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Ch Ch Ch Changes

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I’m not where I planned to be today. So much time, energy and money invested and now it will be next month instead, my art installation. But that will be ok. “Good,” I thought. “It will give me more time and I’ll be able to afford to do it better then.”

So, onto my next priority in line. FOCUS.

I was having great difficulty focusing on what should be at the top of the list. Then in a whirlwind of garden, weddings, babies, falling on glass, laundromat, cushions, waiting for things that are out of my control….. I saw a Facebook status that reminded me of something I’m losing for sure. It read, “Last Othello.“

My first piece for Leipzig Zeitgeist (LZ) about Leipzig Ballet was when Mario Schröder first appeared on the scene. It felt right. I was new. The company as we now know it was new. I went to my first after party that night. I mainly watched, but I did meet some people that would enrich my life. I must say it’s a far cry from my current after party shenanigans. How many years has it been? Five! It feels like yesterday and yet, like a lifetime.

The career of a dancer is much like that of a professional athelete, only they don’t make the scandalously large amount of money that footballers do. I understand the stages. I want to see them grow, but it hurts to see them go.

On the bright side, I’m looking forward to Leipzig Ballet’s West Side Story premiere 20 June. “I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.”

And for those of you who missed it, an excerpt from the article I did for the May/June edition of LZ in 2011:

There’s a new energy at Leipzig Ballet. It’s kinetic and it is being powered by the new choreographer, Mario Schröder.

There’s a feeling of accessibility as evidenced by continuously sold out performances. It all started last fall with “Warm Up.” I had heard there was a new choreographer, so I googled him before I decided whether or not to participate. I liked what I found on YouTube. It was modern, not at all what I expected to find. I went gladly and left there feeling good.

I was touched to see Mario Schröder moved to tears when he took the stage and said how happy he was to be returning to Leipzig. He wasn’t born here….or perhaps he was. He started dancing with Leipzig Ballet in 1983. He was here to experience the change when Uwe Scholz became the choreographer.

Uwe Scholz studied the piano, the violin, the guitar and singing, as well as dance at Darmstadt Conservatory. He had planned to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a conductor, but life took an unexpected turn when John Cranko‘s muse, the Brazilian ballerina Marcia Haydée, invited the shy seventeen-year-old to choreograph works for the company shortly after becoming the artistic director of Stuttgart. In 1980, two years later, he abandoned dance to become the troupe’s first resident choreographer since Cranko. Cranko had instinctively liked Scholz when at the age of 13 he came to audition for the ballet school. A month after that Cranko died.

When Scholz was 18 he went to New York for 5 months. This is where he saw the choreography of George Balanchine. Balanchine had specific requirements of his dancers. They needed to be thin, long legged and emotionless in their movement. He felt his unembellished choreography should show what he wanted to say. Scholz found his work a bit detached, but was fascinated by its clear structure.

“It seemed as if he was working with a very sharp knife,” Scholz said. “He knew exactly when and where to cut, and everything he created is marked by an incredible musicality. The greatest compliment anyone can pay me is to compare my work to his and Cranko’s, for they are the undisputed masters of the twentieth century. I would happily like to be considered as something of Cranko, plus a little of Balanchine, shaken up well and spat out a quarter of a century later!”

Uwe Scholz, who died in 2004 at the age of 46, came to Leipzig in 1991. This was a time of political turmoil. He liked that Leipzig needed to be rebuilt. It was a chance for him to start from scratch. Under his direction, the Leipzig Ballet awoke from its slumber and became the talk of the ballet world with people coming from all over Europe to see its performances. Besides it was the perfect place to express both his love of music and his musicality. “The history of Leipzig, Wagner’s birthplace, is magical”, said Scholz. “Many parts of the old city, including the Jewish quarter, have been restored, and you are surrounded by the atmosphere of the past, by the ghosts of Schumann and Mendelssohn.”

Like Scholz, music also plays a key role in Mario Schröder’s work. In “Chaplin” he uses songs written by Charlie Chaplin himself as well as other 20th century composers, namely British Benjamin Britten, and American Samuel Barber: all of whom had work that was either written for film or later adapted for film. He also completes the Leipzig connection by including music by Richard Wagner. He wanted to do a piece on Chaplin because indirectly he is the reason he is a choreographer. Not being very athletic when he was young, Schröder’s mom asked if he wanted to take part in a dance class. When he asked what dance was, she replied, “You know, like Charlie Chaplin.” That sounded like fun!

In “Chaplin”, Schröder looks at the man behind the clown. He chronicles the challenges Chaplin faced when standing up for what he believed in and how the political climate at the time turned conservative America against him. A far cry from the ridiculous little swaggering man with the hat and cane, he shows Chaplin the martyr.
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“Carmina Burana/A Dharma at Big Sur” is a monumental work of Schröder’s musicality and artistic thinking. John Adams’ A Dharma at Big Sur was originally written for the opening of the Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall and is Adams’ response to the landscape of the Pacific Coast with its contrasting of beach and sheer dropping cliffs. Schröder’s choreography rolls and flows like the tides, exploring where life’s waves might take us while the sound of the electric violin hauntingly ebbs in and out.

Carmina Burana unites the orchestra, choir, children’s choir, set and dance in successful co-existence. Again Schröder uses music that has been made familiar through its use in film, but he brings it back to the way Carl Orff originally intended, choreographed and presented in the theatre. The choreography is a lively mix of old master and modernity much like the marriage of the old and new in Orff’s 1935 work where he set 13th century poems about the human condition to deceptively simple rhythms. In it we see the diversity of human nature; playfulness, eroticism, power, love, hate, betrayal.

I’m reminded of another quote from Uwe Scholz. “It’s important for my dancers to have the experience of working with others, for it will also affect their interpretation of my ballets.”

And this brings me back to now. Big love to my Lepizig Ballet friends from the last 5 years. Hugs to those of you who have gone on to experience new choreography, whether it be on stage or another stage of your life. The image of your movement and our laughter will never leave me.

As for me, for now I’ll continue to watch my friends and Mario grow and be happy to meet the new people that brings into my life.

Maeshelle West-Davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums. Sound, video, photography, dance, performance and public art are the tools she uses to convey her message. Her work is a response not only to a physical journey, but an emotional one, as with all of us who walk along or beside our individual paths.

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