From the 2010 Fall edition
“And the Angels Sigh” was presented by the Encore Dance Ensemble of Massachusetts at the Sacred Dance Guild Festival Concert, July 27, 2010. Christine, who also performed in the piece, reflects on finding the sacred in a collaborative choreographic process as well as in the completed dance. Read the complete version of this essay at www.sacreddanceguild.org
“And the Angels Sigh” was a tribute to my mother, who passed from cancer in 2006 at the age of 75. I am not sure when I decided to tell her story, but I remember keeping all her nurse’s uniforms, and I was not sure why. I think that sometimes a path appears in your life and you just start walking down it, even though you are not sure where it will lead. I did not plan every detail of the choreography—often it made more sense after the choreography was born.
There were a few things I did plan, and Encore Dance Ensemble was supportive. I wanted a swing-dance piece because as a child I remember my parents used to jitterbug in the kitchen. I remember my mother hanging clothes outside, even in the winter, so they had that fresh smell. And, I remember singing in bed at night and my mother telling me to stop and go to sleep. These memories came together in the first section, when a dancer puts a younger dancer to bed, and then dances with her clothes basket as others join in. Once choreographed, I thought about whom these dancers represented. Eventually, I realized the young dancer was me. When my mother died, I remember feeling like a lost child, so it began to make sense. It was not all pre-planned, but rather, it revealed itself to me once I started down the path.
A few more sections were added, and the piece was becoming a story. I sometimes felt stuck and worried. I remember feeling particularly stuck trying to choose music for the “the nurse’s section” (my mother’s profession). A friend suggested I use music my mother loved, and because of that, I ended up choosing Pavarotti for this section.
The last two sections were about my mother dying. They started as an improvisation, and eventually became choreographed. These sections became deeply meaningful for all of us in Encore.
To weave the entire piece together, I used river rocks to symbolize memories. One basket was brought back at the very end, and the young dancer stood in it as she wept goodbye to her mother. I love rocks and baskets. During this time, I was often overcome with thoughts of my mother, reliving those last six months with her. I think she would have liked the piece, but may have been angry that I used her nurse’s cap as a prop. I hope she forgives me.
Looking toward my next choreographic adventure, I believe that if I just walk down that path, although not always sure where it will lead, I will be comforted knowing that if I am patient, and think (and perhaps worry a bit), the right music, movement, or meaning will eventually reveal itself. Maybe that means that in the end I believe in myself. Or, maybe I believe in fate. Or, maybe I believe in God. But, I do know that having good friends along the way that believe in me doesn’t hurt, either.