The dance department has brought in professional dancers and stagers Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner to stage Antony Tudor’s place “Dark Elegies.” The play will be staged for Dance 049E Dance Performance Repertory: Ballet.
Both Gardner and McKerrow learned the ballet from Tudor himself. The two danced at the American Ballet Theatre before moving onto work for the Antony Tudor Trust, traveling the country to stage different Tudor ballets. Assistant Professor of Dance Olivia Sabee stressed how lucky the department is to have two teachers who have worked with Tudor.
“The instructors will be teaching them about the poetry that the piece is based on, about the history of the piece, and about their experience learning the piece. We’re so lucky to have them here because they’ve performed Tudor’s work many many times and they stage not only at schools but at professional ballet companies,” said Sabee. “Choreography can be learned from notation or video, but in ballet, it is most frequently passed down, like oral tradition, from performer to performer.”
In addition to teaching the choreography and staging the ballet, McKerrow and Gardner will be teaching about the history and background of the work. Dark Elegies is one of Tudor’s most famous pieces. McKerrow and Gardner describe it as a story of overcoming grief.
“Dark Elegies is a study in grief, and the coming to terms — mourning if you will — over loss. And the different stages of grief, and coming out of the other side through a community, through support. Even the sharing grief, a community in grief, that’s a whole other layer to grief … sometimes the only way you can get through something is with someone else,” said McKerrow.
Dark Elegies is unique because the story was originally told in poems, and then adapted into music and later dance.
“It is a remarkable piece this piece of Dark Elegies because of the Frederick [Ruckert] poems which inspired [Gustav] Mahlers to write the music and it was the music that Tudor took inspiration from to choreograph it. The poems are on the death of children; Ruckert had lost two daughters to Scarlet Fever,” said McKerrow. “It’s a deep well with a rich history of inspiration for this piece that I think is really [inspired], not that all pieces aren’t inspired, but [with] this one it’s a lot of people [who] brought a lot to it so that I think creates even more depth.”
According to Sabee, Tudor’s work is full of powerful emotions that are portrayed through understated movements. McKerrow echoed this description.
“His movement is designed to express an emotion. I think that was something that really interested him in the choreography … He wanted to tell stories without words, their plays without words,” said McKerrow. “But the fascinating thing about the actual movement is — and it takes awhile to get there — you can’t just do the movement and feel it, but the effort to do the movement properly produces the emotion that he wanted to express or convey, and in the end you actually end up feeling it yourself, as the dancer, for real.”
Rachel Isaacs-Falbel ’19 is taking the class because she saw it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from talented instructors.
“I think most people in the class are excited to work with John and Amanda as well but a little hesitant about the choreography. It is unlike anything I have done before, and I know that others feel the same way. I am personally excited to be learning something a little different from what I am used to, though it is a little nerve-wracking,” said Isaacs-Falbel.
Gardner said that every group they work with is different, and that the most important part is that they are present.
“It’s not so much about individual people, but groups how they work as groups and what they have to offer as a group is really kind of the interesting thing. Because every time you take one person out or put another person in, everything changes,” said Gardner.
The ballet will be performed at the Spring Dance Concert on April 28th and 29th.