Saturday, May 31, 2008

An Appreciation: Part One

by Paul Gordon Emerson

Late spring is always a time of transition. Usually it surrounds a graduation or a wedding, but dance companies live on something of an academic calendar as well, and as we head into June there are people of exceptional grace, talent and, honestly, brilliance preparing to make changes that will take them out of our day-to-day CityDance lives. The loss each departure will bring is enormous, and I wanted to take a moment to offer an appreciation for them as those days get closer. 

The most vital contributor to this blog has been someone whose name, until now, has appeared nowhere on it. Every bit of video -- the stuff that has made this something special -- has been filmed, written and edited by Ludovic Jolivet. The magic of seeing dance on a blog, as opposed to just reading about it, has been conjured by him. His understanding of how to tell a story is rare under any circumstances, but in dance, and in dance on film, its unique to my experience. Ludovic has always understood that what matters is life, the heart and the spirit, and that dance is a vehicle for our humanity. He is a choreographer, a dancer, a visual artist and perhaps the most deeply honest person I have ever met. His work has an unfettered genius to it that has made several of his dances all-time favorites at CityDance concerts for 9 years. 

Ludovic has transformed CityDance, and the lives of the people he touches, subtly, and as a colleague I have never had anyone in this field from whom I have learned more. Ludovic understands the camera as a voice, not as an end. He crafts art through experience and through a well-earned combination of hope and sadness that transforms mops into people and people into props of larger societal machines. His art is the story, and inside that story, the love he bears for the things he speaks to. 

We live in such a process-oriented, outcome-based society. Life in America in the 21st century is predicated on deadlines and deliverables. Dance companies are no different. We set goals and milestones and then step on the gas (or bio-diesel) to get to the other side. We make dances on deadline because that is the nature of our world, and we do so knowing that those deadlines may upend the very art that is the reason we are here. Some things cannot be done by 5pm. Ludovic not only understands that risk, he rejects it. Faced with a choice of making work for us on a deadline and locking in to office hours he simply said "that's not me," and left the cushion of CityDance's regular employment. Normally that's just a change in daily destination. But for Ludovic, who is in the US on a CityDance visa, it meant, potentially, a change in continent. He chose the change in country. Rather than surrender a sense of what it means to make what he believes in, and knowing that his inspiration doesn't work on a calendar, he stepped onto an immigration ledge. It drove me nuts. But opportunity, and obligation, are different for every person, and what I saw as his opportunity he saw as his obligation. 

If art is about integrity, and about inspiration, then the leavening agent in it is courage. Ludovic has shown me, and all of us who know him, have seen his dances, watched his films or just encountered him at random, an unrestrained, and deeply personal, courage for as long as I have known him. It is something I am reminded of every day, and far too often found myself wanting in. 

We rarely come upon people who change our worlds by their quiet determination to be who they are regardless of the risks. Most of us do not face the choice of a job in a country they want to be in or a ticket out because they cannot be the artist they are by having to live under deadlines and objectives. CityDance has been graced by one such person since a crazy June day in 1999, and we are richer for it in ways that permeate everything we do. 

Fortunately, the world is such that, even from France, Ludovic Jolivet will always be a part of our world here, whether in the form of return trips to make dances, videos made across the internet or detailed guides on the right technology for the right moment. But that distance will be felt deeply by all of us, and by me most of all. Moral compasses cannot be bought in stores, and integrity comes in unexpected ways. We are at our best when those stand close by. Ludovic's departure in just over a week will make more distant these things. Its on us, his colleagues and friends, to impart what he shares and to take it in and then give it back to others. But you can never replicate an original, and that is Ludovic. 

Take a moment and scroll back through those videos below. There's an artist behind them.  

No comments: