Dance writer/critic/historian Lucia Mauro opened Chicago Dancing Festival‘s (CDF) Muses program (Friday, Aug 26 on the MCA Stage) by distinguishing the difference in meanings of the term muse. In ancient Greek mythology, the work referred to “beings who imparted knowledge. They were empowered beings, the sources of greatness”. But today, we refer to a muse as someone who inspires artistic creation. After giving a brief list of famous choreographic partnerships (Balanchine and Farrell, Tharp and Baryshnikov, etc.) Mauro set the stage for the discussion to follow with Lar Lubovitch, Alejandro Cerrudo, Janet Eilber and Bettie de Jong that dealt with the artist/choreographer relationship. Is it “control or collaboration”? And how has that relationship been defined historically and is it being redefined now?
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‘s (HSDC) resident choreogher Alejandro Cerrudo subscribes to the “two brains think better than one” theory and tends to use a collaborative approach with his dancers. After praising the HSDC dancers many talents, he says, “anything the dancers give me is valid” and states simply, “I became a choreographer to become a better dancer.” HSDC dancers Ana Lopez and Benjamin Wardell (frequent muses for Cerrudo) danced the final duet that was created on them from Cerrudo’s 2010 work Deep Down Dos. Wardell is leaving HSDC to pursue independent projects. I’m really going to miss these two artists dancing together. They seem to have a kinetic ESP that drives their duets.
Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company told stories about working with the iconic choreographer in the 70s. Eilber took over many of Graham’s roles once she was retired from dancing and said the best advice she ever gave her was to always create an internal monologue. “You have to talk to yourself the whole time,” Graham advised her. Eilber also talked of how Graham had changed after a leave of absence from the company (depression and an extended hospital stay). Once back, the way she choreographed changed to “visually instead of viscerally”. Clips were shown of Eilber dancing in Graham classics Frontier and Clytemnestra.
Bettie de Jong, Rehearsal Director for Paul Taylor Dance Company brought her considerable personality and humor to stories of working with Mr. Taylor.”Unlike Martha, he doesn’t like to talk about the dances he’s making…maybe two words”, she says. “His dances had an animal instinct, a dark side, a musical side, a funny side.” Clips of her dancing with Taylor were shown including Esplanade and Big Bertha.
CDF co-founder Lar Lubovitch came last and promptly rearranged the two chairs on stage into a more pleasing configuration (he admitted it had been bothering him the entire program). Once settled, he explained that his approach to choreographing is to tell the story of the music. The dancers need to embody the music. “My relationship with my dancers is based on who they present themselves to be,” he says adding, “there has to be a bond of trust in the room. We trust and therefore can be free and therefore can create.” An excerpt from HISTOIRE DE SOLDAT, Three Dances: Tango, Waltz, Ragtime (2011) with three of his dancers followed telling a story with dark humor of a soldier, a princess and the devil. Mauro opened the floor up to questions from the audience before wrapping up a lovely discussion on dance, history and the choreographic process.