We are continuing here with Part 2 of the two part interview with Randall Flinn, Founder and Artistic Director of Ad Deum Dance Company.
LES: Randy, Ad Deum’s opening introduction statement says “Ad Deum’s mission is to create and perform works that offer moving images of hope and healing, washing over the very body, soul and spirit of those who witness their artistry.” And in a review by Chelsea Thomas writing for ArtsCriticATL you are quoted as saying “I want to offer our audiences something that can be inspiring and deeply felt. My hope is that our audience won’t just walk away with knowledge that these dancers are technically, advanced dancers, but beyond that, that they were moved.” The word ‘move’ means propelled to action. It also means compelling or stirring of the spirit or emotion. Why does it matter that your audiences are moved? What does that mean to you and why do you work so hard to achieve it? What are you hoping will be stirred in your audience?
RF: I believe that good art and great art, even bad art if you will, calls for and will invoke a response from its viewers.
Each member of Ad Deum believes that dance is a powerful medium for bearing truth, grace, hope, and healing. This is what we seek the Lord for, rely on His Spirit for and clothe ourselves in during our preparation and performances. We believe that art bathed in prayer, labored for and pursued with integrity and excellence will engage our audiences at a very deep level. So often we have heard people say to us that they found themselves weeping but not too sure why. Perhaps this is deep calling to deep.
The cornerstone of our work is built on this idea: Jesus took a towel to wash the feet of humanity and He has given us our dance to do the same.
LES: Two years ago you developed a collection of dances based on old hymns, including a piece titled “It Is Well” which was performed by Daniel Cossette. I will admit that in a lifetime of seeing some extraordinary dance performances, this one – which I have seen twice, is a truly riveting performance. I cried so much last time I saw it that I almost could not see clearly enough to shoot the performance and had to leave. It is a remarkably simple staging and this piece relies heavily on Daniel’s background in mime and theatre work. Could you give us some background on this particular piece – why you staged it the way you did? What sparked the choreography for this? What was the message that God gave to you in the creating of it?
RF: I know that my creating this work and Dan’s performance of it came from very vulnerable places in our lives. We both have seen the suffering of elderly family members whose bodies and even minds are decaying. We both know that there is suffering in this lifetime and that these earthly tents will perish. This work, this amazing hymn that declares that there will be future glory, was more than worthy of being incarnated through a moving portrayal. However I knew instinctively in my spirit that this work would have to be approached differently from any work I had ever done. It called for honest grieving, honest pain and despair, and honest hope that awaits the fullness of redemption.
From the moment Dan and I began the creative process we felt divine guidance and even a challenge to go deeper into the work. I believe that God desired this work to come to life as a ministry of comfort through His Holy Spirit and a revelation of the glory that was and is and is to come for all of those that trust in His name.
LES: What have been the most difficult obstacles to being faithful in bringing your art and worship into alignment? Where have you seen God’s hand move on your behalf in the developing of Ad Deum?
RF: This answer will be short and simple. To be ‘ad Deum”, for a life, for a work, for art to truly be ‘ad Deum’, then the Spirit of God will lead us with grace upon grace in the journey of brokenness which allows the blessings to come forth and supplies the means to feed those that we are called to reach.
I believe that pride, fear and being unloving and without grace are the greatest giants that stand against any true work where worship to God and creative beauty are called to align themselves in harmony.
LES: What are some of the highlights of your career with Ad Deum, moments you are most proud of?
RF: The love that we can feel as a community each day that we gather, this is what I cherish the most. To be so aware that the Lord is with us and that all the diversity within our group has chosen to yield itself to unity and community. The relationships and deep friendships with so many precious lives these past many years have been priceless. After all is said and done and all the travels around the world and special performances are over, what will remain will be the love. I choose to cherish that above all. Yes, the love, the love of God that we have received and shared is by far the greatest gift of all.
LES: Randy, you make a very compelling comment in your article – Christian Dance – Beyond the Barriers of Labels. “Christian dancers, Christians that are dancers, dancers that are Christians – is the term and label so important?” How would you describe the role of the Christian in the arts?
RF: SERVANT!!! A servant artist of God, a Bezeleel (Exodus 31) whose name means ‘under the shadow of God’. This is what matters. It’s not the label, position, venue, accolades; its simply being willing to be a servant artist.
LES: What is it that the Lord has done in your life that has allowed you to strike a balance of faith, creativity, and the development of real character?
RF: It is not just the pursuit of excellence it is the execution of it. The Lord has truly manifested His grace in my life so many times. An entire novel could be written on the history of my life. I came from a highly dysfunctional family with much deep brokenness. The Lord met me in great pain and darkness. In the mess of my life, He sought after me and His unfailing love pursued me. Indeed there is a Love that has never let me go. His grace continues to be perfect and willing to uphold me in the weaknesses of my life. I realize, and it is an amazing revelation, that I am His child, his son, and He loves me. This anchor, this living hope is what balances and nurtures all aspects of my life. Without this, I am nothing. By the grace of God, I am what I am.
LES: If you could go back in time, Randy, and do something different in the development of your career, what would you change?
RF: If I could travel back in time, I would want to believe that I would change the wrong perspectives, the battles with pride, the blindness to the journey that was needed, the unfitting words that were spoken, the precious times that were missed, the attitudes that were misaligned, the failure to walk in Christ-like character and the times of failed stewardship. This is where I must cry for the washing of my past and present my heart and soul to His grace for my future. I must learn from yesterday and allow the regrets to shape my tomorrows. More than anything in both my life and career, I would love to be able to go back and give thanks where it was due to the Lord and to others, to raise a banner of truth over the places of falsehood, and allow love to wash over all the lands of my past.
Click here for Part 1 of this interview set.
My heartfelt thanks to Randall Flinn for this interview and for the years of magnificent dance performances he and Ad Deum have brought to audiences worldwide!
The images of Randall Flinn and the Ad Deum Dance Company in the following interview series are copyright of Lancia E. Smith.
If you wish to use the images please contact me directly regarding their usage. Thank you so much for your courtesy!
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is passionate about the disciple making. Reflecting that calling, she is the Founder and Executive Director of Cultivating Good | True | Beautiful, and of The Cultivating Project, a discipling initiative for Christians engaged in the arts, with a special emphasis on writers. Lancia is a board member and patron of the Anselm Society, and Regional Representative of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. She is President and CEO of a thriving environmental consulting and construction firm based in northern Colorado which she runs with her husband Peter. They are parents to seven children, and are grandparents to a beloved flock of grandchildren. Lancia loves strong coffee with cinnamon, writing, website design, David Austin roses, Marvel movies, road trips with Peter, and nearly every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R. R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.