September 29, 2020 at 10:36 pm #4030Stephen GerringerJoined: August 19, 2016Keymaster
To help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, Nancy Allison, CMA, dancer, choreographer, and the editor of The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance (a volume of Campbell’s published and unpublished observations on dance, released in 2017 as part of The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell), has graciously consented to join us in JCF’s Conversations of a Higher Order to share her memories of Jean Erdman. Nancy worked closely with Jean for sixteen years, and is the founder and artistic director of Jean Erdman Dance.
I’m happy to start this discussion, but it will be your questions, thoughts, and comments that expand this beyond just another interview into a true “conversation of a higher order.” Please feel free to jump in and engage Nancy directly with your own questions and comments about Jean.
(Do keep in mind that conversation here does not move at the speed of social media, but unfolds leisurely, which is why Nancy has agreed to check in regularly from October 1 – October 6; do check the box that says “Notify me of follow-up replies via email” when you post, or click on “Favorite” at the top of this thread, so you’ll know when Nancy responds. Also, do not be surprised if your contribution inspires related comments and observations from other participants – that’s what makes it a conversation – no telling what magic may happen!)
Nancy – thank you so much for joining us.
I have so many questions. But I believe I will start with the fundamentals:
In A Joseph Campbell Companion, Joe makes the following observation:
Whatever choice you make, there is a period of learning and analyzing, when you are not in action, the body is not in performance. Anyone who has taught somebody a skill has seen this stage, where the student is analyzing and trying to do it, but really not in it. Then, finally, the person is able to give expression to what he or she is intending to express.
My first and strongest experience of this was once when Jean came to Esalen with me and was going to give classes in dance. She got this bunch of people who were not interested in technique, but wanted to dance. What they called creative work was going out, opening their arms, and breathing at the ocean. It was not worth being with them even to see what was going on.”
I’m one of those people myself, not worried about discipline or technique but a free spirit, just wanting to enjoy the music moving me. There is certainly a place for that, but it’s a far cry from there to Dance as an art form.
When I watch a dancer perform in the flesh, I am in awe of how effortless her or his movements are – but clearly there is effort involved. Could you give us an idea of Jean’s preparation and training – how she recognized dancing was her bliss, who her mentors were, and what training and discipline entailed?
And then Jean didn’t just dance roles other people originated, but created her own roles, choreographed her own productions. Could you perhaps share a glimpse of Jean’s process: what went into selecting, creating, and choreographing a specific role – breathing life into a dance and a character that had never existed before?
I know those are awfully big questions right out the gate. I have more, but let’s start there.
tie-dyed teller of tales
October 23, 2020 at 8:51 pm #4128
Yes the dates do present a problem but I would think with later amended editions something could be added . Seems like a natural question to me ? From a Joseph Campbell Jean Erdman dance perspective . The Coach With Six Insides” has always been in the Wake and every aspect of the Wake has had much written about it. That it caught Ms. Erdman’s attention I would think means that it also caught Mr. Campbell’s . I’m sure they had some personal discussions about it .
it is something I enjoy searching the answer for .
Thank you for all your Inside insight & Coaching on the subject. You have conveyed much clarity.
Happy Tesseracting to you also !!! They do dance in multidimensional space !!! Makes you wonder about what those cubist were trying to convey , doesn’t it ? Cubism was an interesting art Movement that danced and was center stage for a moment … Do you like Picasso ? Deconstruction and reverse engineering are integral to the artistic and educational process … Lots of fun to utilize …
RobertOctober 24, 2020 at 1:18 pm #4129
I found this. It has useful information .
On the surface the “Six Insides” would Be the Six character roles portrayed in the production credits.
Mr. Frey turned from a promising career as a painter to become an actor. Before he entered the theatre. he had won painting scholarships at the Brooklyn Museum. the Skohegan School of Art. and Cooper Union. A graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse, he most recently played the taciturn Indian Yellow Feather in “Little Mary Sunshine,” a role which he surveyed for the past two seasons. He will soon be seen in “Night Terror,” a motion picture which was shot in location in New York.
Miss Ryan began her professional career by organizing a theatre company, The Omnibus Players. For two seasons thereafter she acted in the company which lived and traveled in an old school bus, bringing Shakespeare and Moliere to many towns throughout the country. Immediately after her graduation from Skidmore College she appeared at the Corning Summer Theatre. Most recently she was seen at the Arena Stage in Washington, D. C. in Giraudoux’s “The Mad Woman of Chaillot,” and under the direction of Alan Schneider in Brecht’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle.”
TEIJI ITO Composer
Mr. Ito was the recipient of the 1960-61 Obie award for the best music for theatre, based on his scores for the Helen Menken productions of three modem one-act Japanese plays at the Player’s Theatre, a cafe-theatre pro- duction of “King Ubu” and the Living Theatre’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘1n the Jungle of Cities.” New Yorkers have also heard his musical scores for “20 Poems” by e. e. cummings which was choreographed by Jean Erdman. His credits include the music for the production of “Caucasian Chalk Circle” presented at the Arena Stage in Washington, D. C., directed by Alan Schneider, and the score for “Mavea” which was filmed in Tahiti and shown at the Venice Film Festival.
MILTON HOWARTH Designer of Slide Projections
Mr. Howarth most recently designed the sets for the Vancouver Inter- national Festival of Arts production of Brecht’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle.” Graduated from Carnegie Tech Drama School, he is now the stage designer for the Long Beach State College Theatre Department in California.
THE COACH WITH THE SIX INSIDES
a comedy inspired by
Jaynes Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake”
Anita Dangler Leonard Frey
Van Dexter Gail Ryan
PRESENTED BY THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN COLLEGES ARTS PROGRAM,
THE INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN STUDIES, AND THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII THEATRE
NO PHOTOGRAPHS MAY BE TAKEN NOR RECORDINGS MADE DURING THE PERFORMANCES
APRIL 10, 11, 12, 1964 ,
University of Hawaii / John Fitzgerald Kennedy Theatre
THE COACH WITH THE SIX INSIDES
The roles, as played, are as follows: ‘ JEAN ERDMAN ________________________:_____________________________________________Anna Livia Plurabelle
ANITA DANGLER ——————————————————————Wi£e and Charwoman GAIL RYAN ——————————————————————————–Daughter – lseult LEoNARD FREY ————————————————————————–Elder S o n – Shaun VAN DEXTER ————————————————————————Younger Son – Shem
Music by Teiji Ito Assisted by Jose Ricci Costumes by Gail Ito Slide Projection Designs by Milton Howarth
Written and Staged by Miss Erdman
Musicians: Teiji Ito, Jose Ricci, Shotaro Kawazoe
Michael Prince: Assistant to the Director and understudy for the Elder Son and the Younger Son
Carol V. Hoover: Lighting Designer and Stage Manager
Past Present (Harry’ Me)
The Fall, Wake and Reappearance of a Certain Party
••• on the story of ”The Coach With the Six Insides”:
The time is night; the scene, the interior of a Dublin Tavernkeeper’s dreaming mind. The characters are members of the dreamer’s family and a certain number of his tavern customers, both transient and regular; chiefly, his two sons, at various ages, past, present, and future; his daughter, his wi£e, and the charwoman – all of whom tend both to coalesce and to suggest various others, human, animal, and supernatural, actual and legendary, who, at one time or another, have caught his fancy. The dreamer has just lost an election, due to rumors spreading from an undefined event one night in Phoenix Park, which involved, apparently, a couple of nursemaids, a police- man, and a sort of tramp (perhaps poet) with a pipe; and in his remorseful dream this unhappy fault becomes confused with Adam’s fall and the resultant condition humaine. The women thus are aspects of the one Eve: temptress and mother of this sinning (and thus, living) world; and the dreamer is the Creator, invisible yet everywhere, himself ultimately respon- sible for, and secretly enjoying, the whole disgraceful mess.
The name, “The Coach With the Six Insides,” was the title of a television play seen on the screen of the tavern bar a few hours before the dream. Its vaudeville acts, song and dance numbers, jokes and political references, contribute a theatrical form to the nightmare.
It all seems to mean something – as does a dream, as does the world. But what? Or what did the letter say that was posted in this ruined envelope? Who wrote it, and to whom? The dreamer’s initials, H.C.E., suggest “Here
Future Present (Marry Me)
Chips Off the Old Block
His Gadabout in Her Day
Future Past (Bury Me)
Assistant Stage Manager and understudy for the Daughter and Wi£e
Comes Everybody,” and his wife’s initials, A.L.P. (the German word Alp means “nightmare”) suggest “Anna Livia Plurabelle,” which is James Joyce’s name for the River Liffey flowing through Dublin to the sea while the city sleeps – in the way of the river of time and change, which is flowing through us all as Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer. It is in this larger, mythic dimension that the characters of Joyces Dublin family are in play within us all in an enigmatic festival of dream, from which we all one day are to wake.
• • • on the language of “Finnegans Wake”:
The language of “Finnegans Wake,” like the imagery of a dream, is a distorted medium, telling many tales at once while playfully hiding its main point – which we somehow seem to know though we cannot bring it quite to mind. The book goes down with us into a land of sleep, where everything -as in Ariel’s song- undergoes a curious change.
Full fathom five thy father lies, Of his bones are coral made,
These are pearls that were his eyes; Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his bell,
Hark! Now I hear t h e m – ding-dong bell.
The Tempest, Shakespeare
The rhythmical structure of the language carries the burden of commu-
nication. Words, memories; and thoughts ride upon it as flotsam on a tide; echoes of childhood and of ~ld causes telling not so much of themselves as of the Here-we-are-again Gaities of the ever-living song that carries all of us along. And wltere sleep joins death, there is life still, tolling in the knell. We dance with it in wonder and delight.
WHO’S WHO IN THE CAST JEAN ERDMAN
Miss Erdman comes to the legitimate theatre from a distinguished career in the concert dance. The first Broadway showings of her own choreography were in festival seasons of the New Dance Group at New York Times Hall and The Mansfield Theatre; and the year of her first full company concert, presented at Hunter Playhouse, she received the Dance Magazine Award for the best new work of the season. New York theatregoers most recently saw her at the Circle-in-the-Square in 1960, when she presented a new work based on “20 Poems” by e.e. cummings. Having developed her own school
and concert company in New York City, Miss Erdman has produced her new works there annually, has toured the United States extensively with her company, and in 1955 was the first American artist-emissary to tour the Orient after World War II. She has been artist in residence with her com- pany for seven years at the University of Colorado, three at the University of British Columbia, and was last summer at the University of Hawaii. Her interest in relating dance to theatre was furthered by her choreography for Jean Paul Sartre’s “Les Mouches” at the Vassar Experimental Theatre and Jean Giraudoux’s “The Enchanted” at the Lyceum Theatre in New York. The composer Alan Hovhaness collaborated with her in the production of William Saroyan’s ballet play, “Otherman-Or The Beginning of a New Nation,” at Bard College, where, from 1954-1957, she was head of the Dance Department. Born in Honolulu, Miss Erdman has been interested all her life in the synthesis of drama, dance, and music that’s characteristic of all Oriental theatre; and in the dream-world atmosphere of James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” she has found the material for the creation of such an art as contemporary expression. The possibility of realizing this conception was afforded by a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and furthered by individual contributions made to the Arts Program of the Association of American Colleges, under whose auspices this production is being presented. Her husband, Joseph Campbell, author of “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” and “The Masks of God,” bears the responsibility for having intro- duced her to the magic of James Joyce’s language during his years of labor on “The Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake.”
Miss Dangler recently £ompleted an extensive national tour of the Circle- in-the-Square’s production-of “Under Milk Wood” after appearing in the Dylan Thomas•hit for many months in New York. Last seen on Broadway in the original production of “The Hostage,” she toured with the play for one season coast-to-coast and in Canada. She previously played on Broadway in “An Mfair of Honor.” Miss Dangler has appeared in a concert reading of “Murder in the Cathedral” at the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C., and is frequently seen on television’s Camera Three, Play of the Week, and DuPont Show of the Week.
Mr. Dexter inaugurated his stage career with the Cosmopolitan Opera Company in Philadelphia, appearing in such light operas as “The Desert Song,” ‘Vagabond King,” and “The Merry Widow.” A student of panto- mimists Lionel Shepard, Juki Arkin, Decroux and Mata and Hari, he has appeared in a silent film short, “Going Up,” as well as several other panto- mime films. Mr. Dexter was featured in a national tour of the Broadway hit “Stalag 17” with Shelley Berman and has recently been seen on a number of television shows, including a “Car 54, Where Are You?” segment opposite
,Molly Picon.October 25, 2020 at 7:27 pm #4133shaheda rizviJoined: October 27, 2017Participant
Thank you for all the rich material on Jean, Joe, mythology, and the dance world. There is so much that I had missed, and now I am just catching up with all your above Q&A, and enjoying them immensely.
On my dance steps, trying to sense the moment between the silence and the movement, I practiced a few “Samba” steps. A few samba steps and a few salsa steps are all that I know. I noticed that I am not in balance, my left is very weak, that is, the communication from my brain to my left foot takes longer, or is not smooth, as if something is broken, whereas, on the right side, the movement and the signal from the brain are rather smooth, and automatic. Very basic, I think, yet it’s the basic steps that are very important. I can link this imbalance to a car-accident long long time ago. This connection came through as I observed the interval between the steps. Still working on these steps in the evening. (Smile smile)
I am wondering if India still gives birth to artists like Lakshmi Shanmukham and her mother Balasaraswati. Both known as the ‘living exponent of the Bharata Natyam style”?
Thank you for dancing with us.
With much love
ShahedaOctober 26, 2020 at 10:20 pm #4142
I enjoy this video “Stuck inside these four walls. Stuck inside forever”. Does touch on the allusion of the cube , also illustrates the word as metaphor motif … lots of Fun …October 27, 2020 at 11:33 am #4143
It is amazing all the tangents the mind can muster and elicit with the use of metaphor allusion poetic entendre.
I just received and read Eternal Geomater The Sexual Universe of Finnegans Wake. By Margaret C. Solomon. Its chapter “The Coach with the Sex Insides” is illuminating. Of course as everything Joycean it leads to more questions than answers.
Lots of Fun !!! It does discuss the tesseract allusion. So we can all rest. It is a path that has already been taken by others. A place where the eddy and flow of the River of Life has and does Still Dance !!!💃🏻 Opa !!!
Do you think the space behind our eyes 👀 and between our ears 👂 is a Cube ? Is a Sphere ? Square ? Circular ? Is a stage ? Is a Dance floor ? If a floor then what is the ceiling ?
i think I am still in need of some Coaching on the State of being and dancing the dance of life …
Finnegans Wake is a Wake left by a Cubed Coach sailing into the Sun upon the rover River Liffey , it is a Wake left by a comets tale as big as a kite crashing into the Luna future … Dancing upon the frozen lake of the Moon , from where we harvest Cubes to cool the drink that quench our thirst …
I Thirst … HCE
Jedance …. The Dance …. of the Jedi
R³October 27, 2020 at 3:31 pm #4144
Thank you so much for “playing” along with my motion/stillness exploration. Kudos for your courage to share your experience with the group.
I’m so glad that you discovered something through this that you can explore further. It’s wonderful that you could relate what you discovered to an earlier event in your life. I, and an ever-growing number of philosophers, artists, psychiatrists, neurologists, psychologists and body-mind practitioners firmly believe that the body stores every experience, joyful as well as traumatic, deep in its tissues and organs. It never forgets, even if the mind tries all sorts of tricks to deny the truth the body knows.
In fact, we believe that our bodies are communicating through movement, all the time. Like myth, movement communicates symbolically. We need only to learn the language of movement to understand the life-enhancing stories it is whispering to, or sometimes shouting at us.
Walking, running, skipping, hopping, turning, shifting, tilting, balancing, falling, rolling, wiggling, gesturing and on and on. This list of body action verbs is endless. I’m sure everyone in this conversation can add hundreds more words to the list.
All of these actions that we do, without even thinking about them, are the basis of the organized patterns of movement that we call “dance”. For example, in the simplest possible description, both samba and salsa are composed of a series of shifts, forward and back, or side-to-side, combined with gestures of hips and shoulders. These basic body actions and their variations of time, space and dynamics are also the basis of a uniquely personal, subtle and complex language of movement that each of us develops over the years— a language that communicates to others because we all have bodies and we all live in the same field of space, time and gravity.
This notion of a uniquely personal movement language that communicates to others brings me back to one of the questions that Stephen posed in his opening post of this conversation. What did Jean have to do to prepare herself to “select, create and choreograph a specific role — to breathe life into a dance and character that never existed before?” She, like every creative choreographer, had to explore the very essence of the language of movement —to find the unique movement palette for each dance creation from among myriad possibilities of movement choices.
Using excerpts from their own writing, Joe describes beautifully movement exploration journeys of both Isadora Duncan and Mary Wigman, two of the great female progenitors of modern dance, in Part 2 of The Ecstasy of Being. Jean describes some of her own journeys in the three part video archive Dance & Myth: The World of Jean Erdman. There is no short cut for these journeys. They are body-aching, soul-searching work and the dances, the “boons” each artist brings back from his or her journeys, are as Jean said “gifts that the artist then shares with the community.”
Despite the enormous effort required and the relatively little chance for material reward, I know there are at least hundreds, if not thousands of young men and women all over the world today who are courageously exploring the language of movement, each in his or her own way, with all the passion and commitment of our great dance ancestors; Isadora Duncan, Mary Wigman, Jean Erdman and Balasaraswati just to name a few. We need only to watch a video, or better yet, attend a performance and open our bodies, minds and spirits to the expressions they create for our lives to be forever enriched by their gifts.
P.S. Will respond to R3’s many posts soon. Loved the Band on the Run video. Gotta “run”out now to take advantage of early voting in New York!October 27, 2020 at 10:29 pm #4147
The vote is the wheel within wheels that convey the Coach the Chariot the Merkaba of State forward in time and space , a dropping of a pseudopod a foot in the Dance of progress and evolution to the tune of The Battle Hymn Of The Republic and Yankee Doodle Dandy …
May you Dance from the Heart … May you move All with your work
R³October 28, 2020 at 11:49 am #4149
just for full disclosure streams 0f consciousness and brain storming. Let us also remember that Coach has a hierarchical Pyramidal class distinction in the travel 🧳 industry.
“Economy class, also called third class, “Coach” class, steerage, or to distinguish it from the slightly more expensive premium economy class, standard economy class or budget economy class, is the lowest travel class of seating in air travel, rail travel, and sometimes ferry or maritime travel.”
Which for me does bring visions of the movie Titanic to mind and the Diamond of Love that sank from the pinnacle of the hierarchy to the very depths of the base. Now there’s a pyramid worthy of being within the tesseract of “The Coach With Six Inside”. The ship the Ark of civilization of humanity. Those mythic titans and giants just keep coming back only to sink again … Just like mythic Atlantis … Just like ole Tim Finnegan !!! Just like Jack Dawson …
“Dawson is a baptismal name meaning ‘the son of David’, a very old personal name. This name is of Anglo-Saxon descent spreading to the Celtic countries of Ireland, Scotland and Wales in early times and is found in many mediaeval manuscripts throughout these countries.“ and of course David danced before the Ark … Which was a cube a Coach used to convey the Lord …
R³October 29, 2020 at 12:46 am #4167
One more tidbit for those whom enjoy the rabbit hole !!!
Excerpt from program I posted above : “The Coach With the Six Insides,” was the title of a television play seen on the screen of the tavern bar a few hours before the dream. Its vaudeville acts, song and dance numbers, jokes and political references, contribute a theatrical form to the nightmare.“
Is this television a stage prop in Jean Erdman’s production of “The Coach With Six Insides” ?
A television is a cube Coach that conveys the world to us from the outside in then from the inside out … I do so enjoy watching Dance Musicals on it !!!
R CubedOctober 29, 2020 at 6:13 pm #4169Stephen GerringerJoined: August 19, 2016Keymaster
Fascinating as are the stream-of-consciousness rabbit-holes Robert explores, they do tend to pull us off the subject of dance. I’d like to move back in that direction.
All of these actions that we do, without even thinking about them, are the basis of the organized patterns of movement that we call ‘dance’. For example, in the simplest possible description, both samba and salsa are composed of a series of shifts, forward and back, or side-to-side, combined with gestures of hips and shoulders. These basic body actions and their variations of time, space and dynamics are also the basis of a uniquely personal, subtle and complex language of movement that each of us develops over the years— a language that communicates to others because we all have bodies and we all live in the same field of space, time and gravity.”
This brings to mind something I had not previously considered. In the creative and theatrical arts, every artist has her or his own voice, so to speak. Musicians, for example – I instantly recognize Willie Nelson’s singing, or Carlos Santana’s guitar stylings, even on a song I’ve never heard before. And the same song performed by two different singers are far from identical (what immediately springs to mind, because I recently heard Dolly discussing this, is Whitney Houston’s performance of Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” – two different renditions of the same song, each beautiful, each unique to the artist who sings it).
I’m also reminded of a production of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf that my wife and I attended in San Francisco, with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin in the roles performed by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the film version. Of course, the differences between film and stage, as well as the direction, plays a major role here too (as does choreography in dance), but the difference in how different actors interpreted their roles increased my enjoyment of both versions.
Because dance is the artistic form I know the least about, it had not fully occurred to me that the same holds true for this artistic genre. Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Jean Erdman, all bring their own unique “voice” to their art; similarly, I’m realizing that Jean’s performance of Hamadryad would not be the same as yours performing the same movements – that “uniquely personal, subtle and complex language of movement that each of us develops over the years.”
To help me explore that further, would you be able suggest two different internet-accessible performances of the same work by different accomplished dancers? It doesn’t need to be a piece by Jean – just something, anything, to help educate the audience.
Don’t feel compelled, but if something comes to mind, sure would appreciate it.
tie-dyed teller of talesNovember 1, 2020 at 12:16 pm #4186
I think one of the things I enjoy most about theatrical dance and myth is how it personifies the primal forces and dichotomy of nature , anthropomorphizes it into the duality of masculine and feminine . To imbue nature and the Cosmos with these personifications can be breath taking . It can lead an individual to a sense and center of awe and wonder before the mysterium tremendum et fascinans . It can lead an individual to the heights of aesthetic arrest and epiphany where the key and lock fit and the Cosmos opens up as a Cosmic Dance … All possible interpretations collapse into the vision of the dance of pairs of opposites before the monad … all the myths coalesce and diffuse into and from the monomyth in One epic Dreamtime Dance .,,
R³November 2, 2020 at 9:21 pm #4185
Nice to hear your voice in this discussion, as always. Especially gratifying to hear that my latest post stimulated a whole new way of thinking about viewing dance for you.
One of the easiest ways to observe how different dancers bring their unique “voices” to their interpretations of a particular work is by watching a few of the many, many different performances of “The Dying Swan” you can find on the Internet. This short solo was choreographed by Michael Fokine in 1905 for the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova and became a signature piece that she performed around the world. Ever since then, performing it has become an important landmark in a ballet dancer’s career, the way performing Hamlet is for an actor, or playing “Syrinx” is for a flutist.
You can find actual footage of Pavlova dancing it here:
Here is a YouTube video with three different performances by three other great Russian ballerinas:
I’m sure once you begin your search, you will find performances of this solo by contemporary ballerinas in major ballet companies all over the world. During the early months of the pandemic, the America ballerina Misty Copland helped produce a “Zoom-style” video of it danced by quarantined ballerinas from all over the world. It is a bit harder to compare and contrast the performances because you only see little bits of each dancer doing the piece, but it certainly illustrates the point about individual “voice” and it’s just fun to watch. It’s called “Swans for Relief.” You can see it here:
Finally, you might be interested in taking a look at a version of the dance created by the African American “jookin” dancer who goes by the moniker Lil Buck. This is a completely different version of the dance, but it has a similar intention. It certainly illustrates how body type, training, gender, and the era in which a work is created, not to mention temperament and personal “voice”, effect interpretation and in this case, actual choreography. You can see it here:
If you want to go farther down this particular “rabbit hole” you can do similar searches about the following dances by choreographers that Joe discusses in The Ecstasy of Being:
“Mother Etude” (c. 1923) by Isadora Duncan
“Revolutionary Etude” (c. 1923) by Isadora Duncan
“Witch Dance”/“Hexentanz” (1926) by Mary Wigman
“Lamentation” (1930) by Martha Graham
“Appalachian Spring” (1944) by Martha Graham
Duncan didn’t believe that the nascent technology of film could capture the quality of her work, so sadly, we don’t have any films of her dancing, but you can find many different and wonderful interpretations of both “Mother Etude” and “Revolutionary Etude” by more contemporary Duncan dancers on line.
Fortunately, there are at least fragments of film of Wigman in “Witch Dance” also known by its German name, “Hexentanz”. They were part of the wonderful 2013 MOMA exhibit “Inventing Abstraction”. You can find some of them on line. Many contemporary dancers have recreated the work from Labanotation, the written script for dance created by Wigman’s mentor, Rudolph Laban, You can also find some of these performances posted on line.
“Lamentation” is a short, iconic solo choreographed by Martha Graham. Like “The Dying Swan”, learning and performing it has become a landmark step for legions of Graham dancers. Recently, some ballet dancers have even performed this modern dance classic. You can find many versions of it on-line. Finally, a wonderful film of Martha Graham’s “Appalachian Spring” produced by Nathan Kroll in 1959 is available in four parts, on line. The film itself is a classic of dance film. You can compare a portion of that film, starring Graham, with an excerpt of the dance staged more recently on the Opera National de Paris by watching the following two films:
“Appalachian Spring” excerpt/Paris Opera Ballet
Appalachian Spring/ Nathan Kroll version
(The excerpt performed by Paris Opera Ballet begins at 6:31. The excerpt continues in Part 4 of the Kroll version, which should come up automatically when you are watching.)
NancyNovember 3, 2020 at 1:24 am #4197
Thank you for the Dying Swan references and videos . Such beautiful conveyance of grace in the narrative of movement. I enjoy the association to Tennyson’s poem. For me there is a connection using some mental gymnastics to the Led Zeppelin record label Swan Song which leads to the myth of Icarus Daedalus & “by a commodius vicus of recirculation back” to James Joyce . Oh the streams of consciousness the River Liffey and ALP the pinnacle of the highest order of conversation. I would think a connection to Leda could also be drawn ? And the mythic symbolism of the Swan ? The Swan does figure in symbolism of alchemy. Which is a archetypical narrative that does complement the Dance of The Dying Swan. The Dance does articulate the personification of the consciousness of entropy … the dissipation evaporation of the disciplined ordered movement of life’s animation. Death 💀 doth make disciples of All Life … Life is born with the seed of death in its loins …
lil Buck interpretation is mesmerizing!!! I wonder what the old guard , “let them eat cake crowd“, has to say ?
R³November 3, 2020 at 2:05 pm #4198
Thank you for your Appalachian Spring selection. For me it leads to visions of Billy Ray & Molly Cyrus. Those icons of post modern Appalachia affected by the advent of the TV and the influence it projected on all segments of society culture and civilization. Amazing what a little cube of disruptive technology and vision can do. Tele vision is a Coach that can transport anywhere … Who was that Cyrus The Great ??? Boogidy !
I do like the double entendre implicit in spring, a source of life giving water and a season of new life birth renewal metempsychosis …
R³November 15, 2020 at 6:43 pm #4251
Dear Fellow Dance & Myth Enthusiasts,
Sorry to have been unable to comment on your responses to my last post. It has been an unbelievably busy and stressful time for me, as I imagine it has been for many of you, too. I was delighted to see that some of you had the time to watch the video links I shared about individual style in dance interpretation and that they inspired new thoughts and connections for you.
Robert’s comment about enjoying theatrical dances that deal with myth by “personifying the primal forces and dichotomy of nature, anthropomorphizing it into the duality of masculine and feminine” reminded me of Jean’s 1950 dance “Solstice”. Superficially, the dance is a created myth in which the Sun Lion, and the Moon Bull battle for the love/dominance of the Bride of Spring. But for Jean, these two antagonistic animal figures meeting at the solstice, represented the psychic forces of an inner struggle she said occurred “at the time of heart’s renewal”.
Jean relates the origin story of this dance in Part 2 of the video archive series, Dance & Myth: The World of Jean Erdman. It all began in a conversation with Joe in which he proposed the idea that anything could be used as the basis for a dance. As an example, Joe offered the infinity symbol and the two began playfully sketching all the variations of patterns inherent in the horizontal figure-of-eight. At the same time, Jean happened to be reading a book about ancient solstice celebrations and so figure-of-eight floor patterns, as well as, cross-lateral figure-of-eight movements within the body became the basis of her choreography for this creative image of The Great Round.
For me, the dance and the story of its origin are wonderful examples of why Jean was lauded by New York Times chief dance critic Anna Kisselgoff as one of the choreographers of her generation responsible for “the more abstract direction that marks modern dance to this day”— a distinction for which I think both Jean and Joe would both be quite pleased!
So, I’m taking this opportunity to remind you that you can see an example of how Jean combined abstraction and archetypal, mythic content in dance in “The Transformations of Medusa” as part of the American Dance Guild’s “10 Years Over 10 Weeks Festival”. Free and unlimited access to the videotaped live performance begins November 23 and continues through November 29. The link to the festival is listed in one of my previous posts, but you can also find the festival easily by “googling”: American Dance Guild 2020 Festival.
I look forward to reading your responses to it!
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