February 21, 2018 was a very exciting day for team Ecce Etude, as this was the first rehearsal where we had Dance Extension, Dancing Legacy, DAPpers, and Central Falls dancers all together! While we still didn't have the exact cast that we will have for the show, all groups were well-represented and we got to get a feel for what the interaction between the parts would be like during the performance. This was especially exciting for me, as I share the spirit role with several Central Falls dancers and thus had never done the spirit part with a full cast before this rehearsal. Below, you can see a whole team picture of everyone who was at rehearsal and a picture of us working through the choreography with a full cast for the first time.
It was great to get to work with the Central Falls students who dance the spirit part, and especially fun for me to talk and dance with the student who shares the exact part I do. We discussed the specifics of the movement and figured out what pathway would make the most sense for us, and it was really productive to get a chance to work through the choreography with someone else who will be performing it. We're pictured working through a particularly difficult moment in the movement above on the left. Having the DAPpers there to do the horse part was also great: having people rather than just empty chairs in the space while we're rehearsing totally changes the interactivity of the movement. It was phenomenal to see the progress that the DAPpers have made since the last time we rehearsed with them as well! Ecce Etude really feels like it's coming together, and each time we rehearse it I become more excited about the final product. Here's a video of our progress this rehearsal:
In January 2018, Dance Extension had a week long residency where Laura Bennett taught us the entirety of Ecce Etude. At the culmination of this week, several Dancing Legacy company members and a number of the DAPpers joined us for a combined rehearsal. This was the first time all three parts (spirit, horse, and woman) would be dancing in the space together, which was very exciting! I, along with two other Dance Extension dancers and some Dancing Legacy dancers, was dancing the spirit part, most of Dance Extension and some of Dancing Legacy was dancing the woman part, and the DAPpers were the horses.
It was truly incredible to see all three groups come together in the space and to watch the three parts interact. Before this rehearsal, Dance Extension had mostly rehearsed the spirit and woman parts separately, so I had only a brief taste of how those two parts interacted before this, and we had never seen the horse part before. It was great to get to connect the dots between different parts of the choreography and to understand how the horse choreography is influenced by the spirit's movement and how the horse and the woman interact throughout the piece.
Despite the fact that each of these groups generally goes through a rather different coaching process, this rehearsal ran very smoothly. In fact, the DAPpers had not even learned all of their choreography at this point, but were game to follow along with Rachel so we could all complete the whole Ecce Etude together. Though we left this rehearsal knowing there was more work to be done, it was very clear that the dance was coming together and we could see the beauty of the final product emerging!
Here's a video from this rehearsal:
In December 2017, the DAPpers traveled to Central Falls High School to rehearse with the Central Falls students for the first time. This rehearsal was the first time the spirit and horse parts were combined in this rendition of Ecce Etude, which is exciting progress in the process! The DAPpers and Central Falls students spent some time getting to know each other, and then warmed up together before jumping into the choreography (as seen in the middle picture below). Dancing together for the first time allowed both groups to better understand how they would fit together in the space and how their characters interact. This was also the first time this piece was rehearsed with a mixed seated and standing population!
After dancing together, the DAPpers and Central Falls students split into small groups to reflect about their experience. As you can see from the left and right pictures above, both groups were very enthusiastic about the experience of dancing together and enjoyed sharing their mutual experience during their time together. It was great for both populations to get to know who they would be dancing with before the day of the show. In the past, the performance day was the first time they met. By changing to allow the different groups to work together throughout the process, it gives all the dancers a chance to really get to know each other and understand both how their parts interact and collaborate in the piece, but also how they can relate to each other out of the context of the dance.
After rehearsing with the DAPpers, the Central Falls students began sometimes doing their warm-up in chairs to embody the experience of the DAPpers, as pictured below:
This is a great example of why the integration of these populations is powerful and important. The Central Falls students want to embody the DAPpers' process to understand their experience says a lot about the power of empathy through movement. By understanding the DAPpers' embodied experience of dance and Ecce Etude, the Central Falls students are forging a stronger and more empathetic relationship with them, further helping to bring these populations together.
The DAPpers and Central Falls students continued rehearsing together after this initial meetup. The Central Falls students traveled to the DAPpers rehearsal at Brown several times in early 2018, allowing them to continue to work together in the staging of this piece.
Throughout the fall semester, ADLI worked with the Central Falls High School dance class to teach them Ecce Etude. Laura Bennett did a lot of the teaching. She took Liza Basso, Brown University Dance Extension student and Dancing Legacy Apprentice, with her several times. Through this, the integration of the populations that will ultimately perform this piece together started at the beginning of the process. Below is a video of the Central Falls students beginning to learn the movements from the spirit part from the original trio, which is the role they will be dancing in the final performance at the ASaP Symposium in conjunction with some Dance Extension dancers, including myself.
The next step in the restaging process was to adapt the horse part from the original RepEtude to a version that could be performed in chairs by the DAPpers. Stephen Ursprung, Dancing Legacy dancer, and Rachel Balaban, co-founder of Artists and Scientists as Partners (ASaP) and teacher of the DAPpers class, collaborated to create this. They are pictured below working out the details of this new version of the horse part.
It was ultimately determined that the DAPpers would perform this adapted version of the horse role in stools that could spin so that they could change directions during the piece to portray the sense of movement from the original piece. The directional changes combined with the movement of the spirits and women around the chairs conveys the sense of traversing the stage that was so essential to the original RepEtude.
One important difference between this version of the horse part and the original version is that the horse does the spirit's choreography at the very end of the piece in this version. Because the horse ends the original dance moving throughout the stage and the spirit ends the original dance stationary, it was determined that it would be best to swap those two parts just at the end. However, this changes the trajectory of the dance for the horse at the end because the horse role is so based in shame, but in doing the spirit choreography at the end of the piece the horse goes on a journey that isn't present in the original trio.
In October 2017, several Dancing Legacy dancers began the process of adapting Ecce Etude from a trio to something that could be danced by eighteen people at once. They began by splitting the parts - the DAPpers, who perform a version of the movement adapted for chairs, would be the horses, most Dance Extension dancers would be the women, and the Central Falls students along with some Dance Extension students would be the spirits. The Dancing Legacy dancers would be dispersed between the women and the spirits. It made the most sense for the DAPpers to do an adapted version of the horse choreography because the horse is the most stationary character in the original trio, so the spatial translation to chairs was easiest.
To best maintain the original intent and spatial design of the trio, they first mapped out the spatial design of the three different roles (on the yellow paper, pictured below). From there, after having already decided that the horse part would be stationary chairs, they began to work out a spatial design that would allow for six horses to be on stage at the same time as the spirits and women are doing the same or similar spatial patterns as their characters do in the original trio. The end product of this is pictured below, mapped on the blue pieces of paper.
A large part of the planning process for this, as pictured above, was to figure out how to make pathways such that eighteen dancers can safely navigate the stage while still maintaining the spatial design of the original trio. For example, the spirit part (which is the role that I perform) makes large, sweeping passes around the perimeter of the stage in the original version. To translate this to a version with eighteen people, the spirits now take our path around two horses, as you can see on some of the blue pieces of paper pictured above. Pathways were also built such that they would maintain a relationship between the moving spirits and women and seated horses, but would also allow for no collisions between the three groups. Hours of thought and diagramming go into successful rehearsals for large restaging projects such as this one!
This spring, ADLI is embarking on a huge mission of restaging Ecce Etude on four different groups simultaneously: Dancing Legacy dancers, Brown University Dance Extension dancers, Central Falls High School dancers, and DAPpers (Dance for All People) dancers, who work in conjunction with Artists and Scientists as Partners (ASaP). ASaP was created as a collaboration between Julie Strandberg and Rachel Balaban to bring together artists and scientists to investigate art as healing. As part of this project, ASaP works with aging populations and people with Parkinson's Disease (PD) and uses dance as a form of movement therapy and enjoyable activity. Through this collaboration, ASaP has developed versions of the RepEtudes that can be done in chairs. For several years, at the ASaP Symposium at Brown University, the DAPpers have performed their version of the RepEtudes in the same show as Dancing Legacy, Dance Extension, and the Central Falls High School dancers. However, prior to this year each of these groups has performed separately or with very small amounts of integration. In May of 2017, for the Brown University Commencement Dance Concert, all four groups performed an integrated version of Battleworks Etude, but only got together to rehearse a couple of days before the show. In March of 2018 at the ASaP Symposium, we will perform Ecce Etude as a totally integrated group after having rehearsed together for a much longer period of time, which is a very exciting process to be a part of.
As we go through the process of creating and setting this eighteen person and mixed population adaptation of the RepEtude, I (Anna Bjella), a Brown University Dance Extension dancer and Dancing Legacy apprentice, will take you through the creative process and the rehearsal process from my perspective to give some insight into the work that went into bringing this dance together onstage. But first, some history on Ecce Etude:
Ecce Etude is a direct excerpt from Danny Grossman's larger work Ecce Homo. The excerpt is a trio featuring dancers portraying a spirit, a horse, and a woman, and is about the feeling of ecstasy. In the original trio, the spirit was created to feel like a superhuman character that is the impetus for much of the movement on the stage. The spirit's choreography often takes large, sweeping movements in circles around the stage to create the image that the spirit is facilitating the movements performed by the horse and the woman. Contrastingly, the horse character is rooted strongly in ideas of shame. The horse is the most stationary character in the piece, is often more hunched over than the other two characters, and really only moves when prompted to do so by the movement of the spirit. The woman, while still prompted by the spirit, takes on more of a life of her own. She has the most unpredictable pathway of all three characters, and her movement vocabulary is different from that of the spirit and horse, who have some overlap.
The entirety of the work Ecce Homo is based strongly on imagery of ancient statues and specifically inspired by sculptures and paintings of Michealangelo. Here's a picture of one of the sculptures that inspired the piece, and a still of one of Grossman's dancers performing one of the movements in Ecce Homo:
Grossman wanted to really bring the sculptures to life via his dancers' movements, but also wanted to retain the statuesque qualities of the sculptures. He accomplished this by focusing on the openness of the upper body in the statues and translating this to his dancers' bodies. The choreography of this piece focuses on the movement of the chest and shoulders, largely leaving the arms out of the picture. Grossman decided to keep the arms in a circle throughout most of the piece because he didn't know what the arms in the statues were doing as most of them were not present, and so by keeping the arms in a simple circle he was able to focus the choreography elsewhere.
In teaching Ecce Etude to the students at Central Falls in Fall 2017, Deanna Camputaro, the dance teacher at Central Falls, came up with the idea to have her students better relate to Ecce Etude by framing it as being about beauty. Despite the fact that the sculptures this dance is based off of are broken, they are still beautiful. This idea can certainly be applied to our day to day lives, and was the initial idea for the theme of the 2018 ASaP Symposium: Beauty in the Space of Medicine and Art.