Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cumulonimbus and the Fable Keepers

Susan Kendal, choreographer of Penumbra, is presently choreographing a new piece, titled Cumulonimbus and the Fable Keepers, and setting it on the Simcoe Contemporary Dancers. The following is her personal reflection about what is happening in her choreographic mind, as well as in the studio as the creation of this work begins to unfold.

I'm excited to be working on a new group work for SCD called Cumulonimbus and the Fable Keepers. It's made up of various pieces that have been knocking around my imagination for over a year now -- costumes, sets, and choreography. From a big, puffy, cumulonimbus-y hoop skirt to a dress made of books, precious bell jars and doorman umbrellas, to choreography interpreting different themes that our stories and fables represent: choice, love, consequence, loyalty, courage, loss, and caution. 

Stories are the vessels we use universally to teach morality and simply how to be in the world. The allegories in fables and parables - short cautionary tales - are often the first metaphors we come across as people, before we're really old enough or experienced enough to understand the larger context or metaphor of a particular tale. But I'm sure we soak up the lessons of these tales, and begin to understand symbolism and parallels and how those stories might relate to our own lives. Cultures around the world all have their own stories, used to educate the next generation, and we pass on those tales over and over, evolving yet fundamentally unchanged in their messages of morality, of basic goodness and of consequence. 

I wanted to represent these stories choreographically, taking out the literal words, and simply using movement to tell a selection of tales. An abstraction, more visceral than the text, digging into the feelings and lessons of some of the themes offered in fables. And I'm having a wonderful, satisfying time concocting these moving stories! 

Not so long ago, as I was washing dishes and thinking choreographically (as often happens for me!), the image of a band of cloud people developed in my head: people-ish beings, not exactly people, though deities neither, a timeless group who gather and hold the wisps of wisdom, hope, and warning that people weave and send into the ether; stories full of hope for themselves and the next generation. And I've fallen in love with this world of my own making! It's fun to live in it, to see what evolves within this imaginary frame as I design and concoct the look in choreography, costume, and set. 

It's a unique opportunity to be able to fulfil the whole picture myself. As a practiced costume designer and choreographer and a moonlighting set designer, I really enjoy the chance to develop all these elements for my own work. I'm using found music, and things that set the tone for the stories I'm picturing. The dancers in SCD are a keen and intelligent group, so there's also a lot of space for exchange with me putting out a concept and the movement and ideas evolving between us. I leave rehearsals with a strong sense of camaraderie and fulfillment. And a real-feeling memory that we were just playing up in the clouds, taking stock and care of the stories from below. I'm excited to see where this ends up by premiere time in May 2015!

Follow Susan, through the creation of this work at: http://pocketalchemy.tumblr.com/

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