Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Angel and The Albatross

The Angel and The Albatross is a work that I originally created in 2004. It began my current fascination with the imagery of birds and my deep connection to choreographic space. Rather simplistically, you can see the swooping patterns in the piece as representations of the flock. In making this work, I was inspired by one particular bird--the albatross. The albatross is a large sea bird that spends much of its life in solitude, until it is ready to mate, and then thousands convene on remote, rocky islands to copulate. I became fascinated by the instinctual desire to be alone that these birds possessed. Also, the great freedom that comes with soaring, floating, and riding the wind across the open sea.

In further exploring the solitude of the albatross, I began to think about the collective power of the flock. Their ability to consume and overtake space with darting, dramatic dives in the air. I began to see flocks of birds as mighty armies, unified. Similarly, the 'angel', referred to it the title, represents these same images. I commonly think of angels as singular, etheral creatures, but I began to imagine an army of angels decending from the sky and rebounding almost instantaneouly upward again.

In developing movement sequences for the piece, I noticed a relationship between lofting through the air and wanting to stay connected to the floor. Interestingly, the movement vocabulary balances between the delicacy of internal reflection and the expansive, athleticism of the footfalls of a group of 18.

In the spirit of the historic Doris Humphrey, ideas of group and individual are very present in this dance. The desire to remain oneself while still connecting to the larger group dominates moments in this piece. Originally created for a cast of 8 dancers, I have expanded the work to include 18 talented UWSP dance students.

I began working with the dancers in the autumn semester as part of the freshman repertory experience. A class where the first year students in our program have the opportunity to work together as an ensemble, get to know each other, and learn the demands of a professional rehearsal environment. The work took on a new life. I do not regularly reset previous work, but the vitality and expressiveness the dancers brought to this piece inspired me to continue reimaging the choreographic possibilities of a large ensemble.

The cast for Danstage 2009 includes 9 of the original freshman from the repertory class and 9 new dancers from the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes. We are forging a deep and intuitive relationship that I hope will roll off the stage and wash over the audience like a breezy, summer beach day.

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