Contribution from Valli Boobal Batchelor, Australia
Recently returned from a simply awesome experience at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I am writing to reflect on dance choreography of a controversial biblical story titled Bathsheba’s Voice which premiered at the 42nd International Choreographers Showcase -a high profile art event.
As the choreographer, I felt that I was able to challenge many minds (especially my own) under the creative and safe zone of artistic expression. A review from the British Theater Guide published that “Valli Boobal Batchelor’s Bathsheba’s Voice uses Australian and Indian dance forms to tell the biblical story of Bathsheba as a metaphor for violence against women. There are arresting moments, such as Bathsheba’s seduction by David which here is portrayed as rape…”
My choreography was inspired by the UN’s White Ribbon pledge “not to commit, condone or remain silent on violence against women and children” and is a dedication to the reclaimed voices of Australian victims of clergy sexual abuse. It explores a biblical story on the sexual violence and subsequent cover up by King David against Bathsheba, his loyal soldier’s wife. It symbolizes the reclaimed voices of violated survivors of gender based violence by spiritual leaders in churches. The choreography draws from traditional dance forms yet allows freedom from the constrictions of techniques to enable the expression of experiences. It consists of intricate steps in varying speeds and rhythmic measures of various counts. The dancers portrayal of emotions are communicated through the slower tempo and high melodic vocals of Rasa [experience] and Bhava [expression] adapted from the south Indian Bharata Natyam classical dance style.
The acts of committing, condoning and/or remaining silent on sexual violence within churches are contemporary issues and should no longer be ignored. Last month, I attended a conference titled “Sexual Abuse in religious context” in University of New South Wales, Sydney. The devastating effects from the pain and hurt from such betrayal of trust is a huge immeasurable cost to Australians and churches worldwide. As a believer of Jesus, I feel it is significant for churches to work together with survivor groups and secular society to lobby decision makers for necessary changes in order to create safer places of worship and healing for vulnerable members of the public who choose to attend churches.