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National writer and entrepreneur speaks on the arts and her Theory of Enchantment

On Oct. 13, Browning Presents! featured Chloé Valdary, founder of the Theory of Enchantment, who spoke about her theory as well as the importance of the arts and pop culture in life.

Jo Blake presents Chloé Valdary for Browning Presents! on Oct. 13.
Jo Blake presents Chloé Valdary for Browning Presents! on Oct. 13. Photo credit: Caitlyn Nichols

The presentation was held virtually and moderated by Jo Blake, assistant professor of dance at Weber State University.

The Theory of Enchantment is an antiracism training program that teaches love and compassion, both towards oneself and towards others, led by the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr.

The three guiding principles are to treat people like human beings, not political abstractions; criticize to uplift and empower, never to tear down or destroy and root everything you do in love and compassion.

The training uses pop culture to make connections between people and lessons, as well as connect to timeless ideas and theories from moral, philosophical and intellectual giants throughout history.

Valdary gave the examples of Nike, portraying an idea of the hero, strength, trying, overcoming and just doing; the Disney franchise, in which stories typically follow the hero’s journey of growth and portray visions for human society and Beyoncé, a favorite of Valdary’s, whose music contains certain life lessons and themes.

Valdary encouraged listeners to pay attention to the pop culture they gravitate towards because it’s often a reflection of oneself.

Valdary graduated from the University of New Orleans with a degree in international studies. She said the degree often studied how to combat conflict, but she noticed that there was never anything about love. She wanted to focus specifically on love in conflict resolution, which inspired her to create the Theory of Enchantment.

Valdary has presented her training throughout the world as well as lectured in several universities across the United States. She has published in news publications and delivered a TED Talk titled “How Love Can Help Repair Social Inequality.”

Valdary said the use of “Enchantment” in the title was, first, inspired by Disney, especially because she uses pop culture in her teaching. Second, she also used the word for a part of its meaning: to awaken to the fullness of life, presenting a different and more open lens that illuminates more possibilities.

Valdary said her upbringing in a Seventh-Day Sabbatarian Christian family — a religion that she said is somewhat like Seventh-Day Adventists and other Christian religions, but also a little bit like Judaism — introduced her to a kind of outsider-insider, order and curiosity paradigm that made her aware of the multiplicity of cultures.

She also learned the value of curiosity and questions from her parents’ examples. Valdary said she hates the phrase “Curiosity killed the cat.”

During the presentation, Blake and Valdary spoke about appreciation for the arts and dance. Valdary said she holds the arts in high esteem, as the highest of all possible human endeavors.

“I believe it is the artist’s task to help individuals, society at large, etc., turn chaos into order and to turn the otherwise incoherent, disjointed aspects of life into an integrated spirit, and to bring meaning into one’s life,” Valdary said.

She related this idea of the highness of arts to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., which goes through African American history and contribution sequentially from floor to floor, with the arts contribution being on the top floor. She said the African culture so deeply rooted in dance brought a liberating spirit to western culture.

Valdary also said a lot of external conflict between people often stems from internal conflict, and art can provide a kind of template that one can use to become whole, and therefore more able to better deal with conflict.

She said that it is important to believe in creation and life – that even though life can create negative things, it can also create a lot of beautiful things, too.

Valdary said she especially loves improvisational dance and afrobeats music. She said the music and dance pull movements out of her and put her into a state of being that is unafraid and nonjudgmental, which is the way she wants to approach life.

During the presentation, Blake and Valdary also performed a little bit of improvisational dance in the call and response form, passing the spotlight between each other for small periods of time.

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