The maker of these Soul Shoes has yet to be named. They arrived anonymously via the Living Arts Corporation Ambassador Brandon Watkins. Yet, the shoemaker is likely a student of Les Jordan’s North Central Ballet in Keller, Texas- or Les Jordan himself. It is not a difficult puzzle to unravel. Les Jordan (and his pupils, no doubt) do not have their heads in the sand. Not by any stretch. They understand the function of art to raise awareness and create community and culture and they embrace the hard, hard personal work that is required to authentically express oneself – both on the stage and off.
They also know what dancing means to humanity and to a child. Every child in every corner of the world understands the joy of dancing in abandonment. It does not matter whether they live in a refugee camp or a high rise in New York City. Dancing is the joyful expression of life itself. Dancing is a way to find your way in the world, even when you are an outlier, an outcast or an exploited child.
There is something haunting in these shoes. We think of the actual feet that wore them; we think of the endurance of their bodies; we think of the long and lonely hours of solo practicing; and we think of the dreams that circled around the mind of the dancer. Dancing, in whatever form it takes, brings us to a different space. It allows us to escape the mundane, even momentarily, to feel something beyond our local lives. It allows us to taste freedom.
Each Soul Shoe maker is requested to think of the children that die from violence when creating their shoes. These tender shoes tell a splendid story and help us think beyond our sentimentality and embrace that every child is a dancer and that those who have been so tragically exploited probably understand the dance better than us all.
Rumi, the Sufi poet:
Love is the dancing cry of the soul, calling the body to worship
Like a shining whirlpool, or a spinning mayfly
So is love among the skies.
I leap across the mountaintops, madly singing the song of all songs
I float through the ether, intoxicated, thrilled
I think only of your love, your calling to me
And I dance the thousand dances of love, all returning to you.
It is not the play of children, nor the detached unity of wise sages
Where is the beauty?
When I, like a glowing comet, may flash around your sun
Laughing, singing, with the joy of loving you!
Wine makes drunk the mind and body
But it is love which thrills the soul
When I approach you, I feel the mad pounding of love
The singing wonder
The joy which opens blossoms on the trees of the world.
Come to me, and I shall dance with you
In the temples, on the beaches, through the crowded streets
Be you man or woman, plant or animal, slave or free
I shall show you the brilliant crystal fires, shining within
I shall show you the beauty deep within your soul
I shall show the path beyond Heaven.
Only dance, and your illusions will blow in the wind
Dance, and make joyous the love around you
Dance, and your veils which hide the Light
Shall swirl in a heap at your feet.