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Not Good Enough For What?

Keri Sutter Executive Director

Keri Sutter,
Executive Director

I have a dream.  I have a dream that someday Surgite will have 5 dancers, 3 women and 2 men, all with great technique.  I have a dream that those dancers will work for Surgite full-time, receiving a living wage complete with paid vacations and holidays and health insurance.  I have a dream that Surgite will have rehearsal and office space of its own.  I have a dream that Surgite will have an office staff of 2 full-time employees.  One would be Director of Marketing, the other would be the office manager.  I have a dream that Surgite will have an artistic staff of 2 full-time employees who would choreograph and rehearse the dancers, and lead workshops.  I have a dream that would allow Surgite to have at least one person on tour at all times.  I have a dream that Surgite will have a Board of Directors of 6 people, each closely involved with the company and doing fund-raising and general program planning.  I have a dream that Surgite’s programs will be funded, in part, by grants from private individuals and organizations. 

This is a wonderful dream, probably very similar to dreams all small dance company directors have.  But it’s missing something.  It’s not inclusive.  There is no room in this dream for the 45-year-old who has never danced.  There is no room in this dream for the person who is heavier than the “dancer’s image”.  There is no room for children, no room for older adults.  There is no room for the person whose soul cries out, “This is something for me.”  And there is no room for a loving God who, while making us in His/Her image, has also made us short and tall, skinny and heavy, graceful and awkward.  

So I wonder, as I do several times each year, where Surgite’s ministry really lies.  Is our primary focus serving our clients, giving them the best, most polished, most professional performance possible?  Well, yes, of course.  Without our clients, we don’t stay in business for very long.  And, from their comments, there is no doubt that we are serving our clients.  The vast majority are satisfied, even thrilled, with what they have seen or experienced.  But what about the ministry to the people who are involved with Surgite?  What about the person who discovers new skills and abilities because of our rehearsals?  What about the person whose only creative outlet is Surgite?  What about the person who realizes that physical size or shape are not as important as expressive ability?  What about the friendships made and the new ideas encountered during rehearsals?  I am often told that the solution to this situation is to open a school, a training center.  People without a lot of technique or experience could get both in a classroom setting and, if they became good enough, could be invited to join the company.  This idea has a lot of merit.  It would allow us to charge for training, always a good idea.  It would let people grow and develop without the pressure of an impending performance.  And it would keep people who were “not good enough” from embarrassing themselves and the company while performing in front of a congregation. 

But I wonder--”not good enough” for what?

I number of years ago, we had a booking at a church.  The minister warned me when he booked us that his standards were very high.  He only wanted the best.  If he could not get the best, he would rather do without.  Well, it wasn’t the best cast, technically.  I had one dancer-dancer, one slightly overweight man, and a skinny, skinny friend of his who had never done anything before and was a little uncontrolled.  But we worked on.  The dancer could do all the steps, and the other two made up a lot of theirs, so they looked marginally ok.  The day of the service, I was sick.  Very sick.  The dancers shoved me out the door & told me to leave.  Reports the following day were that things had been ok.  Not great, but ok.  A few weeks later, I called all the dancers again; we had another client.  When I called the first man, I could tell he was upset.  As we ended the conversation, I said, “Oh, by the way, if you see your friend before I can reach him (this was before many people had answering machines), let him know about the booking.”  He replied, “Didn’t you know?  He committed suicide two weeks ago.  He was upset about his grandfather’s death, and didn’t think there was anything left to live for.  He really appreciated being able to dance with Surgite, though.  It was the last nice thing that happened to him before he died.”

That’s not the end of the story.  Several months later, I called the church, thinking it was time to begin talking about a return visit.  The minister was not inclined to mince words.  He told me our dance had been terrible, not up to his standards at all.  We had not been good enough.

He was right.  We weren’t good enough.  But not good enough for what?  Not good enough to present the images he was expecting?  Not good enough to give his congregation the worship experience he wanted them to have?  Not good enough to physically enliven the scripture?  Not good enough to worship God with our bodies and souls?  Not good enough to bring one last bit of brightness into a very troubled life?  Where was our ministry that day?  Did we fulfill it?  I still don’t know.

He said we weren’t good enough.  Not good enough for what?


February, 2000



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