MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, April 10th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: another in our ongoing series, What Do People Do All Day?
Last year we introduced you to a Christian ballet company that set Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place to dance. Today we return to Jackson, Mississippi, and to the man whose work made that ballet possible.
REICHARD: Yes, a professional dancer who gets to punch the clock and dance the hours away. Here’s WORLD Radio’s Kim Henderson.
VOBORSKY: My name is Jiri Sebastian Voborsky, and I am the artistic director of Ballet Magnificat Omega Company and the resident choreographer for Ballet Magnificat.
KIM HENDERSON, REPORTER: Jiri Voborsky stands 5-foot-10, with a wide smile and closely-cropped hair. He’s 44, married with kids.
VOBORSKY: Well I was born in Czechoslovakia and now present-day Czech Republic. I moved away from my family when I was 14 years old, um, to study, pursue ballet…
While he was away at school, the Velvet Revolution happened. Communism in his native land fell apart. His school got a new professor who happened to be a Christian.
VOBORSKY: I have never seen a printed copy of the Bible. I have never heard the name of Jesus Christ outside of Christmas time, you know, and so this gentleman was so different because he started to share his life with the class in our school…
God used that professor to bring Voborsky to Christ. After graduating, he landed a contract with the national ballet, but he wondered how he could use his talents to share his faith. That’s when Voborsky came across a Ballet Magnificat poster.
VOBORSKY: I was blown away to see a small group of dedicated professional dancers who loved Jesus more than anything else, dancing, and so I came to Jackson…
In 1993 he came to Jackson, Mississippi, to visit the dance company. He planned on staying two weeks. It turned into 25 years. These days, Voborsky trains dancers and does all the choreography for his group, The Omega Company. He also plays a heavy role in discipling troupe members.
So, what’s a typical day in the life of a ballet choreographer, at least when he’s not on the road?
VOBORSKY: I come here at 9 o’clock. We have at 9:30 devotional times, all the company artists, as well as our trainees. We all get together in one of the studios and we have a 30-minute time of praying, of worshiping the Lord, of just focusing our hearts and our souls on the task ahead, and then…
After that, Voborsky spends nearly two hours on a physical workout.
VOBORSKY: And it’s just when we tune our bodies and we train our bodies to stay, stay in shape and just to kind of be ready, um, you know, for the craft itself…
That’s usually followed by a quick lunch, then the afternoon routine. Rehearsals. Lots of them.
VOBORSKY: When I build a ballet, I come here first thing in the morning when nobody’s here, and I just lock myself in the back studio. And I do what I call “fool around,” when I just put the music on. And, and then out of that the Lord starts giving me step patterns.
Then Voborsky teaches the routine to the troupe. That’s when something special happens.
VOBORSKY: I see the dancer’s heart and their own passion for Jesus, fill the steps and all of a sudden a step becomes a movement of a heart and of a soul. And then you see that multiplied and dancers start moving in unison…
While solos may round out the ballet program, ballet isn’t a one-man show. Getting all his team members to work together is a big part of Vorborsky’s job.
VOBORSKY: I need people who are gifted in costume design and sewing. People who are gifted in building sets and building props. And so we just, we all come together, and together as brothers and sisters, one minuscule part of the body of Christ, we make things happen. And of course…
Jiri spends more than two months on the road each year. He’s performed in places like Paris, Moscow, and Jerusalem, plus U.S. venues at Times Square and the Kennedy Center. In each place though, his mission is the same.
VOBORSKY: We look for creative ways to, to tell the story through dance and movement to make the message of God’s love clear to the audience…
Conveying that message can be a challenge. One means the group employs is using Bible stories as background. Voborsky points to a wall in his office as proof. It’s covered with posters from past performances.
VOBORSKY: Nobody sees this, but this is an encouragement to me…
There’s one called “Deliver Us.” Another is “The Prodigal’s Journey.”
VOBORSKY: We transitioned into storytelling in 2001 when we did a story of Moses, parallel with Jesus Christ, Moses being the deliverer of Israel, the Israelites, and Jesus being the deliverer of mankind and then we transitioned into prodigal son in 2003 and Ruth.
The ballets pictured on the posters are decidedly different than any you’ll catch at your local civic center. The plies and arabesques are still there, but the mission is much different.
VOBORSKY: When I was younger I danced for a professional secular company. We did ballets that have great names – Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, and Coppelia, great ballets that are fantastic. But what they lack is the ability to change an audience’s life forever. What’s so humbling and exciting here is to see God use what we do here on stage to reach somebody’s life and change him or her for all eternity.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson reporting from Jackson, Mississippi.