By Joseph E. Morgan

Edgar Allen Poe once lamented that there are very few authors that document the creative process,

Most writers — poets in especial — prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy — an ecstatic intuition — and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought — at the true purposes seized only at the last moment — at the innumerable glimpses of an idea that arrived not at the maturity of full view — at the fully matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable […]

The amazing annual collaborative festival, Emergence, which this season was held between the Nashville Ballet and artists from The Bluebird Café, targets the collaborative process as the central component of the study. Featuring three artist lineups across five performances, choreographers were given a selection of songs by the stable of Bluebird Artists, and then asked to choose, choreography and given 12 hours to rehearse with their dancers to create that “fine frenzy,” but also explain the reality of the process. The end result was a depiction of experimental choreography at its best.

The evening opened with a choreography by Fall Arial Dance company member Dorse Brown entitled Resiliency within the Stylus and performed to excerpts from two songs by Morgan Bosman (“She Smile,” and “Rise”). Bosman’s music is soulful, with an excellent intimacy, especially “Rise” with its scat vocalizations and Ukulele accompaniment. Brown’s choreography placed the dancers within an intimate living room setting complete with a prop record player. A dated prop, but the result was a timeless depiction of love and a rather idealized marital bliss. In this dance, Imani Sailers brought a tremendous amount of charisma to the floor in her opening solo.

Western Symphony by George Balanchine Photo by Sam English, courtesy Louisville Ballet

The second piece, Broken Crutch, Vanishing choreographed by Nashville Dancer Julia Eisen, set songs of the same title by Britton Deuel. The choreography for the first song was an expression of how musical meaning can differ from person to person in its reception. “Broken Crutch” described by its writer Britton Deuel as a composition to remind him to avoid “bitterness” became an essay in Eisen’s choreography on human resiliency. Mollie Sansone, who has already shown powerful ability to express human trauma in Lizzy Bordon, brought Eisen’s disturbing yet beautiful choreography to life. To see Sansone held aloft by the supporting trio of Jackson Bradshaw, Nicolas Scheuer, and Nathan Young, as she struggled, all angles and debilitating crooks, was disturbing and empowering at once—stronger in the broken places.

From Nashville’s dance company New Dialect, Rebecca Steinberg’s Of The Night revealed her influences from her training in Israel. The choreography beautifully accompanied Taylor Noelle’s “Rely,” and “End of the Night,” and took advantage of the intimate grace of dancers Alexandra Meister and Kayla Rowser. Similarly, David Flores, also from New Dialect, took advantage of his dancer’s personality and strengths in bringing Kara Frazier’s beautiful music to life, a theme that ran through the program. It seemed that the choreographers, each in their own way, not only expressed the music but also the strengths and personalities of each individual dancer creating a synergy that was quite powerful.

Sechs Tänze (Six Dances) by Jiří Kylián Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Perhaps my favorite collaboration of the evening was Rebekah Hampton Barger’s setting of Kate “K8” Cosentino’s “Tension,” and “You Have Me.” The founder of Fall, Barger’s multi-faceted talents came into play with a choreography that expressed a delicious tension, a theme that seemed to underlie both of Cosentino’s pieces. The last piece was an untitled choreography by Gerald Watson to Tony Memmel’s inspirational “Rock and Roll Was New,” and “Lucky Fin Song” which even included a sing-along component. Here Watson presented dancer Lauren Terry in the foreground with a powerful background provided by Brett Sjoblom and Jon Upleger.

In all, and just like last year, this year’s Emergence performance was amazing. One wonders what might have happened if the songwriters too were brought fully into the timed creative process—the “fine frenzy.” Further, how would the process be different if the choreography was written and the songwriter was asked to set it to music? Or if both were required to start from scratch and work together towards a final project? In any case, the only thing more inspiring that Emergence’s documentation of the creative process is probably the resulting art itself. The festival continues through
this weekend and tickets are still available!

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