This past weekend I performed in the opera Dido and Aeneus in a collaboration of the Department of Dance and the Department of Music. Twenty chorus members, twelve dancers, nine opera singers, and an orchestra came together to put on five shows of this production, not to mention the choreographer, director, and crew. It was a huge undertaking but I learned so much in the two months of the rehearsal and performance process.
I am taking History, Theory, and Literature of Dance this semester, and being in this Baroque Era opera also emphasized many of our class discussion points:
Immersing myself in the creative process of performing in the opera Dido and Aeneus clarified the atmosphere of the Baroque Ballet for me. Each rehearsal I defined the Baroque bubble for myself a little bit more and the movement slowly naturalized in my body. Collaborating with the musicians and singers to create a production that was larger than myself or a single dance was an incredible learning opportunity in
Another aspect of Baroque that came into play was playing into the structure of the music. It was crucial that the movement and song synced to be able to articulate the storyline. In the rehearsal process Susan Petry would often come in with raw material that we would then fit in to the structure of the music. This became important when we started working with live music because as the tempo changed from night to night, our movement was able to adapt as well.
The most salient Baroque element for me was the idea of the ensemble versus individual characters. The Baroque Era was the crossing point between Renaissance Dance, when patterns were all the rage, and the ballet d’action, when the individual dancer and his/her emotions were most valued. Baroque was a mixture of both ideas, and we had to find that mixture when performing the opera. On one hand, we were all our own dancers, reacting to the events of the opera in our own way through our acting. On the other hand, we were one ensemble, acting as one to guide the storyline by gently transitioning between scenes. In this way we embodied the purpose of the Baroque dancer.
Productions like this are something I would love to pursue more in the future, so to have this professional opportunity within my department was a blessing. I am excited to apply what I have learned from this experience and will be searching for more performances like this to participate in.
This show also is responsible for bringing me into contact with some of the most beautiful people. I would just like to tag onto the end of this post a huge thank you to my fellow cast members, the crew, choreographer Susan Petry, and director Scott Parry. I did not just learn from performing, I learned from every single person who was a part of this experience.