed about in his head.”

Over time Maloof developed a singular artistic sense, and his works became acknowledged as genuine art pieces representative of a new American style. While his most famous pieces were his rocking chairs, he also designed dining chairs and tables, coffee tables, cradles, and even staircases. Maloof became a true celebrity in the art world, selling to presidents, movie stars, corporate figures and the occasional blue-collar worker who saved up for a genuine Maloof.

Above: one of Maloof’s rocking chairs in the museum housed at his former home.

In the 1950s Maloof and his family moved to Alta Loma, where he remained for the rest of his life. He became a highly visible figure in the community around Rancho Cucamonga, beloved by city officials and residents alike. When their 8,500-foot home had to be relocated to allow for expansion of the 210 Freeway, Maloof began designing a new home. Their prior house is now a museum which houses hundreds of pieces of memorabilia and furniture. His pieces can also be found in the permanent collections of other national museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Boston Museum of Art. A recent exhibition at Cal State San Bernardino’s Fullerton Art Museum presented eighty of his works and raised money for the university’s scholarship funds.

The Sam and Alfrieda Maloof Foundation was begun in 1994 to preserve Maloof’s art and encourage the arts and crafts movement in the Inland Empire and elsewhere. Alfrieda Maloof died in 1998, and in 2001 Maloof married Beverly Wingate, who had designed the landscape and gardens at the property.

Above: an exhibit of Maloof furniture at the Oceanside Museum of Art

Despite his fame and success, Maloof remained humble, friendly and encouraging. He would regularly invite art students to his home in Alta Loma to discuss their art as well as his own. In an interview a few years ago with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Maloof said, “I've made a good living, and I've been very fortunate that people like what I do. When I make something, I still hope people like it. I'm happy I'm able to share what little I know.”

Below: Actress Rene Russo visits Sam Maloof:

Rancho Cucamonga Travel Video about Maloof and the museum at his home: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UAxwFdQC_w (sorry, we couldn’t embed this one, but it’s very interesting)

To view past profiles on Artists Work B.e.n.c.h, click below:

Dr. He Qi
Sandra Bowden
Laura Kramer (Psalm 23 Jewelry)
Chris Schlarb John Newton
Vincent van Gogh

Poetry Corner- O Sweet Irrational Worship

O Sweet Irrational Worship

by Thomas Merton

Wind and a bobwhite

And the afternoon sun.

By ceasing to question the sun

I have become light,

Bird and wind.

My leaves sing.

I am earth, earth

All these lighted things

Grow from my heart.

A tall, spare pine

Stands like the initial of my first

Name when I had one.

When I had a spirit,

When I was on fire

When this valley was

Made out of fresh air

You spoke my name

In naming Your silence:

O sweet, irrational worship!

I am earth, earth

My heart's love

Bursts with hay and flowers.

I am a lake of blue air

In which my own appointed place

Field and valley

Stand reflected.

I am earth, earth

Out of my grass heart

Rises the bobwhite.

Out of my nameless weeds

His foolish worship.

To see May's Poem, click here.
To see April's Poem, click here.
To see March's Poem, click here.
To see February's poem, click here.
To see January's poem, click here.
To see the poem for December, 2008, click here.
To read a poem by Steve Turner, click here.

Fine Arts Bible Study 8

Above: “The Waiting” by Morteza Katouzian, 1982

O.K. So, you’ve got this great idea for your art. Maybe you’re trying to start a praise dance ministry at your church. Perhaps you found the perfect space in a strip mall and want to turn it into a gallery. Possibly you are writing more songs now or auditioning for plays now. You bought yourself some new brushes and you are poised and ready.

Now what?

You pray, of course. The next day, no change. So, you pray more. Still no change. Pray, watch, wait.

You cry from your heart, “OK, God, I get it! I hear you! I know this is what you are calling me to do. So, when are you going to make your move? What’s the next step?”

Read the following verses (all verses from the Message version):

Psalm 75:7
God rules: he brings this one down to his knees, pulls that one up on her feet.

1 Peter 5:6-7
So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

Habakkuk 2:2-3
And then God answered: "Write this. Write what you see.Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run.This vision-message is a witness pointing to what's coming.It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn't lie.If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time.

Isaiah 42:3
He won't brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won't disregard the small and insignificant, but he'll steadily and firmly set things right.

James 4:7-10
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.

Psalm 46:8-10
Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. "Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything."

Romans 8:26-28
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Isaiah 40: 27-31
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying,"God has lost track of me. He doesn't care what happens to me"?Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?God doesn't come and go. God lasts. He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out.He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts.For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall.But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles,They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind.


1. Describe a time when you were frustrated because you had to wait. Why do you think patience is so difficult?

2. Sometimes God wants us to wait on Him, because His timing is perfect. But sometimes, the time is now, but God wants us to work for it by knocking on doors of opportunity and toiling, because there is spiritual value in the struggle. How would you know the difference between when to stop pushing and when to push harder?

3. Is “wait” an answered prayer? When was the last time you thanked and praised God because He said, “Wait?”

4. As artists, when the spark of creativity and productivity hits us, it becomes very difficult to pause and turn off our brains. We get an idea and run with it. It may not be any more difficult for an artist to be patient, but it sure feels like running head-first into a brick wall when we are told to wait in the midst of the flow of creativity. What, then, is the spiritual value in waiting?

5. There are a lot of verses with the theme and idea of waiting on God’s plan. How can you portray that theme or message in your art?

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #1 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #2 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #3 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #4 click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study #5, click here .

To read Fine Arts Bible Study 6, click here.

To read Fine Arts Bible Study 7, click here.

A Brief History of Dance (3,500 years in under 4,000 words)

Although dancing has no-doubt been an important part of human experience from the beginning, the earliest dancers and choreographers have sketchy details. The first recorded dance in the Bible (occurring between 1500 and 1400 BC by many scholars’ estimations) is after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to escape the pursuing Egyptian army. Moses sang a song to the Lord, as recorded in Exodus 15:1-19, and then in verses 20 and 21, it says, “Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.’”

Other instances of dancing in the Bible include:
-The Israelites dancing around the golden calf (Exodus 32:19)
-Japthah’s daughter dancing upon his return from battle (Judges 11:34)
-The Benjamites choosing wives from the daughters of Shiloh while the women were dancing in a festival (Judges 21:20-23)
-The prophets of Baal dancing futilely before the altar of Baal before Elijah called down fire from God to roast his burnt offering. (1 Kings 18:26)
-References to a song and dance the Israelites did to celebrate David’s victories. (1 Samuel 18:6-7, 1 Samuel 21:11, 1 Samuel 29:5)
-David’s dance of thanksgiving upon the safe return of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:14 and 1 Chronicles 15:29)
-The request for the Shulammite to dance in the Song of Solomon (Song 6:13)
-Solomon’s statement that there is a time to dance (contrasted with mourning, which also has its time) in Ecclesiastes 3:4
-A prophesy about dancing at the restoration of captive Israel (Jeremiah 31:4, 13)
-Psalm 149:3 and Psalm 150:4 both talk about praising God with dancing.

So, there are many ancient instances of dancing in the Bible. Even still, many Western scholars consider the Ancient Greek master Euripides (480-406 B.C.) to be the first published choreographer when he incorporated dance into his plays. The last words of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, were penned around 460 B.C., so all the previous references to dance in the Bible obviously pre-date Euripides. Still, he is considered the first choreographer because his work was made for a stage performance, instead of spontaneous, and because some of his works survive (although the actual choreography does not survive). Other Ancient Greek playwrights, such as Aeschylus and Aristophanes, followed suit by choreographing dance parts into their plays as well.

Above: A sculpture of Euripides holding a mask that was a common part of Ancient Greek drama.

In the early Middle Ages, dance was discouraged by the church because moving the body was thought to bring on pride, one of the seven deadly sins. Some church leaders pointed out that Salome danced for the head of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:6, Mark 6:22,), and there are few New Testament mentions of dancing at all. (In addition to Salome mentioned above, only three other places mention dancing, and two are recounting the same incident: Matthew 11:16-17, Luke 7:31-32, and the dancing to celebrate the return of the prodigal son in Luke 15). Many church leaders took this silence on the subject of dance as a Biblical rejection, and they also cited the idea that dancing evokes eroticism, not modesty, and may even be condemned in 1 Corinthians 10:7, depending on how the word “revelry” is interpreted.

Still, even with the church’s disapproval, some Christians tolerated it and participated in it. The musical accompaniment at this time was probably some sort of percussion such as a drum or tambourine, and possibly a lute, depending on what social class was dancing. Eventually, even in the Middle Ages, the church accepted dance for religious purposes and even used dance in sermons. Today, there are some dance troupes that specialize in Medieval dances, but since there are no surviving dance manuals from the time, the dances they perform are extremely speculative and based on drawings and the rare journal. Some of the names of these dances are the ductia and carole, estampe, trotto, and saltarello.

A simple dance that you can try from this era follows:

Form a circle with all dancers facing inwards.

Dancers take four steps to the left, crossing legs, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot (bring feet together). This should take four beats.

Dancers then take four steps to the right, crossing legs in the same manner, but opposite direction.

Dancers take two steps to the left (right foot, left foot bringing feet together). This should take 2 beats.

Dancers move towards center of the circle taking three steps: left, right, and left.

They should have their hands raised as they move toward the center. Each step should take 1 beat, so this movement should take 3 beats total. On the fourth beat, dancers should clap their raised hands three times.

Dancers then move backwards out of the center of the circle back into their places in the same manner: left, right, left, clap three times.

The dance is repeated again, but the speed increases. Dancers can also kick instead of clapping when moving in and out of the center.

In 1489, Italian Bergonzio di Botta hosted a dinner party to celebrate a wedding in Tortona. He presented a dance performance that many scholars consider the very first actual ballet performance. The individual dances matched the courses of the dinner. The dance was about the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. This ballet was received so well by those in attendance that many other people then hosted their own dinner parties and included ballet.

Above: The landscape near Tortona, Italy, photo taken in 2005. It was in this environment that the idea of dancing for a show or theatrical event got its start.

But, before ballet could become theatrical more than just a trendy thing to do at a party, there had to be a patron to champion it. Enter Catherine de Medici (1519-1589). Born into the richest non-royal family in Europe, she had a rather tragic childhood. She was orphaned when she was a baby, and her relative Pope Leo X moved her to Rome to live with another family. At six years old, she was brought back to Florence, her birth city, but when she was ten, her family was forced to flee. She ended up in a convent and got a good education there. At the tender age of fourteen, she was married off to Henri, the Duke of Orleans, the French king's second son. Despite the fact that the king openly had a mistress who rode buggies by his side while his wife Catherine walked behind, Catherine gave birth to ten children, seven of which survived to adulthood. Her husband eventually became the king of France, but then he was killed in a freak jousting accident. Catherine became the Queen Mother to the next three kings of France. She is perhaps best known for the St. Bartholomew Day's Massacre where over 50,000 Huguenots (French Protestants) were murdered.

Above: a portrait of Catherine de Medici.

Catherine de Medici may have been the Queen Mother in France, but she never forgot her Italian heritage. She held many dinner parties with dancing, in the same trendy way the Italians were doing it, and she required all of the children in her court to attend dance class. Her son, Henri, eventually became Henry III of France. He seemed to be her favorite child. He was brilliant, eccentric and erratic. When Henry's favorite duke got married, Catherine arranged "Ballet Comique de la Reine," costing more than a million ecue, to celebrate. This is considered by many to be the first ballet de cour because it had a central theme that told a story, and because the libretto and music were written down. The world was so impressed with this ballet that they tried to put on similar ballets. Even in Italy where it all started, the French style was all the rage. They replaced their Italian ballet masters with the French, and from then on the language of ballet was French.

Above: An engraving of what Catherine de Medici’s ballet might have looked like.

In 1570, Count Giovanni Bardi debuted an Elizabethan Masque to the aristocracy. This form of entertainment featured music, dance, and elaborate costumes. But even in England, the French ballet soon took over and the English courtesans wanted to be trained by French masters. Still, it wasn't until 1661 that Louis XIV officially recognized dance instruction by establishing the Academie Royal de Danse. Louis XIV, the "Sun King," had studied dance since the tender age of seven. People can agree with or disagree with his politics, but as an artist he was a famous and gifted dancer. People enjoyed grandiose festivals and productions, but the normal day-to-day entertainment for nobility was court dances such as the pavan, galliard, jig, and minuet. Still, with the riches he enjoyed as king of France, Louis XIV grew fat and could not dance well anymore. Not wishing to offend their king, his courtiers also retired from dancing. Louis XIV, wanting to be entertained by dancing, could not find any of his courtiers who would dance for him. So, he established the Acadamie Royal de Danse to train up dancers. From that point on, ballet became an entertainment to watch, and a wedge was driven between social dancing and theatrical dancing. Pierre Beauchamps, Louis XIV's dancing instructor, later codified the five foot positions in ballet.

Above: a portrait of Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” painted by Rigaud.

Jean-Baptiste Lully, a musician, composer, and dancer, took charge of the Academie in 1672. He danced with Louis XIV and Pierre Beauchamps, and he produced the first ballet with a female dancer in a girl's part. That first female dancer was Mlle. Lafontaine, and the ballet was Le Triomph de l'Amour (The Triumph of Love), which Louis XIV also danced in.

Jean Balon (also spelled Ballon) was a French dancer at this time who went through the Academie, and he became a member of the Paris Opera in 1691. He was appointed choreographer for the King and appeared so light on his feet that the dance term ballon, to this day, describes a dancer’s elevation and softness of his or her jump.

Jean Balon discovered a new talent named Marie Camargo, who turned heads in 1734 as she danced because she dared to raise her fashionably oppressive, modest skirts above her ankle for more freedom of movement. Camargo had a rival named Marie Salle, who, not to be outdone, created a dance called Pygmalion wearing only a tunic.

Above, top: Marie Camargo turned heads by daring to raise the hemlines of her skirts above her ankles so she could be less restricted as she danced. Above, bottom: Marie Salle poses with her tunic and robe.

At that same time period, in 1735, Englishman Henry Holt sailed to Charleston, South Carolina, and produced the first European-style ballet in the New World. European style dancing would be the only dances produced in the colonies and the new nation until 1828, when Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice appeared as Jim Crow in a song and dance set which began minstrel dancing in the States. The oldest ballet surviving with choreography intact in the present repertoire was produced in 1786. La Fille Mal Gardee (The Poorly Watched Girl) was choreographed by Jean Dauberval. He was schooled in the Paris Academie and he cast his wife, dancer Marie-Madeline Crespe (also known in history as Madame Theodore), in the role of Lise.

Although France was the flashpoint of ballet, it was now spreading all around Europe and across oceans. 300 years earlier, Catherine de Medici had come to France from Florence, and now, in the late eighteenth century, another famous Italian-French family emerged on the dancing scene, but this time in Florence, not France. Tommaso Maris Ippolito Vestris had seven children, three of whom contributed to ballet. Theresa Vestris studied in Naples and made her debut in Palermo. She went to the Paris Opera in 1746 and was in great demand as a solo dancer for twenty years. Angiolo Vestris danced in various Italian theaters and was a guest artist in many cities. Gaetano Vestris made his debut at the Paris Opera in 1748 and was appointed Premier Danseur in 1751. Reportedly conceited, he took Europe by storm. When he went to London, members of Parliament reportedly interrupted its sessions so members could attend all the performances at Covent Garden. Gaetano retired a national hero in England in 1782, but not before he fathered a son, Auguste, with his mistress Marie Allard. Auguste was considered by the nobility all over Europe to be the greatest dancer of his time. Sometimes referred to as Vestr’Allard, he made his debut in La Cinquantaine in 1772. He became the Premier Danseur in Paris in 1778 and retained that title for 35 years. Auguste danced in the first production of Noverre’s and Mozart’s Les Petits Reins. By all reports, he was short and knock-kneed, and yet quite conceited like his father. When he was 75 years old, he performed with his famous student Marie Taglioni.

Above: Auguste Vestris dancing.

This was the height of the Romantic period of dancing (1830-1850) when ballerinas made technical and artistic strides in the art form. Until this period, men dominated the stage, but after this time, women became the principal stars. Dancers Marie Taglioni and Fanny Cerrito, who trained in France, became superstars in Italy. Taglioni was the first recorded dancer to dance en pointe in the ballet La Sylphide in 1832. Fanny Cerrito was the prima ballerina at the famous La Scala for two years (1838-1840). In 1843, Taglioni and Cerrito danced on the same program in Milan, dividing the city between the rivalry of the two ballerinas. Later that same year, Queen Victoria in England requested Fanny Cerrito and another rival, Fanny Elssler, to perform for her. Cerrito toured all over Europe, including an unsuccessful jaunt in St. Petersburg. She married and divorced, and had a few affairs all around Europe, eventually giving birth to a daughter in 1853. Although Cerrito, no longer in her prime, gave her farewell performance in Lyceum, England in 1857, she managed to live until 1909, when she died at the ripe old age of 92. In 1842, Johansson Christian and Marie Taglioni traveled to Russia and stayed to become Russia’s greatest teachers at the time. Their groundwork would later emerge in the Ballets Russes, which officially began in 1909.

Above: Photographs of two rivals. A picture of Fanny Cerrito is on the left, and a picture of Marie Taglioni is on the right.

Around this time, by decree of His Majesty, any French female (young girl, unhappy wife, widow, a girl who wanted to get away from her parents, or a girl who was in service) could escape her fate by officially entering the rolls at the Academie as a music or dance student. It didn’t matter if she ever performed. If she entered the school, she was forever free. This brought a broad variety of personalities into the dance world.

In 1841, Giselle, choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, was performed for the first time. The title role was danced by a young up-and-comer named Carlotta Grisi. Growing up in a family that had been involved in opera, Grisi enrolled in the famous La Scala Academy at the tender age of seven. Multi-talented, she had a beautiful voice and was a wonderful dancer. She later became a favorite dancer at Her Majesty’s Theater in London. Her friend and occasional dancing partner, Marius Petipa, later revived Giselle and made choreography changes. The version of Giselle that is performed today is usually the Petipa version from the 1870’s.

Above: Carlotta Grisi and Jules Perrot

In Russia, the school started by Taglioni and Christian was producing some pretty good dancers. On February 12, 1881, a little girl named Anna Pavlova was born. At the age of ten she entered the Imperial Ballet Academy. She studied at that school for eleven years and graduated in 1902, joining the Maryinsky Theater as a second soloist. Maryinsky Theater was famous for dancing to many of Tchaikovsky’s pieces (or rather, Tchaikovsky wrote scores for many dances), including the first performance of Petipa’s The Nutcracker on December 18, 1892. Within one year, Pavlova was promoted to first soloist, and promoted to Prima Ballerina in 1906. Mikhail Fokine choreographed The Dying Swan for Pavlova, and it became her signature solo throughout her life. In 1909, Serge Diaghilev signed her for the first Paris performances of The Ballets Russes, and her famous name on the bill helped ensure success of the new company. Pavlova left the company because of Diaghilev’s preference for male dancers. Fokine choreographed The Firebird for her, but when Pavlova heard Igor Stravinsky’s music she pronounced it nonsense and refused to dance to it. She formed her own company and toured Europe and even toured America in 1913. In 1931 she contracted pneumonia. “Prepare my swan costume,” she requested from her death bed. The next night the company performed as usual, and when it came time for The Dying Swan, the curtain opened to an empty stage.

At this time, there was a rebellion of dancers who refused to be tied down to the traditional balletic moves and ideas. In 1881, the first cabaret opened in Paris, and in the 1890’s “Modern Dance” emerged. In 1900 Floradora opened at New York’s Casino Theater, which introduced the “Floradora sextet,” a predecessor of the chorus line. In 1905, Isadora Duncan established the first school of modern dance in Berlin. In 1907, Florenz Ziegfeld introduced his legendary musical extravaganzas.

Still, most scholars put the beginning of “modern ballet” square on the date of May 19, 1909, to coincide with the opening of Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev at the Theatre Chatalet in Paris. The opening show was Prince Igor. Moving away from full-length ballets characteristic of the Romantic era, he created new, shorter ballets, with Mikhail Fokine as his principle choreographer, and, briefly, Anna Pavlova as his star dancer. Fokine also choreographed his versions of Les Sylphides and Cleopatre that same year. The Ballets Russes employed the most forward-thinking dancers, choreographers, composers, and artists of the day. Pablo Picasso was the set designer for three of their shows, and Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy, and Ravel are but a few of the many notable composers the company employed.

In 1911, stinging from Anna Pavlova’s departure from the company, Diaghilev named Vaslav Nijinsky as his principal dancer. Nijinsky entered the Imperial School in St. Petersburg at ten years old. He was short and stocky, and reportedly shy and reserved when offstage. He met Diaghilev at a party, and under the influence of Diaghilev’s strong personality, he became his lover and protégé. Diaghilev dictated Nijinsky’s every move, both on- and offstage, making sure Vaslav read the right books, went to the right concerts, and so on. Although Nijinsky danced with many great ballerinas through the years, he was most associated with Tamara Karsavina, with whom he danced in Le Spectre de la Rose in 1911. Nijinsky also danced with Isadora Duncan, who influenced him both as a dancer and choreographer. His ballets were controversial. 1913 was a busy year for Nijinsky. He choreographed L’Apres-midi d’un Faune (The Afternoon of a Faun) in which the choreography suggested a two-dimensional bas relief and the dancers were barefoot. Later that year, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) had the audience shouting obscenities, tearing out theater seats to throw, and, as the audience left the theater, created riots on the streets of Paris. Then, that same year, the Ballets Russes toured South America, but Diaghilev did not accompany them. Without the controlling Diaghilev around, Nijinsky fell in love with a Hungarian dancer in the company, Romola de Pulszky. They were married in Buenos Aires, but when Diaghilev learned about it, he fired both dancers. Still, during World War I, Nijinsky, a Russian citizen, was interred in Hungary and Diaghilev succeeded in getting him out of jail. Later, Diaghilev employed Nijinsky’s little sister, Bronislava Nijinska, as his principal choreographer. Vaslav Nijinsky began showing signs of dementia. He became afraid of other dancers, and he constantly hallucinated that a trap door on stage was left open for him to fall into. He spent many years in mental institutions and was cared for by his loving wife Romola until his death in 1950.

Above: Nijinsky playing the part of the faun in his piece "L’Apres-midi d’un Faune".
Below: a clip of Rudolph Nureyev dancing the same part to Nijinsky’s choreography. To understand the difficulty of dancing in this piece, try counting the beats in Debussy’s score. Also notice the flexed feet, very different than classical ballet.

In 1915, Ruth St. Denis and her husband, Ted Shawn, established the Denishawn Dance School. It was housed in a Spanish style mansion in the hills above Los Angeles. It became renowned as a school of modern dance, and both Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey studied there. In 1926, Martha Graham gave her first New York performance in which eighteen barefoot dancers danced evocatively on the stage. By this time, a new type of show was emerging called the Musical. It combined theater, dance, and music, but was more approachable than its predecessor opera. In 1927 Jerome Kern’s revolutionary musical Showboat opened on Broadway.

In 1933, the same year Sally Rand performed her fan dance at Chicago’s World’s Fair and the San Francisco Ballet debuted, the Ballets Russes (now titled The Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, directed by Rene Blum, who would later be murdered at Auschwitz), toured America for the umpteenth time. One of their up-and-coming choreographers was a young man named George Balanchine. Balanchine moved to the United States after this and started the School of American Ballet in Hartford, CT. Thirteen years later (1946), Balanchine would team up with Lincoln Kirstein and establish the New York City Ballet, which made its home at Lincoln Center beginning in 1964.

Above: Martha Graham’s "Night Journey" (the dancing starts at about 1:15). Contrast that with Balanchine’s "Diamonds", below, performed by the San Francisco Ballet in 2009.

A partnership between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein would create some of America’s best loved musicals. In 1943, they changed musical theater forever when they created Oklahoma! which combined entertainment with serious subjects. Agnes de Mille choreographed the musical, capturing the essence of American folk dance. De Mille also choreographed Aaron Copland's Rodeo and several other Americana pieces.

Above: Copland's "Rodeo", choreographed by Agnes de Mille. Notice how she captures American folk dance and rhythms. For further study, see if you can find a copy of "Appalachian Spring", also composed by Copland but choreographed by Martha Graham.

A good number of modern dance companies sprouted in America in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Merce Cunningham, Alvin Ailey and Elliot Field, to name a few, debuted their dance companies at this time. But, although modern forms of dance were now more accepted by the public, ballet was still a strong and entertaining art form. In 1954, the Robert Joffrey Ballet debuted.

Also in the 1950s, there was a new backlash against the modern forms of dancing within the church. Many elders and pastors condemned dancing in their buildings, and tried to get their congregants to stop attending dances elsewhere. Several major denominations created bylaws that called dancing depraved. But, as this line of thought was gaining a foothold, other Christians were returning dance to their churches as a way of spiritual worship. This argument continues half a century later, with certain denominations still forbidding dancing altogether while other congregations include dance as part of their Sunday services. While the dance debate may never be resolved within church circles, the art form continues to grow, evolve, and spark imaginations around the world.

Below: The Shepherd’s Field Youth Dance Team from Martin TN performs this dance to the song "Holy Fire" by Johnathan Stockstill.