THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
MYTH AND SYMBOL:
AN EXPLORATION OF DANCE DRAMATURGY AS INSPIRED BY SARAH RUHL’S, EURYDICE
A CONCERT PROPOSAL SUBMITTED TO
DAN WAGONER, DOUGLAS CORBIN, PATTY PHILLIPS AND RUSSELL SANDIFER
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
THE MASTERS OF FINE ARTS IN DANCE
21 NOVEMBER 2011
The ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of love, reunion, musical seduction, death and the mystifying balance between the underworld (fantasy) and overworld (reality). One such version of this myth, Sarah Ruhl’s, Eurydice, tackles these themes through a contemporary feminist view in which she explores the often-conflicting nature of human intuition. Ruhl writes through the character of Eurydice, sculpting the narrative through feminine eyes while taking the reader through a journey that quintessentially delves into the internal struggle for self-identity. Throughout Ruhl’s play, several symbols represent the essence of the human condition including such themes as the magnetism of love and death, re-education and remembrance and simply the interplay between actual and magical happenings, which act as “clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life” (Campbell, 5). By interpreting Ruhl’s thematic approach to the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, I aim to create a personal dance dramaturgical method that helps provide the foundation for a clearer choreographic process that has the potential to be used as a framework within future choreographic works. The outcome of this research will be shown in several live dance performances that will include a stimulating culmination of the dramaturgical findings accrued throughout the process.
The word dramaturgy is borrowed from the Greek word dramatourgia, which in essence means “action of a play.” Gotthold Ephram Lessing, a German critic, conceived dramaturgy as an artistic practice in the late 1770’s. Lessing’s dramaturgical discoveries were first born at the Hamburg National Theatre, as he was the theatre critic at that time. His collection of writings, including theoretical essays, were read and translated as the first idea of determining the essence of a play, including the text and staging. Dramaturgy as a profession was mostly confined to study and conversations outside of the rehearsal or stage space. It wasn’t until the 1920’s and 30’s, when a playwright and dramaturge named Bertolt Brecht moved the entire research process from secluded study to the active rehearsal involving the director as well as the various collaborators of the production (set designer, costumer, etc.). From Germany, dramaturgy spread throughout Europe, but remained strictly a profession of theatre, until the 20th century a partnership formed, also in Germany, that ignited an entirely new genre of dance to take shape, dance-theatre, and the idea of dramaturgy in dance organically took its course.
This celebrated and most widely known dramaturge/choreographer collaboration was between Pina Bausch and Raimond Hoghe in the 1980’s. Hoghe says of dramaturgy, “For me, in dramaturgy you have to come from one point to the other and you have to know why. That’s something everybody has to find out. There is no recipe or so. For me it has to be clear how you come from one point to the other, and that you can repeat it easily… this outthinking. The dramaturgy has to be so clear, that you can just jump into the piece” (In an interview posted to the Dance-Tech blog on July 16, 2009). This relationship, somewhat foreign to the popular American dance scene, has spurred many collaborations in Europe, eventually emerging into the American modern dance field. This demonstrated a new way of working between dancers and choreographers. Synne K. Berhndt describes the process as, “One interpretation of this (dance dramaturgy) would be that choreographers, as well as dancers, have taken ownership of the discourse and have sought to reconfigure traditional processes of production and to engage directly with the politics and dramaturgy of their own art form. Pina Bausch’s decision to involve the dancers in the creation of the performance dramaturgy by asking them to respond to questions rather than choreographing ‘onto’ their bodies marks a crucial dramaturgical decision” (Bernhdt, 188).
Just recently, in New York City, The Joyce Theatre began a new initiative, pairing choreographers with dramaturges to facilitate a new sense of collaboration in the dance field. There are two phases of the program dividing three choreographer/dramaturge pairings into a Developmental Phase and another three choreographer/dramaturge pairings into a Planning Phase. The choreographers are all considered modern dance choreographers and NYC based; the dramaturges have worked in the modern dance as well as theatre fields, including Katherine Profeta who has a ten year long dramaturgical relationship with choreographer/artist Ralph Lemon. This initiative, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Cultural Innovation Fund and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, acknowledges the importance of dance dramaturgy as part of the creative process.
The dance field has been my most comfortable environment to create in, however during my dramaturgy studies at FSU, I was struck by a whimsical play, Eurydice, which sparked my interest to consider using the text or the embedded themes in the play as a catalyst for a new dance work. Eurydice is written by contemporary playwright, Sarah Ruhl, and became the conceptual stimulus of my research project. Ruhl takes the traditional Orpheus and Eurydice myth, which is seen through the eyes of Orpheus and puts Eurydice as the protagonist of the play. Eurydice’s narrative is strong and inquisitive, pronouncing her uneasiness with conforming to the reality in which she exists, allowing her room to fluctuate between fantasy and reality. There is a sense of movement in Ruhl’s writing that likens itself to poetry and the pull of tides and leaves an essence of reflection to one’s own life. Ruhl also uses an organization of props and set design throughout the play to exemplify the magical themes portrayed, such as a raining elevator, a baptismal River of Forgetfulness and a taunting chorus of stones.
The main themes I have chosen to explore throughout this dramaturgical research include: love and death, re-education and remembrance, fantasy and reality and water as portraying the mind. Love and death are marked as rights of passage, one being a passage into matrimony, the other a passage into and out of the underworld. Re-education and remembrance are fascinating themes that involve the River of Forgetfulness (the River Lethe) and the idea that we may not remember a translatable language to communicate exact words, but we are able to communicate the feeling of a particular memory. Questions associated with these themes include: Do you associate memories with words, symbols, sounds or feelings? Do certain relationships help you remember? Fantasy and reality depict themselves as manifestations of the overworld (reality) and the underworld (fantasy). Many of the questions about life that Eurydice questions exist between these two worlds and are examples of universal human experiences. Water is a continuous element within these themes and resembles a constant mind in flux. Water is thought of as a mode of transportation not only from one physical place to another but also emulates the movement of thought.
This work is being conducted in order to satisfy a personal as well as professional need. As a former professional modern dancer working in a traditional company model (Ellis Wood Dance), it was clear that there was a trend for intelligent, integrated and creatively stimulated dancers in the current modern dance field. Being classically trained, the mode of learning choreography rarely identified that the individual dancer would need to enable his or her sense of self-inquiry. Instead choreographers expected dancers to simply “do what is told and copy”. Through my experience in the professional modern dance field this classical model was personally unfulfilling and outdated among other choreographers and working artists. I found that the way to penetrate this current, more investigative process, was to research extensively on Ellis Wood Dance’s background, including the style of choreography and the symbolism it portrayed, the reflective nature of the company’s feedback sessions and the deeply personal investment and self inquiry that was apparent in the daily rehearsals. Through this, I unknowingly involved myself in a dramaturgical process.
At the time, the term “dramaturgy” was non-existent in my small circle of the dance field. It was not until I began to pursue a graduate degree that I started to reflect on my personal modes of exploration while in the modern dance company and relate them to theatrical dramaturgical studies. I found that if there were a reliable approach to a personal dance dramaturgy process, then these findings could potentially bring an “understandability”, not just the intrigue of dance, to the audience and community, as well as the dancers/performers/collaborators involved.
This unexpected path into dramaturgy has led me to question the usefulness of dramaturgy in the dance field. As a choreographer, I am looking to solidify an organic approach to creating work, but an approach that can be flexible enough to shift as each project demands. Dramaturgy’s application to choreography may unlock the key to this personal quest, which is the reason I will undertake this project. I believe that, through an intensive dramaturgical approach, I will uncover a personal movement language and articulate a clear choreographic process that will not only guide me throughout this research project, but may also ground my artistic career.
While these reasons are personal, the field of dance would also benefit from solidifying its relationship to dramaturgy. Many professional choreographers are beginning to rely more and more on dramaturges to assist in an ongoing reflective process. Because this relationship is still new, it is necessary to continue to delve into a creative process that draws from both disciplines. Doing so opens up the dance field to embrace new choreographic methods and question the assumed hierarchical structure of choreographer and dancer.
Theatre dramaturgy has accumulated a large body of documented information and research material since its early inception in the 18th century. However, if one were to look into the body of work dedicated to dance dramaturgy specifically in the present time, there are few items to reference in comparison. Through this project I hope to contribute research that will highlight the validity of a dance and dramaturgy partnership to add to the current dance field by implementing a dramaturgical foundation in my choreographic process.
Dance dramaturgy is a new subject to most artists in the dance field, but budding in popularity because of the changing nature of dance. Since its emphasis is on process rather than product, it has fit very comfortably into current choreographers’ working habits that rely heavily on movement exploration and symbolism instead of a set of ideas that will result in a preconceived outcome. Synne K. Berhndt comments that, “…the implication is not that dramaturgy has made dance better; rather, the point is that explicit attention to dramaturgy has facilitated a modification of attitudes to process and approach” (Bernhdt, 190). This process is what I intend to bring as support to my choreographic approach. This addition will clearly articulate my ideas, expressed through movement, in order to create a body of work using Eurydice’s themes as a catalyst.
The decision to use Sarah Ruhl’s, Eurydice, is a personal choice that began as a whimsical response to the language in the play. Through the reading of Joseph Campbell’s, The Power of Myth, I was enlightened to the fact that myth is still ever present in our lives today and in my opinion, still desired. This affirmed my idea that I could use a similar thematic approach, guided by Ruhl, to uncover my own choreographic process through using dance dramaturgy as my foundation, exemplifying that the need for myth in society is very present. Bill Moyers asks in The Power of Myth, “Who interprets unseen things for us?” Joseph Campbell replies, “It is the function of the artist to do this. The artist is the one who communicates myth for today.” (Campbell, 99).
Description of Project
Since the idea of this project is to apply a dance dramaturgy framework, incorporating the themes of Eurydice, to form a clearer choreographic process, , the Deconstructivist, Post-Positivist mode of inquiry will be used. As stated in Jill Green and Susan W. Stinson’s, “Postpositivist Research in Dance”, “Postpositivists…..construct reality according to how we are positioned in the world, and that how we see reality and truth is related to the perspective from which we are looking” (Green & Stinson, 93). This statement is in accordance with André Lepecki’s statement in “Dance Dramaturgy: Speculations and Reflections”, “The ‘external eye,’ an expression that so frequently describes the position of the dramaturge in dance (and, quite interestingly for me, is not invoked so much in other dramaturges) reminds me of Descartes before writing his “Meditations,” experimenting with eyes from corpses, and trying to understand perception through these dead eyes. As if perception was a detachable function, independent from the rest of the body, mind, soul and passion.” In Deconstructionist terms, Patti Lather states, “…the deconstructionist researcher seeks ways to display multiple realities,…this is done in order to juxtapose alternative representations and foreground the very constructed nature of our knowing” (Green &Stinson 90). Using Laban Movement Analysis and Feminism, I hope to uncover the mythical symbols and storytelling that occur in the themes of Sarah Ruhl’s, Eurydice and as Marianne Van Kerkhoven states, “know how to deal with the material, whatever its origin may be-” (Berhndt, 187).
Laban Movement Analysis will be used in two forms. The first is the widely known LMA concepts based on shape and effort. Mary Alice Brennan states in her essay, “Every Little Movement Has A Meaning All Its Own”, “Laban Movement Analysis provides a vocabulary for describing, in particular, the qualitative features of movement; that is, ‘how’ movement is executed” (Green & Stinson, 288). By observing how the dancers are initiating movement, where the impulse for shape and effort are coming from, a clearer path will arise and lead to a parallel trajectory of the themes, rather than regarding the movement and the themes as two separate entities. This is where the second form of Laban Movement Analysis takes shape. Besides uncovering the effort of the movement and the quality of the movement sequence, a symbolic interpretation and more dramaturgical approach will be used to sum up the meaning of these movements. This will assist in the excavation of the dancers’ personal experiences (stories) in accordance with the themes being used from Eurydice. Elena Fernandez says in the essay “Dance, Dramaturgy and Dramaturgical Thinking,” that “the body is posited as a system of meanings constructed socially and culturally. The body is not a neutral container of ‘pure’ abstract (non-) expression; rather, we need to consider the body as a proposition of dramaturgical content that is simultaneously inscribed and performed” (Bernhdt, 189). All of these practices will be recorded, by video and sound, separately, to keep the distinction between movement and text, not simply to replicate the choreography or ideas.
There is also a sub area of research that won’t be dis-cluded and that is movement style. Brennan defines style as, “…the predominant, distinctive, and replicated movement features that characterize a person, a choreographer’s work, or a dance form” (Green & Stinson, 294). This sub area will help clarify my own creative process as previously stated and sharpen the idea I have of my particular choreographic style and movement affectations.
The Feminist inquiry is included because of the significance of Eurydice as the main character of this play. Historically, this myth is spoken from the Orpheus character and comments on his love and obsession with Eurydice. There is much intrigue into why Eurydice, on the day of her wedding, ran into a group of men (satyrs) and when trying to escape, was bitten on the heel by a snake and died. The story unfolds as Orpheus’s plight to save Eurydice from the underworld and bring her back to live with him in the overworld, a second birth to life. Consequently, an untrusting Orpheus looks back to make sure Eurydice is indeed following him, and at that moment she fades away, never to live again. Sarah Ruhl writes from the point of view of Eurydice, an empowered female making specific decisions throughout the story, each decision having significance on her fate, not based on happenstance. Because of the historic nature of this myth, there will be consideration of the female Greek figure, however more inquiry will be placed on the female in the current time and place in which the play was written, United States in 2003. This feminist inquiry links nicely with the semiotic theory in what scholar Teresa de Lauretis argues that, “The cultural conceptions of male and female as two complimentary yet mutually exclusive categories into which all human beings are placed constitute within each culture a gender system, a symbolic system or system of meanings, that correlates sex to cultural contents according to values and hierarchies” (Green & Stinson, 310). The dancers, female and male, will be asked in accordance to specific sections of the play, “How would you react?”, “Why is it similar or different to Eurydice?” and “Do you think your answer would change based on class, gender, race and sexuality?” By work- shopping these questions along with the dramaturgical framework, I aim to assimilate this feminist inquiry to the experiences of Eurydice’s character and track similar personal experiences within all genders of the dancers being used.
Part 1: Research
The beginning of my project will center on further research into dramaturgy and its applications in the dance field (what dance projects have utilized dance dramaturgy, how did they do so, and were they successful projects?). This time will also be useful for collecting materials about the general areas my work will address: myth, storytelling, movement (LMA) and semiotics, as well as contextual research concerning Sarah Ruhl, her Eurydice, and scholarship about the original Orpheus and Eurydice myth.
Part 2: Develop Framework
Dramaturgy is a process that fluctuates from one creative work to another, however, since the intention of my research is to clarify my choreographic process, I will develop a personal framework that emphasizes the tools of dramaturgy that I have gathered from books such as, Ghost Light, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre’s documents for actor engagement, previous rehearsal notes where I acted as a dramaturge and successful strategies used by Dr. Ben Gunter.
Part 3: Apply Framework
Applying the framework to the research process will emerge in a threefold process The first task will be to apply this framework to the research of Sarah Ruhl and the themes present in Eurydice. I intend to read through Eurydice and write down the perspectives of each character in relation to Eurydice, asking questions such as, What is the relationship between Orpheus and Eurydice in the opening scene and how can this relate to my present life? What can I relate it to on a larger more worldly scale? I aim to pinpoint specific elements of the human condition associated with those of Eurydice and match them with respective symbols and themes within the play. Themes, such as relationships, memories, loss, grief and comfort, will be used to prompt personal written stories, with myself, and the performers involved in the choreographic process. The dramaturgical framework that will be created will be applied to these stories for a personal thematic/character analysis.
The second application of the framework will be within the myth research. I will be using The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell as a reflective guide (dramaturgy) throughout this process, using his insightful background regarding myth and how it pertains to current society, exemplifying the need for Ruhl’s contemporary version of Eurydice. I aim to use the intended dramaturgical framework as a way to connect potent symbols to important stories in the performer’s lives to the structure of a myth, something that can remembered easily, that is vibrant and strong. This framework will again hope to extract the most needed material for optimum clarity.
The third part of the framework is the creation of a dance packet. The material within the packet will consist of a brief background of my initial inspiration for this research, the original Orpheus and Eurydice myth, a plot summary of Sarah Ruhl’s, Eurydice, summarized discussion notes from the participants, images sound bites and any other inspired information that will act as an information hub for the participants to refer to. The dancer packets will begin in this phase of the research, but will continue through the choreographic process as well.
Part 4: Choreographic Process
This process will consist of two sections, the workshop phase and the rehearsal phase, which will begin in January of 2012 and conclude in August of 2012. The workshop phase will begin in the studio. I will conduct a one week to two week intensive where instead of focusing primarily on choreographic invention, dialogue and movement exploration based on the dramaturgical framework from the previously mentioned applications will be explored. These include: a storyboard of visual themes associated to the information found thus far, examining Eurydice’s perspective in chosen themes through the physical exercises from Liz Lerman’s, Toolbox. One example of this is directing the dancers to respond to specific experiences within the play. The dancer will be given slips of paper, on one side will be text from the play on the other side will be written the theme for that text (e.g.: love and death). The dancers will then have a short, timed period to “respond” in effort to communicate this text to another dancer. The dancers will be paired together, show the responses and the observer will interpret what he/she believes the movement is saying.
The dancer packets will be updated during this phase as well, including pertinent information that accumulated through the various types of creative exploration. Intermittently throughout this phase, I hope to have discussions with Dr. Ben Gunter, dramaturge, on how dramaturgy is being woven into the workshop as well as feedback on the dramaturgical framework and ideas being implemented.
The second phase will begin largely with movement invention in the studio. Each participant
will generate a personal movement vocabulary based on the findings from the workshop. The movement is meant to physically embody these findings with a deep association with what these findings might feel like as well as what they might look like and what the differences are between each participant. This phase includes the work from the second application of Part 3: Applying Framework, using the symbols that represent the participant’s life, in movement form. This phase will integrate the dramaturgical process of Pina Bausch that André Lepecki quotes from his essay, “Dance Without Distance,” “By positioning the dancer in the place of producer of knowledge rather than passive recipient of previously elaborated steps, and by allowing the dancers’ expressivity to escape from the self contained realm of “pure movement”, Bausch was
changing the entire epistemological stability of the dance field” (Lepecki, 3).
Part 5: Moments of Reflection
This will be an important step dramaturgically, to see what specific structural parts of the framework that were implemented, worked well and efficiently and what can be discarded. A few questions from the conference “Conversations in Choreography” may help facilitate a general list of reflective dramaturgical questions including: What is the impact of the dramaturge? Is dramaturgy interference, intrusion or is it filling in where there is a lack of some kind? Does it perform a need for the market of dance making? Is the dramaturge a translator, interrogator, a ‘prober’, interpreter or provocateur? Does dramaturgy function as a support in the lonely act of making or does it split the body of the choreographer in two (or multiple persons)?
It is equally important to make time to reflect on the movement invention and choreographic structure of the work in process, as this should reflect a clearer vision of what material is most potent and what is unnecessary. This reflective period allows for written documentation (in journal form) on the successfulness of the dramaturgy framework and choreographic process and what are the areas of improvement. This written documentation can be referenced when undertaking a new project. The idea of personal reflection resembles Joseph Campbell’s idea of sacred space. He says, “This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and who you might be. This is the place of creative incubation” (Campbell, 92).
The majority of the research will consist of primary and secondary sources based on three elements: dramaturgy, movement analysis, and myth (since these are three major elements to be used in the creative process). The dramaturgical research will consist mainly of books and journal articles, movement analysis will consist of the Laban Movement Analysis method and Liz Lerman’s company website, (www.danceexchange.com), where I will access her Toolbox, and myth will be referenced through books as well, primarily The Power of Myth and Myth and Philosophy.
Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy, which will serve as a pocket guide for the dramaturgical process and assist in creating a framework for the creative process. The framework will include The Twelve Step Program for Script Analysis and other chapters that highlight the following procedures: Enact the tasks in rehearsal, Facilitate the process of exploration, Look for emerging patterns, Record the journey, Watch in place of an audience, Ask questions. I will use prompting exercises from Milwaukee Repertory Theatre’s production of Eurydice that investigate personal reactions to the themes in Eurydice. An example being: Generate a list of myths, writing down the main idea and analyze the symbols and philosophy of those myths. Does your life story reflect any one of these?
Other sources such as André Lepecki’s essay, “Dance Without Distance,” explain the necessity to break down aesthetic barriers between dancers, choreographers and other collaborators. This essay sheds light on the importance of involving an outside party such as a dramaturge into the creative process. Because of the newly evolving field of dance dramaturgy, there are blogs and websites continually updating information on dramaturgy conferences and working models for dramaturgy. An example being, http://ee.dramaturgy.co.uk/images/uploads/Directors_Toolkit.pdf , of which a director’s toolkit is provided to explain the working relationship between director (or choreographer) and dramaturge.
Also, ongoing dialogues called “Conversations on Choreography” about dance in dramaturgy, reprinted in Dance Theatre Journal, include an open dialogue between André Lepecki, Myriam van Imschoot and Heidi Gilpin, prominent dramaturges in the dance and theatre fields. This article also includes Patrice Pavis’s listing of a summary of responsibilities of the theatre dramaturge, which will be used to support a dialogue with FSU dramaturge, Dr. Ben Gunter.
Barber, Elizabeth Wayland and Paul T. Barber. When They Severed Earth From Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2004.
There are four principles that are stated as “mytho-linguistic” including, Silence, Analogy, Compression and Restructuring in When They Severed Earth from Sky. Before the written word, stories were formed in ways the mind could best remember and retell with enough dramatization so that the listener would also be able to remember and share the story’s importance. The retelling may not actualize the realistic events, but instead symbolize the information. The chapters that will be researched are, Time Capsules, a basic description of how our brains act as time capsules through generations of storytelling, The Silence Principle: of Lethe and the Golden Calf, stating that what remains silent may eventually be forgotten entirely, Metaphoric Reality: Magic and Dreams, which explains The Principle of Metaphoric Reality being, “The distinction between representation and referent-and between appearance and reality-tends to become blurred” and Restructuring: New Patterns for Old, stating that when there is cultural or societal change there will be a natural changed response in the way the information (or stories) are transmitted. These chapters will be used decide what out of the text I would like to be seen in movement terms and how I might tell my version of the themes presented in a story like form.
Bausch, Pina. “Orphee and Eurydice,” DVD. Directed by Christoph W. Gluck. Paris: Bel Air Classiques, 2009.
Pina Bausch’s version of the Orpheus myth is set to an operatic score and choreographed on The Paris Opera Ballet. The main point for looking at this choreography is to extract dramaturgical impulses Bausch had from the original myth using mimetic symbols and what personal inflection she kept that is so specific to Bausch’s style. This is significant because of the choreographer/dramaturge relationship of Pina Bausch and Raymond Hoghe. The interpretation of the set design will be looked at for inspiration as well as the “Greek” aspects of spatial design and groupings (e.g.: chorus of stones).
Berhndt, Synne K. “Dance, Dramaturgy and Dramaturgical Thinking.” Contemporary Theatre Review 20 (2010: 185-196.
Berhndt explains the current state of dance dramaturgy in the dance field and how it combines the dancer, dramaturge, choreographer and also the dramaturgical process of the production of a piece. She includes many working dramaturges comments on the positive influence of dance dramaturgy and what they feel is important to contribute as a dramaturge in the rehearsal process. This article gives sufficient context on where dramaturgy stands and the possibilities of it spreading more widely into modern choreographer’s processes. Berhndt has a wonderful quality if relating many dramaturgical concepts to the overarching title of dramaturge, which I will include in the rehearsal process and discussion process of the proposed work. I intend to act as dramaturge as well as bring in dramaturges to the process, as well as informing the dancers of the act of dramaturgy, which are all ideas that Berhndt touches upon in the article.
Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Campbell eloquently speaks of myth as an important form of storytelling that is relevant in today’s culture and society. I believe that everyone has a myth that he or she is telling throughout his or her life. I am using Campbell’s research on how powerful a myth can be, in the workshop process of my research to assimilate the dancers’ stories to a specific myth and extract the meaning (or power) of that myth and use movement to communicate that meaning.
Chemers, Michael Mark. Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy. Southern Illinois University Press, 2010.
Ghost Light will serve as the main dramaturgical handbook for the analysis of the script as well as for serving strategies for the choreographic process. Sections being researched include, “Theory Capsules”, which help categorize the play’s structure, of which Structuralism will be used, “Why This Play Now?”, will be used throughout the research to act as a reminder of the contemporary influence this play can have in dance as well as theatre, “Form Follows Function” and “Audiences” will be incorporated into the station exercise as part of community engagement as well as the lobby display, marketing and educational aspects of the final production.
DeLahunta, Scott. “Dance Dramaturgy: Speculations and Reflections.” Dance Theatre Journal, April 2000. Accessed June 2011. http://www.sdela.dds.nl/conv3/article.html.
This webpage consists of conversations taken from conferences held in Amsterdam in 1999 and in Barcelona in 1999 entitled “Conversations on Choreography.” The main speakers are Andre Lepecki, Patrice Pavis, Heidi Gilpin Myriam van Imschoot, among others. Pavis summarizes what he thinks the responsibilities of the theatre dramaturge are and the others dialogue about how this is parallel to the choreographic process in dance. These conversations give insight to dance dramaturgy of today, since not much has been researched about the process, but merely spoken by experience. These conversations will give keep me updated to dramaturgy in the dance field and provide insight on how prominent dance dramaturges are working with choreographers today in mainly the modern dance field.
Dear Eurydice… http://www.deareurydice.blogspot.com.
This blog is being written by a dramaturge currently working on Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice. The writer blogs on, The Mythology of Loss, the significance of the use of string, The Three Fates (Greek myth) and other cultural stories. The blog shows visual examples of the themes I have chosen in the play including loss, death and balance to name a few, which will be used to create a story board for the choreographic process as well as included in the dancer packets.
Lahr, John. “Surreal Life: The Plays of Sarah Ruhl.” New Yorker, March 27, 2008.
In this interview, Sarah Ruhl explains her process and how she began to write. In Eurydice specifically she began writing from the death of her father and extracted many feelings of loss and rebirth to that experience. The basis for using this interview is to include her quotes in the dancer packets, as reference to my initial inspiration to begin the research project.
Lepecki, Andre. “Dance Without Distance.” Ballet-Tanz, February 2001.
Andre Lepecki is a well-known dramaturge and dance theatre advocate in the field of dance. In this article he stated that there no longer be distance between dance as a field of knowledge and dance as motion. Questions arise about the definitions of dance, how it has changed over the past 25 years, and what the next mutation might be. This also includes explanations of how Pina Bausch began to implement a dramaturgical process within her company of dancers, which he says is primarily epistemological, but asking questions and listening to answers. The inclusion of any data further explaining the dramaturgical process of pioneer, Pina Bausch, is important to include in the proposed research.
Lidov, David. Elements of Semiotics. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.
In The Elements of Semiotics David Lidov explains in “Part V. Topics in Comparative Semiotics”, that dance and movement are semiotic languages unto themselves. Since there is a form of poetic flow/movement inherent in Sarah Ruhl’s, Eurydice, it is of importance to understand his view on “movement as a melodic interpretation”. He also includes ideas on gesture holding intense emotional value and how to best use these gestures/symbols to show significance and value. In “Part I The Provenance of Semiotics”, the concept of the signifier and the signified is introduced which will be used in text movement exercises and the abstract narrative between the performer’s characters.
Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Rebecca Witt. “Eurydice.” Last modified June 27, 2008. http://www.milwaukeerep.com/education/ documents/Eurydice_000.pdf.
The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre production materials for their staging of Eurydice supply detailed strategies for addressing the overall themes of the play, including character relationships, the quandary of memory, and emotional ramifications of loss. These examples will be used as a reference for me as I develop my own dramaturgical framework, which I will use in my rehearsal process to prompt the dancers towards new choreographic impulse and also to stimulate their personal reactions to the play.
Padel, Ruth. In and Out of the Mind: Greek Images of the Tragic Self. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Padel argues that the Greek tragedies, in Athenian minds, represented the mental and physical threshold of human beings. “What came in (mental) from outside (physical)?” “What came out from within?” The emphasis is placed on the biological and demonological confrontations of life itself and the differences between them. In Chapter 4, “The Flux of Feeling”, the subheading is Death, Sleep, Dreams, and Underground Rivers, of which all are present in the characters’ lives in Sarah Ruhl’s, Eurydice. The River Styx as well as The River Lethe are thought about as dark places of the mind not merely environments as a part of Hades, the underworld, Padel’s main argument is that the environment around human beings could be a direct visual manifestation of the inner world of a human being and interprets them as meaningful criteria for character development.
Ruhl, Sarah. “Eurydice.” In In The Clean House and Other Plays, 325-411. New York: Theatre Communications Group, Inc., 2006.
Eurydice is the original text that was introduced to me by dramaturge Dr. Elizabeth Brown. Dr. Brown and I analyzed the script dramaturgically with the consideration of a future dance production interpretation. I would like to keep the original themes of the play closely linked to my interpretation of those themes through movement. Therefore, having the script as a map throughout the rehearsal process will help keep the movement language driven by the themes and feminist viewpoint of the text.
Schmidt, Heidi. “Sarah Ruhl’s: Gender, Representation and Subversion in The Clean House, Eurydice and In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play.” MA Thesis, University of Missouri-Columbia, 2010.
Heidi Schmidt’s MA Thesis is a clear analysis of three of Sarah Ruhl’s plays, including Eurydice. Concerning Eurydice, Schmidt posits Eurydice as a strong, decision making female character and examines Eurydice’s experience of “dying twice”. This will be used in the theme of remembrance and re-education as a strategy for applying personal experience within dialogue and movement invention. Schmidt also mentions the opposition between silent melodies and verbal languages that might not be understood between characters in the play. This is a similar idea to the signifier and signified tool that will be used in the text and movement portion of the workshop process. Ms. Schmidt makes a strong defense that the reason for Eurydice to stay in the Underworld was because she was attached to a past she once knew, which also falls under the theme of remembrance that will be explored in the proposed research.
Vogel, Paula. “Sarah Ruhl.” Bomb 99, Spring 2007. Accessed June 20, 2011. http://www.bombsite.com/issues/99/articles/2902.
This is an interview with Sarah Ruhl conducted by Ruhl’s former professor, acclaimed playwright Paula Vogel. Vogel states that Ruhl brings in a touch of Freud to her writing and especially to the Greek ideas she incorporates in her plays. I am using this as an invite to incorporate a philosophical view to Eurydice and hope to capture that view in my choreographic process through the themes that Ruhl incorporates. She also highlights emotional “life” in playwriting and what the performers bring to it, exemplifying that the process is tender and vulnerable.. Also, by reading Ruhl’s responses I am able to feel a personality that breeds her playful scripts, which I find parallels my instinctual creative process that I do not want to lose sight of within the proposed research.
Loren Davidson is a second year MFA candidate in the School of Dance at Florida State University. Most recently, she has had the opportunity to act as rehearsal assistant/dramaturge for Gerri Houlihan, Jawole Zollar, Monica Bill Barnes and Michael Foley in works created on FSU students. Prior to her graduate studies, Loren performed internationally (Japan, Portugal, Italy, Amsterdam and Germany) and nationally (including four consecutive yearly residencies at the University of California, Berkeley) with Ellis Wood Dance for five years. She was also a member of Dance/NYC’s Junior Committee (formerly Youth Advisory Committee), and the education coordinator for Degree Dance Collective (based in Brooklyn, NY). Loren has also performed with Liz Lerman Dance Exchange on a collaborative site-specific work entitled Body after Body, Place after Place: Dances in Gallery at MassMOCA with artist Ann Hamilton. Upon receiving her BFA from New World School of the Arts, Loren was awarded a full scholarship to study at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival where she had the opportunity to perform works by Pina Bausch, Maguy Marin and Anjelin Preljocaj.