Friday, May 16, 2008

Reflections on Reconstructing a 60 Year Old Dance

by Lynn Frielinghaus

Dance reconstruction brings into play so many aspects of recreation; previous knowledge of the piece from performers and audience viewpoints, labanotation, musical scores and last but not least the memories of the rehearsal process in which the dancers were involved. This includes the manner in which the choreographer worked, the rehearsal atmosphere and, most importantly, the choreographer's discourse on the intent and meaning of the piece. What is the idea that is behind the movement and how does that chosen movement reflect the idea? To be able to understand the intent of a dance, it is best if one can work with the original choreographer, but in dance reconstruction that is usually not possible. We have tools available to us to recreate the movement... videotapes, dance notation, musical scores etc., but the essence of the choreographer is often lost.

As a dancer who worked decades with Sophie Maslow, my job in reconstructing her dance "Folksay" is to keep her vision alive. I must bring to the dancers learning her choreography for the first time, a picture of who Sophie Maslow was and how she approached her work and her life. I need to show the history behind her dance and why its topic concerned her. It is important to point out the subtle and simple way she moved, the integrity behind each and every movement and why she never wasted a single moment with superfluous gestures. In short, if the dancers can understand where the dance came from and a little of who the choreographer was, the reconstruction will have a heart and soul to it and won't look like movements dredged up from decades past that have been pasted on to today's dancers. To understand the dance and feel it's purpose, breathes life into the reconstruction.

I don't think the aim in reconstructing a dance is to "get it right". That is to recreate every movement as it was. Taking into consideration the different way that dancers train today in comparison to 60 years ago, "getting it right" would be almost impossible. No, better to understand the intent, the idea, the motivation behind a dance, learn the basic style and technique of the movement and then bring it together with today's dancers contributing their own experiences. In this way a reconstruction will not only enlighten an audience to the past and give dance a historical context in which to be viewed, but also bring a fresh dimension to the piece. Dance is an art that is alive in time and space, and to deny the present time in reconstruction would be to deny an integral part. In my experience, an understanding of motivating factors in the creation of a dance, a respect for the past, accompanied with an excitement in the present and a balance between old and new all combine to make a successful reconstruction.

1 comment:

Beth said...

What role (if any) does Labanotation play in this particular reconstruction? Has the work been notated?

Beth Elliott