Monday, May 4, 2009

Found in translation

One of the works we are presenting here is "Entangled" a work originally made in January of this year. As originally conceived it played to a contemporary classical score by Lepo Sumera. It never really worked in its original configuration, and it was a dance I was going to drop before, by the luck of things, I discovered the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. That came about because of a meeting arranged for me by the Department of State with the Palestinian Minister of Culture.

Darwish is an icon here, and even in english translation it was quickly easy to understand why. I found a particular poem that spoke to me, and to a subtle current running through the original "Entangled." It was the way to revitalize the dance.

The idea was to present the work in Arabic, in the original language, and let the dancers take it in as music. They wouldn't understand the words, but they would understand the cadence, the lyricism and the magic of the sound. Arabic, especially its poetry, is deeply musical.

The poem I chose is, or was, called "Night Overflowing the Body." That's the Jeffery Sachs translation of the title. Except its wrong. We have had the privilege of working with brilliant authors and artists here in bringing the work to the stage, spoken live. The first, in Amman, was Taher Riad, a man who was a close personal friend of Darwish. When we met he said "the translation into English is all wrong." He offered to, and then did, translate it again for me, and all of a sudden the poem, its intimacy, its meaning and grace become clear the way Dorothy opening the door into Oz did in taking the world from black and white to color.

The actual title is "A Night Flooding From the Body." Its completely different. It goes from passive -- from something happening atop you, to something emerging from you, overwhelming you as emotion and experience.

I'll put both translations up next time I write.

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