Wednesday, November 9, 2011

“Je me souviens…I remember…”

By Mary Sheeran

            Susan Tenny is remembering, and as she is a choreographer, she does it by giving other people dances, and the other people range in age from 9 to 67. That alone is marvelous.
Tenney, on the faculty of Princeton Ballet School, brought her work in progress, "Je me souviens…I remember…” to New York’s Florence Gould Hall about a week ago, and many of what might be called her smaller moments resonate with me still. She showed us a portion of the piece’s first part and most of its final section, hardly something on which to base a review. It must be said, though, that it was a lovely program. Part of its loveliness was that Tenney set the piece to the music by Georges Delerue, the composer of the music for Truffaut’s film,  ”Jules and Jim.”
            As the piece begins, a child (Cynthia Yank) romps, stops and pulls a cookie from a paper bag, a Proustian reference to how a small everyday object can bloom forth many memories. A man, adored by the women of his family, collapses. A woman grieves the loss of her baby, or did it spring forth free? The child grows into a young woman, remembering her mother showing her photographs of the romance with the father, the man who died. A grandmother shows her affection and care. The stage is filled with women of all ages remembering and all tell their stories simply and clearly in their dancing. Alexandra Fredas, Alexis Branagan and Anya Kalashnikova act as a chorus and appear to be what ballet dancers “look like,” as they flit through the scenes.
            In typical ballets, people with idealized shapes represent all of us, and we all take that leap of imagination when we sit in ballet audiences. It is not usual to see typical real people on the dance stage, however. When the “typical” ballerinas dance among the “real” people, though, they don’t look real. These dancers seemed uninteresting by comparison, superfluous and unreal. The “real” people were fascinating, charming and rich.
            Tenney’s piece conveys the power of the “small” moments that resonate in our memory – a young woman dancing, a mother smoothing her child’s hair. These only sound trivial on two-dimensional media. And yet, I wonder how such a delicate piece can stretch out to four whole sections, an evening. Yet, I hope I do see it all someday.  In the meantime, I will remember.
"Je ne souviens…I remember…" Choreographed and directed by Susan Tenney. Music composed by Georges Duberue. Lighting design by Joe Novak. Costume design by Dominique Daiela Pino-Santiago. Featuring: Alexis Branagan, Naoko Cojerian, Yoshie Driscoll, Gary Echternacht, Alexandra Fredas, Anya Kalashnikova, Samantha Guillace, Pam Fabri Pisani, Cynthia Yank.
Mary Sheeran is the author of Quest of the Sleeping Princess, a novel set during a gala performance at the New York City Ballet, and Who Have the Power, a historical novel set during the Comstock Lode era about a musician discovering that her mother is a healing woman of the Washo tribe. Her CD, Through the Years, is available on CD Baby.

Photo © Julie Lemberger 2011

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