Arts: Let's Get Physical

Motus O uses the human body to reveal the soul.

Why would the state-run Canadian Arts Council fund two missionaries in the arts? James and Cindi Croker relinquished work with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in 1989 to start a contemporary dance troupe in Toronto, Motus O. The name refers to the Latin term for "a way of moving," and the troupe is one of the most active touring companies in Canada.

James Croker, who was born in Canberra, Australia, met his Minnesotan wife while touring with YWAM across four continents over 18 years. "Because our aesthetic development happened with YWAM," he ex plains, "we tend to tell stories in dance. But mainly, YWAM taught us how to fail. Most of what we do in the studio is failure; for every eight hours of choreography we end up with a minute or two on stage."

No easy pursuit

Dance has always been a hard mistress. Dancers typically live on subpoverty-level salaries, lack benefits, and usually toil in anonymity. The vocation's physical demands defeat most dancers by their early thirties. The Crokers, approaching their forties, continue a rigorous regimen that includes 15 to 20 hours a week of workouts and rehearsals. Well beyond the age of most contemporary dancers, and with three growing teenagers to raise, they do this for a salary that is far less than their YWAM missionary stipend in the 1980s.

In fact, inasmuch as Motus O is supported mainly by grants and audience ticket sales, the actual cost of a performance cancels out the possibility of anything resembling a salary—which is why the Crokers and their ensemble also have part-time jobs as custom framers, accountants, dance instructors, and cryogenic technicians. To keep their name in front of grant-providing agencies, they must also give at least 40 performances per year.

But despite ...

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