return to coma

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It’s almost the start of week 2 back in the studio and friends, I am sore. Physically aching head to toe, but bursting with warm fuzzies deep in my chest, just left of center. Every time my heart pumps I swear it’s in time with Arvö Part’s hypnotic score. That’s right, Coma returns this winter, and I am feeling every single one of the feels.

I suppose it’s strange to feel such joy in working on such a truly sad piece. But many of my most profound artistic experiences have been tied up in tears. From Moonlight to Micaela, darkness has summoned some stellar inner light. And Coma has certainly inspired me before…

So here are some past Coma ramblings, if you’re interested.

viktorisms.

strange comfort.

swinging.

the space between.

press play

What an incredible, transformative experience it was to dance Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma.  I ranted so much about the ballet when we were rehearsing, staging and performing it, I thought some of you may be interested in seeing the small compilation of excerpts released by FBP shortly after the show.  It truly does not do the ballet justice the way seeing it in person would, but it does offer a nice peek at the strange beauty of Viktor’s style as well as the intense darkness of this particular work.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed dancing it!

strange comfort

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Sprawled downstage center, eyes closed and hoodie zipped, I waited with my fellow coma patients to repeat the same 8 counts for what would be the…sixth time?  By now my energy had expired and I was losing track of the process.  The staging for Coma requires more planning, practice, and precise execution than most ballets, and packing one’s patience is essential.

I craned my neck over to the left and raised my eyelids to half-mast, noticing that Alex’s motionless body had adopted a similar sense of relaxation.  Despite a conventionally unpleasant setting, rumpled on a cold, hard floor with harsh lights jabbing at our tired limbs, the simple comfort in our presence was obvious.  Testing the limits of this strange comfort, I made the conscious decision to direct my sight up into the cool blue lights glowing above me.  Staring into their gleam, I realized how relatively unaffected my retinas were, if not slightly soothed by the familiarity of this specific brilliance. I made a note to myself, to channel this bizarre relaxation in the final movement of Coma, when our unconscious hearts replace the reality of their suspension with the bliss of a restful place.

swing into theatre week

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Last year I flew, suspended by a harness and some thin wire, up over the stage and off to Neverland, hand-in-hand with a magical boy whose very essence seemed to hold the key to eternal youth.  This year, my stiff body swings motionless to the sound of tolling bells while my unreachable mind mistakes hospital fluorescents for a warm sun in its dreaming, comatose state.  Although it seems contrast roosts at their core, these two “stunts” both required a special rehearsal in the theatre prior to the official onset of tech week.  And rehearse we did…

Last night the 6 dancers of Coma involved in the swinging segments (4 coma patients, 2 “Dark Angels”) headed to The Vets to bring one of this ballet’s most defining elements to fruition.  Inspired by this image from the 1978 film of the same name, Coma uses floating swings, dramatic moving lights and the commanding combination of stirring strings with sparse arpeggios to leave a lasting effect on its audience.  Have I mentioned that I cannot wait to perform it?

for tickets.

PS- Follow along with FBP’s instagram @festivalballetprovidence as I do a bit of a theatre-week-takeover!

PPS- A great article shedding some perceptive light on Coma here.

PPS- Check out my interview alongside Coma choreographer Viktor Plotnikov on The Rhode Show here.

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in the studio: coma

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I thought it would be fun to share some rehearsal photos from Coma, a ballet I can’t seem to ever get enough of.  Last year when we did Boundless Plotnikov, I posted a rambling of “viktorisms”, little tidbits of interesting language used throughout the rehearsal process.  More of a random narrative for my own personal archives than an engaging article, the post proved to be pretty fun to write, so I thought I’d do another, Coma edition, to accompany these rehearsal shots.  A bit darker than last year’s rant, I’ll admit, but this is a state of comatose we’re talking about now…

“Get out of your skin.”  Viktor describes the entrapped feeling of an unchangeable disaster like being suffocated in a prison of your own body.  He often asks dancers to perform movements as if they are desperately trying to escape this invisible chokehold, scratching their skin down to the bones always driven by frustration and sadness, never anger.

Hollow bodies, we ghost from one point to another.  Like a “glitch” in a computer screen, you never quite see us until we’ve assembled, and even then we are “transparent”.

Empty metal cubes form a frame for the passage from our world to theirs.  They are tangled and bound up in it, unable to pass through, but with a bit or urgency I am staring straight into a line of grieving loved ones shrugging why.

A stark contrast, the third movement often references “our childhoods”, wiggling our toes up to the sky like babies who see their feet for the first time every time they catch a glimpse of the great toed-wonders.  We feel the sun on our faces in a dream we wish to never wake from.

Octopus, citizens and green cards, screaming through your hand, half crucifix/half wings, big mama, pulling on the reins, petrushka, and pinocchios.

For tickets to see Juxtapose.

all photos by Dylan Giles for Festival Ballet Providence.

the space between

This post was inspired by Viktor Plotnikov’s choreography, Arvo Pärt’s brilliant composition (I recommend clicking here to listen along while you read), and the enigma of the comatose.
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listless in every sense,
a state of chronic quiescence.
explicitly numb and seemingly unaware of all circumstance,
dormancy has never existed so overtly.

 

deafened by cryptic disfunction,
inanimated without consent,
involuntarily absent from existence,
this paralysis solicits no invitation.

 

an aleatory boarding onto
a train with no destination,
no schedule, and no track,
only its passengers are bound.

 

the persistent innominate “they” say
ignorance is bliss, but
only those who constantly travel
without ever advancing know:
enlightenment exhales elation.

 

so rhythm compensates,
and euphoria hangs in the balance, where
our passengers gently swing,
sweeping in the space between.

 

poetry by me, photo by Madeline Issa.

losing my senses

Viktor

I can still remember with remarkable clarity, the first time I saw Viktor Plotnikov’s Coma.  I was 13 and a member of the Junior Company at FBP, which relegated me to the very first row of the theater, waiting with the other young dancers to deliver bouquets to the principals at the end of the show.  Not ideal seating for a ballet, but secretly, it was exactly where I wanted to be.

When the curtain rose for Coma, the entire audience hung breathless.  Dancers swung just feet above the stage, their horizontal bodies cutting through the air like blades.  The effect was startling, so striking and beautiful that I actually felt deaf for a moment.  Visual imagery overwhelmed me and for a moment all I could do was see it.  But I was seeing not in the traditional method of perception through retinal observation; I was not looking, I was seeing it.  Not observing, but absorbing.

Moments later, a bell chimed, waking my ears from their momentary impedance, and the dancers abruptly rose from their positions.  A haunting oscillation between silence and sound flooded my eardrums, and I realized the visual components, though stunning, may not even be my favorite part of this ballet.  It took me about 16 seconds to fall in love with Arvo Pärt’s tragically beautiful music, particularly Spiegel im spiegel, used in the end of the ballet.  After a number of difficult movements depicting heartache, sadness, and the grief of the living, two of the “coma” dancers (the ballet is split into “coma patients” and “visitors”) dance together with a dream-like serenity that plucks you up out of your seat and into the weightless world of a vast oblivion.  It’s delicate and devastating.  A completely heedless surrender to the bliss that envelopes the unaware moribund.  Profound in its simplicity, and harrowing in its youthful intonation.  I was transfixed.  So much so, that my plucky little teenage self mustered the courage to approach the great Viktor Plotnikov (after performing my flower delivery duties, of course) to let him know how much the ballet moved me, and also to ask for a bit of insight into the plotline and inspiration.  In the true Plotnikov fashion that I would become all too familiar with in years to come, Viktor simply replied, “Tell me what do you think it is about?”  And then I was speechless.

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Eight years later, the ballet is being revived for the third time, after being performed the season following its premiere upon popular audience request to see it again, and then traveling to Venezuela with the company several years later.  FBP doesn’t perform Coma until this spring, but my entire season has secretly revolved around whether or not I would be cast in the masterpiece which struck my senses so intimately all those years ago.  I invite you to imagine my sheer elation when I learned that not only was I cast in the ballet, but I would be dancing the very part which taught my eyes to see  music, the final pas de deux to Spiegel im spiegel.  It’s an honor that I don’t take lightly, and although we’ve already begun setting the ballet, I am extremely anxious to begin rehearsals with Viktor this week.  I hope to uncover more clarity in my own divulgence into this ballet, but this quote from Mr. Plotnikov during the early stages of Coma’s choreography does shed some light on the subject:

“This ballet is abstract, but with a deep emotional quality I think people will be drawn to. The piece portrays the difficult feelings friends and family experience when a loved one is in a comatose state, and flipping the coin, also depicts the vision I have of those actually in the coma. I feel the mind of one in a coma is a beautiful place to be, as is the transition to the next place. Arvo Part’s music is important to the piece, an amazing composer who gives both the notes and the silence equal weight. This is very appealing to a choreographer such as myself. I feel extremely fortunate to have been granted the rights to the music for this piece, as it’s not easily given.”  (Dance Magazine)

It seems the music was just as vital to Viktor’s creation as it was to my artistic awakening.  Stay tuned for more on this enigmatic masterpiece…

sneak peak here, photos via here and here.