My Photo
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am a dancer with Minneapolis based James Sewell Ballet, a small, contemporary ballet company. I also choreograph independently.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Inheriting Roles: Implicit in Ballet

February 19, 2006

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of performing a role not normally my own. The piece was James Sewell’s “Anagram” and it was with live music in Rochester, MN. Sally Rousse, who normally dances this particular part, did not go on the tour with us. Thus it was that I was given this gift.

When one is taught a role first-hand, there is a quickening. The senses come to attention. The forehead wrinkles as you struggle to imitate and make movements your own. As the inheritor it is important to get your needs met, your questions answered. Depending on the time frame, the priority rises and sets with your need to know.

This particular role begins as a pas de deux and quickly becomes a trio. Both partners have been longtime colleagues and put me at my ease. It is not easy stepping into another dancers original role, especially when that dancer is Sally. I had to very quickly get over the fact that “I’m not Sally” and that the steps will never look the same. They will not have the same ethereal quality with me doing them. And so there is a relinquishing, a giving over, a surrender. But through trusting the steps a leap of faith was made and in the process of execution I found singularity. Though I could not become her I could become more myself.

In terms of surrendering, the same is true from her perspective; she must pass on her knowledge to me. She did, most graciously. Her quiet way yet rapid pace was on the verge of my threshold for retaining. And yet I kept up. We’ve known each other so long I can almost intuit her process. Plus I’ve watched her do this part countless times, as I’ve leaned against the mirrors in our studio or stretched in the wings. It is always a painful thrill as is it so ethereal.

And so it goes. This is an age-old story. From dancer to dancer roles get passed down. If you’re lucky, that transmission takes place live and in-person. Often video is used and is inherently flawed. No, the real, raw deal is to learn form another body. That way you’re privy to the secrets, the thoughts, the dimension. Separate from the choreographer, the originator of a role is the blood and guts, literally, of a part. The body is the instrument and is forever marked by the dancing of a role. And so transmission of a part is intimacy of the highest order and as I said, it is age-old. Through working in this way we as dancers are participating in the timeline that is our history. We are the inheritors; we continue the stories even as we make new ones.


Post a Comment

<< Home