Past Performances: Synthesis

Today’s installment of Past Performances is going to be a little different–less visual, a bit less about dance, a bit more introspection. Many years ago, circa 2006/2007, the ballet company of which I was a part performed, among other things, an original ballet in four movements by Carla Wuthrich. It was titled “Requiem” and was set to Mozart’s. Mozart’s Requiem, that is–the infamous death mass unfinished by the composer’s own untimely demise. Now the piece was eventually finished by one of Mozart’s own students and he didn’t actually die in the act of writing it–despite what one of my favorite movies would have us believe–but still there is a certain mystique to the sublime music surrounded by so much death.

The process of learning Ms. Wuthrich’s choreography was wonderful. It included the Dies Irae, Lacrimosa, Dominae Jesu, and Sanctus. The whole concept was tied to the grief process, with some minor changes: Denial/Anger, Depression, Bargaining/Understanding, and Acceptance. We wore long blue gowns and filled the stage with our numbers and emotions.


Photo: Kirsten Nagiba, from a re-staging of the work in 2013.

I loved it. Carla carried the score around to rehearsals and I would pour over it, seeing the steps overlaying the notes in my mind. I bought the CD and listened to the whole Requiem over and over and over in the dark of my cave-like room. And when it came time to perform, and we punctuated the last note of the Sanctus with the snap of our arms, my heart was full with a feeling I would come to recognize as the giddiness of dancing for an audience and connecting with the music. And then it was over.


Photo: Kirsten Nagiba, from a re-staging of the work in 2013.

Fast forward nine years, and in perusing the offerings of the local symphony, I spotted a listing for a March concert of all Mozart, including my beloved Requiem. Despite all my years of gushing about the hour-long piece, I had never actually heard it performed live. The Sven and I immediately got tickets.

And it was wonderful. Glorious, sublime, heartbreaking, and wonderful. There is a special kind of agony that comes from hearing great music in a concert hall while not able to move in response. My mind-palace memory recalls the choreography, my legs and arms itch to respond, but common sense and decency keep me in my seat.

And so what, you ask, is the point of all this? Learn to dance. Learn to read music. Let those two things become entangled in your mind and if your life such that the appreciation of one becomes the love of the other and back again, in one endless loop.

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