Friday, February 20, 2009

Private dance for Poetry Scores with Alice Bloch

"I am lucky," Dianna Lucas said today. "I get to spend Friday afternoon with my friend Chris watching a solo dance recital."

We were very lucky.

The solo dance recital was performed by Alice Bloch. It was her choreography, as well. Exquisite material: two dance settings of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and a setting of a hybrid piece that melds Alice's own writing with translations of San traditional text from South Africa.

The poetry-to-dance process, of course, was why we were there. This work had come to my attention when Alice and one of her dancers, Tamarra Parrish, promoted their recent concert at COCA. All three of these pieces had been in that show, which Kenya Vaughn previewed in The St. Louis American.

It struck me as very much our kind of thing. The mission of Poetry Scores is to translate poetry into other media. Mostly, we translate poetry into music and visual art, but we have taken one stab at a movie and talked about incorporating dance. In fact, I know Tamarra because I had recruited her to perform in a dance adaptation of our score to Blind Cat Black that fell apart (and was later salvaged as a silent movie).

Dianna and I watched Alice dance, this afternoon, in a studio at COCA, with light spangling the trees outside the windows behind her. The work had an intimacy and interiority that didn't immediately suggest a great fit with the poem we are scoring this year, The Sydney Highrise Variations by Les Murray, or the one we are scoring next year, Jack Ruby's America by St. Louis' own David Clewell.

But, who knows? Alice has copies of those two poems, as of this afternoon. Surely, she will have a far better sense than I of the dance potential (in her idiom) of a poem. I look forward to hearing what she thinks.

And, as Dianna and I discussed with her, we could be open to a collaboration with her on a poem we aren't even scoring. The dance translation of the poem need not accompany a poetry score or be performed to the score - it could be a stand-alone project or paired with an art invitational.

Or anything else we dream up. Certainly, I would expect Alice to respond to Sali's Ark, K. Curtis Lyle's elegy for the late Marcella Sali Grace - and Sali was a dancer.

We'll see. Also, I expect we will one day see a Dianna Lucas photograph of Alice Bloch at work. I learned something new about the new Poetry Scores board chair today: that Dianna is a dance photographer. How about that?


The dancer photo (of Vanessa Skantze, not Alice Bloch) from somebody's Flickr site. Dianna didn't have her camera!

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