Every dance tells a story
BEAVER CREEK – If dance is a story, the choreographer pens the tale, the dancers act as characters and the music becomes the omniscient point of view.Under this ideology, plenty of room is left for interpretation by the audience, or, the readers. And so, Wednesday night for the Colorado Ballet world premiere of “From Foreign Lands and People” at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek, there were at least as many stories weaved as there were viewers.Jessica Lang, a young dancer-turned-choreographer from New York created the original contemporary piece. Once a dancer for famed choreographer Twyla Tharpe, Lang’s composition was alive with fresh movement as modern dance suggests, and as beautifully tailored as classical dance.
Upon introducing the performance, Lang explained that the work revolves around the idea of the piano with eight dancers in the piece to represent an octave in music, as well as five long, black boxes. The boxes symbolize the black keys on the piano and help facilitate levels and add sculptural dimension to the stage, which change the environment the dancers are in.The black boxes as keys also represent Lang’s own examination of the percussive/string instrument, as it is her first time choreographing to a piano piece. She felt apprehensive about creating with piano music but decided to accept it as a challenge. Lang set the piece to the music of Robert Schumann’s “Kinderzenen.” With the help of her college roommate, a classical violinist, from the Julliard School, she discovered Schumann. She listened to “Kinderzenen,” comprised of 13 variations which naturally formed the acts. Each variation in the 20-minute dialogue differed so greatly, she knew there was a story waiting to be told.
As she starts with a blank canvass, eight dancers and 20 minutes at her disposal, she improvises movements based on feeling. Maybe it’s about a relationship she’s in or has had. She listens to everything the dancers say, even though they don’t know it. She incorporates whatever inspires her. The dancers could end up acting their own story and not even knowing it, something unique only to the premiere of a dance. Lang did not want to reveal any more to the audience than the representation of the black boxes. She said she hoped the imagery would be enough to conjure ideas.As I watched the dancers, mainly paired in couples, I imagined a tale relatable to my own love story.
One minute the dancers are happily skipping together, playing behind the keys. The next, the woman is being romanced, swept off her feet, put on a pedestal (the box). A fight occurs, the boxes separate the lovers, distance growing. The woman solos, a self-reflective pause. She is again ready to enter the world. A new love awaits, yet she needs to break down her walls. He tries. She surrenders. The boxes form a bridge. Can they cross it together. Only the last act will tell.For me, the variations stood for chapters in the story.My sister said she felt as if the composition was like reading 13 short stories with a common theme. In this case, relationships.Some things we agreed upon, others not. We both left with our own stories, as did everyone else.
Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado