The making of…”But now I must rest”

“Today will be the day I finish my ballet.”

That’s what I woke up with in my head this morning. Same thing happened yesterday, which was a day when I definitely did not finish my ballet. Today, finally, it’s fully sketched out. I hesitate to say it’s been born, but it’s…so…close…

But now I must rest

Some music really insists on being made into ballets. The music of Cesaria Evora started tugging at my subconscious last spring. By the summer I was mildly obsessed, I could see the ballet. Celia Fushille, the Artistic Director of Smuin Ballet, had originally asked me to look to classical music for my 2014 premiere. I am incredibly grateful she let me change course and follow this music.


Costume sketch by Sandra Woodall.

Preview image: Susan Roemer in rehearsal for “But now I must rest.” Photo by Keith Sutter.


Researching this piece has been a joy. Watching video clips of The Barefoot Diva on youtube, you see an artist so intensely still that the air seems to resonate around her. When friends would recount seeing her perform at Zellerbach in 2008, I could see them travel back to that moment in their minds, temporarily lost in the memory of her performance.  The New York Times described her as “a yoda of melancholy.” As I looked at image after image of this woman, the lines of her face whispered a story to me. My challenge was how to capture that nuance and depth, the color and richness of her sound.
From Cape Verde, Ms. Evora always performed barefoot as a show of solidarity with the poor women of the world. The depth of her voice captures the history, pain, and hope of these islands, a place with more ex-pats scattered across the globe than current residents. When asked, after two strokes and a heart attack, why she was retiring, she told the French newspaper Le Monde: “I have no strength, no energy. I’m sorry, but now I must rest.” When Ms. Evora passed in 2011 the government in Cape Verde declared two days of national mourning in her honor.
In creating, I kept coming back to the translation of São Tomé Na Equador as the heart of work:

São Tomé, you have many of us, you are part of our history and our pain.

In your nectar you have Bantu, Creole and Angolan.

São Tomé, in your veins run only one blood.

You were a place of suffering, but you can give happiness.

If you behold all your children, São Tomé, you have richness.

But the biggest treasure is the value and love of all your children, and their will of living together, in a small land where the grass is greener.

São Tomé, São Tomé, don’t forget who you fight for.

São Tomé, São Tomé, in the equator of our pain.

São Tomé, São Tomé, the long road is already coming closer, much closer of your future.

The past is only weight.

Resentment doesn’t build anything.

Reality is forgiveness, and forgiveness can be the union of all your children.

São Tomé.

Smuin Ballet will premiere this work May 2, 2014, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

For ticket info, click here.

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    Change Afoot

    Welcome to our new website. With the new website comes a new blog, something I have not done before. Here you’ll get some random musings by myself as well as the Imagery dancers, guest choreographers, and collaborators.

    Sometimes people ask why Imagery exists. I’m fortunate, I get to make ballets across the country. I have worked with fantastic dancers in Washington DC, Atlanta, Anchorage, Denver, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Seeing the level of artistry across the country is a joy, and the work these dancers I make together is something I am immensely proud of. I applaud the companies who continually take artistic risks and engage new works, allocating valuable resources as an investment in the future of the art form.

    So why don’t I just make dances for hire? Why do I not solely work as a free lance choreographer? Again and again examples of a successful, brilliant choreographers starting companies then closing the doors exist. Trey McIntrye has been applauded and called courageous in most circles for closing the doors of the Trey McIntrye Project at the height of the company’s popularity. Chris Wheeldon co-founder of the Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, who then left after three years. If these wildly successful choreographers can’t, or don’t want to, make this model work, maybe it’s time to give up the model?

    That said, I’m not willing to do that. Perhaps it’s from one simple fact – I don’t do this alone. I create with dancers, and the dancers who invest in Imagery are astounding. With these dancers I can continually take creative risks. We have mutual respect, and together create an environment where we can all grow as artists.

    By doing this, we have created an extended family of patrons, donors, and artists who are supportive of what we do. The SKETCH series encourages risks, Move to the Now celebrates our community. When in season, we offer a “Pay What You Can” technique class, where any professional dancer in the area can come and train with us – as no dancer should forego training due to financial reasons. These things are important to us.

    That’s the gist, right there. US. As an artist, I want to be part of an us, a community. I have a glorious extended family of dancers and artistic directors across the nation, and for that I am incredibly grateful. But Imagery is my nuclear family, and for these dancers I will continue to fight the good fight of artistic administration so we can keep presenting the work we do.
    Thank you reader, for being on our site and being interested in what we do. I hope to see you at one of our upcoming shows.

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