‘The Art of Worship’ to blend dance and poetry, Oct. 19 in Morristown



By Olivia Yepez

What brings a community together? For poet Diana Strickland and dancer Lashone Caldwell, it’s The Art of Worship.

Strickland and Caldwell will present their program this Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency Morristown.

They met about eight years ago while working at the Morristown Neighborhood House, a nonprofit that aims to better the lives of community members in need. It was there that they discovered they were connected by backgrounds in writing, and also through their Christian faith.

Lashone Murphy, author of the children's book 'The Day I Made the Sky Smile.' Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Lashone Murphy Caldwell, author of the children’s book ‘The Day I Made the Sky Smile.’ Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Caldwell has published children’s books with her husband, artist Charles Caldwell. Strickland has written two volumes of autobiographical poetry, Mercies of God (2008) and Life (2012), from which she will be reading passages. Strickland hopes to demonstrate how her faith has helped her overcome difficult situations.

“We want to bring people together of all nationalities and socioeconomic backgrounds in a loving atmosphere … We want to show that we are more alike than we are different,” said Caldwell, who will perform a type of dance called Gospel Mime.

Caldwell, 43, began dancing as a youth and has been practicing Gospel Mime for nearly two decades.

Diana Strickland performs at WordPlay III. Photo by Paul Hausman
Poet Diana Strickland performs at MorristownGreen.com’s WordPlay III, in 2013. Photo by Paul Hausman

“That’s an interesting story,” Caldwell said. “On my 12th birthday a friend gave me a Janet Jackson cassette. It was her Control album, and I would watch the [music] videos on VHS and I would learn the dances.”

Caldwell remembered how she and her friends would be the neighborhood entertainment as they shimmied along to Jackson’s tunes at gatherings. She said it was around this time that she began to fall in love with dance.

Later in life, as Caldwell became stronger in her Christian faith, she discovered Gospel Mime, a form of worship popular in African-American religious communities.  Popularized in Pittsburgh during the 1980s and ‘90s, it couples elements of Parisian street mime with gospel music.

Strickland and Caldwell bounced around the the idea for The Art of Worship for almost two years.

“We finally said, ‘You know what? Let’s stop talking about it, lets do it!” Caldwell said.

Saturday’s event is about bringing the Morristown community together, regardless of people’s religious beliefs, she said. Caldwell and Strickland plan to share their faith in a harmonious atmosphere where all are welcome.

The Art of Worship runs from 6 pm to 8:30 pm in the Hyatt’s Concord Room. Admission is free; light refreshments will be served.

MorristownGreen.com correspondent Olivia Yepez is an honors student at Drew University (’22), where she is an editor of The Acorn.

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