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.