Monday, 3 April 2017

Emily D at The Fringe

What made you select Emily D as the subject of your dual performance: did she inspire the approach of "splitting" the performance into two?
The Belle of Amherst is the namesake of my production company (Belleherst Productions) because it was our maiden voyage and was critically acclaimed. I totally, fell in love with her during the preparation of this production and knew (not to be overly dramatic) I was not alone in the Universe.  There seemed to be someone who was capable of speaking  the content of my soul with such precision and skill that I was just in awesome reverie. She became my confident and friend, capable of deepening my insights and inspiring character. I always felt she must be a dancer in her soul. Rhythmically, she relentlessly provokes movement. She made me want to dance and I always felt choreography when I read or performed her.  I have wanted for many years to find a way to bring this inner dancing soul of Emily's onto the stage. 

Last year at the festival I was performing my show on human trafficking and attended a small modern dance production.  The space was empty except for a column
 of white material hung straight to the floor with a long tail of it which snaked in a circular pattern around the perimeter.  I never saw the performance because my imagination had been captivated by this set piece and I could not think or see anything except Emily.   I had not planned on returning this year, but now I was obsessed with the possibility of setting the inner spirit of Emily free to dance.  However, I decided that the free, abandoned -even wild and daring inner soul of Emily would not be complete without the outer Emily who lived in the cultural shackles of her time and thus in great tension. Therefore, I decided to do them back to back in alternating performances and encourage the public to see them both. I felt this would give people more of the wholeness of Emily.

Is there anything that you either lose or gain when moving from the word to movement? In particular, does it allow a deeper response to the poetry, or does it become more abstract and universal?
Adding movement to the word always makes it more potent and more personal for me.  It is my body now, not just my soul which is striving for a response to the poetry. And, my body is very personal. Words and the voice which speak them has a propensity to stay in the head and remain quantitative (although I strive very hard to bring my voice into  my body even without movement assisting me). Its an unnatural thing for the body to remain still in response to thought and feelings - we have to teach it to do that.  The natural response is to move.Therefore, putting designed movement in response to Emily's thoughts and feelings is a fabulous relief to me - like scratching an itch. It becomes intensely personal and powerful. The present problem I am having is finding that same relief in the dramatic version. However, I am working on what I feel is the key. I must layer the dramatic version in reverse of the dance version, thereby creating a dramatic tension in both but from a different perspective. This, I hope, will cause the audience to see her  from the bottom or the top, but the core will remain constant.  In the dance theatre performance the movement is on top propelling the ideas and feelings behind Emily's words.  I also, use the language of music here, making musical jokes, metaphors and comments which creates a kind ofposter art style to her. I feel that on one level, this is very appropriate for her. However, in the straight drama, the words  are put on top fueled by the tension of being constrained in movement. More energy and dance (if you will) must go on inside my mouth and soul so that the same heightened experience is there for the audience in which to participate as it is with the dance.  I hope the audience will be dancing and moving inside, even if I am not on the outside.

Emily is so intensely personal that I cannot even imagine that her poetry would be perceived as abstract. She is universal, but only because the commonality
 of our human personableness is something in which we can identify with her.  She is said to be the most intimate of poets.  Strangely, that intimacy is created by what she leaves out.  Leaving out is a way she has of inviting us in to complete the experience with her.  It is  true intercourse in which we feel privileged, valued and vulnerable (as intimacy always inculcates).

You seem to be working with a great many different forms of movement: is it easy to integrate these different traditions?

Actually, yes.  Movement is like learning languages. Once you begin to incorporate  movement genres into your body, you quickly see their connections. Principles
 of movement are often the same or the direct opposite - but, still connected.  The body is not changing.  It remains constant and provides a steady palate from which one can change and interchange the parts of movement around. I find a huge parallel in learning several  verbal languages. You begin to learn verbal languages faster as you add them because you see more and more stable components which only need to be tweaked in sound or sentence structure to be accurate.  

I am, for sure, an eclectic and become bored very quickly with routine.  Therefore, a full menu
 of physical traditions is exciting to me and just means more tools to choose from when trying to create. I perform in German as well as English.  Often, in a show, I will lapse concentration and speak a word or short phrase in the 'other' language simply because I know that it is a better tool to communicate the thought.  Its the same in movement.  I am infatuated with the body and discovering its potential to communicate.  My body is my intimate friend, not a slave and I welcome the variety of ways in which we can together to clearly speak.

I've often thought about the relationship between language and dance, or whether dance is a language in and of itself: or is it the poetry of movement, when mundane movement is our prose? Anyway: my waffle aside: is there any connection between poetry and dance in the way they express ideas, and perhaps in their construction?

I like very  much your analogy of dance/poetry and everyday movement/prose.  Certainly, there is a lot of truth there. However, I would say that movement (be it prose or poetry in style) is its own language.  When the word is added to it we are just adding another language layer -like a Napoleon pastry.  It becomes richer and richer. the language of music adds another and on and on. Also, these independent languages converse with each other when they are sharing the same expressive arena. This dialogue is very exciting.

For me there is a great deal of similar technique involved in constructing dance and in writing poetry.  Emily has a line which says; 'A poet can only have a few words, so she must choose the most important ones'.  It is the same in dance.  We must choose the most important movements which will say the most in inverse relationship to their quantity.  Also, dance is not about poses or steps, its about the transitions from one step to another. It is the connective tissue, ,not the bones and joints, which holds the body up and gives it form. Similarly, in dance and in poetry, it is the unseen tension (or connective tissue) which is fueled by intention and pathos which gives the real form that impacts us.

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