LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Monday, July 02, 2007

Steve Rooks: Pursuing Excellence in Dance

Steve Rooks began his dance training in Washington D.C. with Jan Van Dyke and Greg Reynolds, after graduating with honors from Dartmouth College. He joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in the summer of 1981, and was a Principal Dancer with the company until 1991. Mr. Rooks has appeared in the Metropolitan Opera House presentation of Martha Graham's Diversion of Angels televised for "Celebrate! 100 Years of the Lively Arts at the Met". He has appeared in television commercials, and as a featured dancer on the television special, "The Martha Graham Company in Japan." In October 1989, Mr. Rooks’ solo, Outside was selected to be presented in the New Choreographers series during the Graham Company's fall season at the City Center Theater in New York, and one of his works, Cool River became a part of that company's 1996-1997 Repertory after its World Premiere at Lincoln Center in August 1996.

Mr. Rooks has been a guest artist with the Hakodate Ballet in Japan, and toured with the Morning Star Classical Biblical Theater in their 1996 International Tour to Israel. He has portrayed Joseph in the 1996 International Christmas Television Special of Billy Graham Ministries, and in May 1997 appeared as a guest artist with the Great Day Chorale in their performance at Carnegie Hall. He was also the recipient of a Vassar Research Grant for an Artist Residency in Riga, Latvia in May 2002.

Mr. Rooks is currently Resident Choreographer and Associate Professor of Dance at Vassar College, and was one of the founding faculty members for the Dance Degree Program at Howard University. He is also a Guest Instructor at the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham Schools of Dance. He was a 2001 Artist-in-Residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and has been a member of the International Association of Blacks in Dance. Mr. Rooks has taught internationally at several dance festivals and as a guest instructor for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Symposium on Dance at Yale University and others. Mr. Rooks would like to thank Jesus Christ for all that has happened to him.

LeAnne: For ten years, you were a principal dancer with Martha Graham. What was that experience like?

It was a formidable experience—to have the opportunity to study under the tutelage of one of the leading artists of the 20th century. Even in her latter years, when many of her works lacked the searing impact of some of her earlier classics (like "Appalachian Spring", "Cave of the Heat", "Primitive Mysteries"), Martha’s concept of theater and the dramatic use of the stage space was unparalleled. Her approach to dance still impacts my teaching and creativity to date (under a great shadow!) and at a time when this term has lost a lot of credibility, she was truly a “genius.”

LM: You're an Associate Professor of Dance and Resident Choreographer at Vassar College, and you teach regularly elsewhere as well. How would you encourage your students and other artists trying to live their Christian faith in the world?

The call to be light and salt (a “witness”) in the dance world is no different from the call to live out one’s faith as a lawyer, a stay-at-home parent, a plumber, or a pastor. So much of our effectiveness as a believer is how we approach and execute our craft. There is a scripture that has been a kind of “blue print” for my walk—Colossians 3:23-24 says:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

The bottom line is that we need to pursue excellence and integrity in our work not to make us look good, but to give God glory. Once people find out that you are a follower of Christ, your life immediately goes under a microscope (and that is a good thing!). We need to reveal God’s nature in how we approach life in our successes—and in our failures.

More from Steve Rooks on Thursday.

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