2018 Murphy Payne Event at Panola College

Written by Teresa Beasley.

Artistic Outdoor Aerial Dance

In a departure from tradition, Panola College will host an outdoor aerial dance performance as the B.F. and Mary Payne Fund for the Preservation of Texas Culture event for 2018. Set for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, the performance features dancers with Blue Lapis Light of Austin.


The costumed dancers, wearing harnesses, will perform dance and acrobatic movements across the face of the Charles C. Matthews Foundation Student Center. Music and special light effects will enhance the performance. Entitled “Twilight,” the site specific aerial dance is designed especially for the campus structure. Artistic Director Sally Jacques said, “The architecture of the building collaborates with the concept of the piece. Twilight is a time that transitions day into night; as the moon begins to rise and the sun slowly sets, there emerges a sense of timeless beauty and wonder.”

Throughout the choreography, dancers touch on the theme of twilight through aerial dance, gestures, and coordinated acrobatic movements.

“Aerial dance is art that literally takes place in the air,” Jacques explained. Blue Lapis Light specializes in aerial silks (similar to those used in the aerial yoga classes at Panola College), Spanish web, and harnesses. Spanish web movements involve the performer spinning, suspended, on an aerial rope. Each technique requires extensive training to gain strength and beauty in movement, while maintaining awareness of personal safety.

Jacques founded Blue Lapis Light as a 501(c) nonprofit organization. Throughout her career, Jacques has taught movement to diverse groups, including at-risk teens, and worked to make dance accessible to all. She has performed around the world, and her choreography has been recognized as a means to address social, political, and spiritual issues. The native of England now lives in Austin. She has won numerous accolades for her artistic endeavors to combat human rights abuses, environmental endangerment, homelessness, and racism.

The author of Site Dance and 64 Beds and Other Site Works, Jacques has been featured on PBS and recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Texas Commission on the Arts, among others.

Blue Lapis dancers, suspended in the air, move in collaborative, choreographed harmony. “Blue Lapis Light transforms urban environments into inspired works of art, creating beauty that transcends space in their expansiveness, connecting us to a sense of wonder, possibility, and hope,” Jacques said. She added that the company’s name comes from Gandhi’s description of a meditation practice in which the soul merges with eternal consciousness, taking the form of blue light.

The group has performed at the Seaholm Power Plant, the J.J. Pickle and Homer Thornberry Federal Buildings, major hotels, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, and the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin.

“Our vision is to create transcendent works of beauty that are offered without religious denomination, as prayers for the planet. Using aerial techniques informed by classical, interpretive, and modern dance, Blue Lapis Light is committed to challenging physical limitations and inspiring our audiences with a sense of wonder,” Jacques added.

The 2018 Murphy Payne event marks 16 years that the B.F. and Mary Payne Fund for the Preservation of Texas Culture has funded artistic performances at Panola College. This year’s Blue Lapis Light show links back to the first Murphy Payne event in 2002, “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer,” which featured the music of World War II, performed by the Sounds of Swing, and a lecture by the late Dr. Archie McDonald. Over the years, the Murphy Payne family has funded cowboy poets, musicians, and lecturers, all sharing the goal of celebrating Texas cultures.

Foster and Mary Frances Payne Murphy established the B.F. and Mary Payne Fund for the Preservation of Texas Culture to acknowledge the role the arts have played in the development of Texas. A member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Mrs. Murphy has traced her family genealogy back to the 1600s. Throughout their lives, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy have devoted themselves to their family and their church, community, and professional endeavors, including serving on the board of directors for First State Bank & Trust Company in Carthage. Mrs. Murphy’s father B.F. Payne, Jr., became bank president in 1928, and shortly thereafter purchased controlling interest in the bank. In 1943, Mrs. B.F. (Mary) Payne, Jr. joined the board of directors, and in 1959, Foster Murphy joined the bank’s board of directors. The family legacy continued in 1990 when David Murphy joined the board. A new generation of the family came on board in January of 2015 when Carolyn Payne Murphy became legal counsel for First State Bank & Trust Co. The family’s commitment to the bank and its customers has continued for more than eight decades.

“My mother wanted to create a legacy that would honor her parents and support the arts,” David Murphy said. “She and my dad have always led by example when it comes to community service. My dad wrote in his memoirs, ‘My work has led me into activity with so many civic organizations that David thinks I work for the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and Salvation Army.’”

From saluting the veterans of World War II, to honoring cowboy poets and Texas storytellers, the B.F. and Mary Payne Fund for the Preservation of Texas Culture has enhanced the lives of the people of Panola County through its collaboration with Panola College.

“Panola College is grateful for the continuing support of the Murphy family to bring high caliber performances to our campus that expand our understanding and appreciation of history and the arts for all our citizens,” said Dr. Greg Powell, Panola College President.