Students from Toronto’s Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts collaborated with teacher Julia Lava to put together a spiritual dance performed at the TCDSB Ordinandi Youth Event as well as an Easter liturgy at the school. Photo courtesy Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts

Dance packs powerful Easter message

  • April 13, 2023

Students at Toronto’s Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts are expressing their Catholic faith through dance this Easter season. 

Tapping into what spirituality means to them on an individual level, teacher Julia Lava’s Grade 10 dance class came together to brainstorm ideas for the contemporary piece. The 15- and 16-year-old art students came up with themes of love, community, self-expression, nature and family as vehicles that led them to connect with God and a deeper spirituality, says Lava. 

The choreography was collaborative between Lava and the students and involved a lot of uplifted, open and accepting movement. The piece took two weeks to prepare, and was performed by 13 of the students in front of hundreds at the Toronto Catholic District School Board Ordinandi Youth Event at the Pearson Convention Centre last month. 

The dance was originally prepared to the song “Aqui Estoy (Here I am),” by Fr. Rob Galea and Ivan Diaz, which includes vibrant Latin rhythms and inspiriting lyrics such as “Here I am, living for your Word as Mary did,” and “Here I am Lord, I say yes.” 

Dance student Bella Hanser says with the performance the students were able express not just the lyrics of the song but the story of their faith as young people through the choreography.  

“We used a lot of movements that went with the words,” said Hanser. “There was one part where the song said, ‘I surrender’ and we kind of just reached up to the sky and looked up as a symbol of us giving our faith and our belief. It was just really fun. We all worked together and collaborated and just used all of our ideas and what spirituality meant differently to all of us.”

For costumes the girls wore long sleeve black body suits and wide sheer bluish-purple pants over long tights. The boys wore bluish-purple on top with black pants. The response to the dance has been extremely positive and encouraging for the students who were immediately invited to perform a version for an Easter liturgy event at the school. 

More than a moving performance, Lava says the sharing of faith through the tool of dance has been a powerful outlet of expression and personal growth for the teens.  

“I think there’s a lot of community built through the arts because they share a piece of themselves through their art form, especially with dance,” said Lava. 

“It’s not just that they’re using tools to create but their tool is their body. That is their instrument. They need to be vulnerable in order to successfully use their instrument. They have to listen to their bodies and listen to their hearts and their souls.” 

“It was nice to be able to express my beliefs and how I feel like I connect with God through my movement,” said Hanser. “I feel super connected with dance. That’s how I kind of express myself, so it was really nice to have that opportunity to share that with other people as well. Even just connect with it for me too on a personal side.”

Normally, the students dance three days a week and the other days they do theory or composition work. 

Thirteen students took part in the performance with more involved for Easter, where they danced to different music but with the similar movement that carries a message that transitions beautifully to Easter, says Lava. 

“I think it’s very joyful and it praises God, Jesus and the Resurrection,” she said. 

 More than positively impacting those in the audience, as they worked on the piece and collaborated with ideas and positions in the body that show surrender and openness, the students got closer as a group, says Lava. They were honoured to be asked to perform again for Easter. 

“We were touched and felt very humbled that people liked it that much to see it again,” said Lava.  

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.