Working Backwards, Stumbling Forward

“Once my heart was captured, reason was shown the door, deliberately and with a sort of frantic joy. I accepted everything, I believed everything, without struggle, without suffering, without regret, without false shame. How can one blush for what one adores?”

The quote above was written by the inspirational and daring French novelist George Sand. She was a wealthy baroness, but insisted on wearing men’s clothing and smoking clove cigarettes. She successfully divorced her first husband and kept control of her children, which was almost entirely unheard of at the time. She dated and broke the heart of Frederick Chopin. In my book, the woman is a quintessential badass.

I stumbled upon this quote very deep into my rehearsal process. My piece was about thirty seconds from completion and needed to be wrapped up neatly and tied in a bow. I had clean movement and performance ready dancers, but was lacking a clear vision on how I wanted the piece to
end, or how I wanted the audience to relate to what I created. I had essentially worked backwards.

I found George Sand’s quote and fell in love. The line “deliberately and with a sort of frantic joy” immediately popped out at me, as it keenly described my movement and musical choice. The score starts soft and melancholy, and gradually builds to a frenzied chorus of violin and piano. It peters out with a small sigh and retreats back to its former somber but now more peaceful state.

This literary discovery gave me inspiration and a new purpose for my piece. I asked my dancers to think of a dark place in their lives, and how they were able to shake themselves free. “Free of struggle, free of suffering, free of regret.” My piece shows this personal journey in movement. A singular dancer is highlighted, and she is helped along her journey by the support of dancers around her. She is manipulated, dragged, lifted, and supported. She resists, they do not deter. The music begins a slow boil and the movement becomes more frantic, more crazed, more joyful, but now in unison with bodies moving as one. Ultimately, we are left with that exhausted light headed feeling after a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Things get quiet, the heart settles, and the breath deepens with a sense of calm. Resolved? Not quite, but is it ever? What I have tried to show is the idea that if we find solace in ourselves and others, abandon our fears and insecurities, and throw caution to the wind (quite literally in this case; listen to quiet moments in my piece and you will hear a soft gust) then at least we can get through one moment and be more prepared to handle the next.

Black out. Wrap it up in that bow and send it on its way.

“Deliberately, and with a sort of frantic joy” is also a small glimpse into my personal struggles.

I come from a place where my passions were replaced with stress, negativity, and ultimately burn out. I came to resent moments I had previously cherished, whether it was performing onstage, teaching my ballet technique classes, or channeling my frustrations into movement. It was lonely in this place, and hard to talk about. I have let my piece tell that story for me.

As I reflect upon how quickly the rehearsal process has flown by, and how the show opens in less than a week (get your tickets now, do not delay!), I can’t help but think about how rejuvenating Cultivate has been for my soul. I have found my piece of frantic joy.

Sara

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