Moving with ease and expressing ourselves through speech are just two things most of us take for granted. What happens when these basic abilities diminish or slip away entirely?
That is the subject of choreographer Cid Pearlman’s world premiere “Your Body is Not a Shark,” at ODC Theater this weekend, featuring live music by Cadenza, a South Bay-based string orchestra.
“The virtuosic body is a standard for dance,” says Pearlman. “Athletic bodies determine the kind of [movement] stories you can tell. But I was interested in a more complicated story. I’m working with in an intergenerational cast from 18 to 63. I was interested in what are our limitations and what can we discover within them.”
“Shark” was inspired by Pearlman’s collaboration with two artists whose physical challenges have altered their creative directions.
The title is from a poem by Denise Leto, who developed laryngeal dystonia, a vocal cord condition resulting in spasmodic breaks in speech.
“The condition changed my poetry in both process and content,” Leto says. “I began to read in tandem with another reader as a human voicer. The collaboration began to sound like a kind of choral performance.”
Leto has written six poems for the piece, each with its own poetic structure that provides form for the dances.
“In ‘Shark,’ we responded to the body as the locus: the idea of threat or danger as internal to the body,” she says.
“But that those threats or dangers may not necessarily make the body an enemy.”
The score is by composer Joan Jeanrenaud, former Kronos Quartet cellist whose bouts with multiple sclerosis made it impossible for her to continue performing with the ensemble, which has a rigorous touring schedule.
“The transition from performer to composer has given me insight into another dimension of music making,” Jeanrenaud says. “I had always been concerned with how to physically play a piece and how to interpret it. Now I am concerned with how something is constructed and how it can make the strongest statement or impact.”
Jeanrenaud’s two-minute compositions for Pearlman’s earlier work, “Strange Toys,” became the basis of a Grammy-nominated album.
Pearlman sees her creative mission as an exploration of the human condition and its frailties. “There’s the darkness as well as the light in life. I feel a responsibility for having on stage the kind of work that expresses complexity, intimacy, compassion – a sense of taking care of each other, but also a sense of curiosity.”
Presented by Cadenza and Cid Pearlman Dance, with Joan Jeanrenaud and Denise Leto