Word Dance Theater hasn’t done a Fringe since 2008 so I wanted to do it this year. We always meet new people and pick up new audiences.
Also, I like the “low tech” quality of the Fringe and I felt it would give me the freedom to explore some new ideas.
At the same time, I didn’t want to create a completely new evening of work…there wasn’t enough time between January and July to do that.
Lastly, but so importantly, I had been and am always pondering the human condition…what does it mean to be a human and not a robot, for instance? What makes us distinctly human? How will we recognize humans in the future when artificial intelligence is very sophisticated and our machines can look and act completely like humans? For Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul, I posit that it’s our creativity that makes Homo Sapiens uniquely human. And I take the leap of connecting creativity to soul/spirit and will power. And I posit that all of us humans are endowed with a soul.
As I was reading and researching around those questions I was also remembering the 24 Preludes, Chopin’s moving masterpieces which Word Dance Theater performed in 2010 with Isadora Duncan’s original choreography to all of the Preludes. The dances are deeply human, The dancer must enter many different emotional landscapes in order to perform the dances well. The dances are as much theater as they are dance in that sense. And I began to yearn to do them again and to live out again my own soulfulness through them.
Word Dance Theater always mixes dance, spoken word, and music when creating new works. When we performed the Preludes in 2010 we called the show “Preludes: Duncan, Sand, and Chopin” Mary Hall Surface wrote an amazing play about how Chopin composed the Preludes while in Majorca with George Sand, his lover. We performed the Preludes woven into the play.
For the Capital Fringe I decided to re-mount the Preludes, but this time I wanted to weave in and among the Preludes contemporary stories taken from the news. So we have this classical music and dance contextualized by stories of immigration, school shootings, abandonment, etc. We examine the darkest of human emotions as well as the power of redemption.
Another idea I wanted to play with was that the dancers would be the storytellers and when not dancing or storytelling, they would be witnessing. So the 3 dancers in the cast never leave the stage. They are either dancing or witnessing or storytelling. This creates a sort of “container” with no coming and going. I think that heightens the intensity. It allows the dancers to experience emotions through the literalness of story, the abstraction of music and dance, and detachment of observation.
Did I mention that the Preludes are played by famed pianist Carlos Rodrigues who is spectacular! He is every bit as much a dancer as the dancers. And the dancers….Ingrid Zimmer, Hannah Goldberg, Jenifer Golden, Jordan Gehley, Rebecca Lallande, and myself are all trained in the technique and philosophy of Isadora Duncan, the great American boundary-breaker who is considered the mother of Modern Dance. It is a technique that demands passion and power and, most of all, humanness from the dancer. This cast is incandescent within these soulful stories, music and dance.
Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul is my latest thought of what it means to be fully human, to be connected to one another by our stories, songs, and dances of pain, brokenness, innocence, and triumph. To be connected by our Souls.
Cynthia Word is the Founder and Artistic Director of Word Dance Theater a non-profit performing arts organization founded in 2000. Based in Washington, DC, Ms. Word and Word Dance Theater create Isadora Duncan-based dance/theater productions, blending compelling story, live music, contemporary choreography and the dances of Isadora Duncan to create theatrical productions that are powerfully engaging to audiences.