Cross-pollination in the arts shows up in many media, but it is perhaps most evident in dance, where music and/or text almost always interact with movement phrases. A dance concert on Tuesday, June 10 at Providence College, titled Petitions, vividly illustrates this. Choreographer Christina Tsoules Soriano formerly lived in Providence and taught dance at Providence College, Rhode Island College, Salve Regina University, Festival Ballet, and Providence Ballet. Now an assistant professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she will bring her new dance troupe, CTS Dance Company, to Rhode Island to present two new works — a refurbished solo (performed by Soriano) and a structured improvisation.
POWERFUL IMAGERY Soriano’s Postponing
Soriano uses four professional dancers from North Carolina and four Wake Forest students in this production, and she feels proud of giving undergraduates the chance to tour — they’ve already performed the 20-minute piece titled Every Text Has an Intertext in six venues in North Carolina. This piece was inspired by the “mesostic” poems of John Cage and the music of Arvo Pärt.
Soriano had heard a recording of Cage reading some of his “chance-oriented” poems, and she was haunted by the cadences of his voice and the resonance behind the stark words that he repeats.
“I picked the words I wanted to work with the most: ‘structure,’ ‘intention,’ ‘devotion,’ ‘chance,’ ‘method,’ ” she recalled in a recent phone conversation from her office at Wake Forest. “I also realized that I needed excerpts of the poems that I could hold onto thematically, short phrases with a message, something to think about, little moments that are stunning.
“Essentially, you hear short excerpts of these poems layered into the Arvo Pärt track, which is from Spiegel im Spiegel and Für Alina,” Soriano continued. “It also became evident that I wanted to see the words on the bodies of the dancers at key points in the piece, so I worked with a costume designer to help with the revealing of words on the arms. There’s a big zipper on the left arm, and as it stays open, the weight swings as the dancing happens.”
As Soriano watched her dancers in rehearsal, she became aware of “a lot of reverence in the movement, a lot of awestruck references upwards,” and thus Petitions seemed the right title for the concert. The dancers work in duets and quartets, often crawling on their knees, and the dance came to look to her like a “prayerful ritual,” although she hastened to clarify that she didn’t set out with that theme in mind — “the dance gradually reveals to me what it is about.”
The solo, Beginnings, actually had its premiere at PC — “I love that I’m coming back to where I started doing it.” She asked several people in the Rhode Island dance world what makes the beginning of a dance, and she recorded a script to which she responds live onstage.
“I feel like this piece reveals a lot of the inner workings of my process,” she reflected. “The self-doubt moments, the revelations when it all makes sense.”
Next she will perform a structured improv with two of her students to the music of Rosemary Clooney, with a white picket fence and ’50s dresses.