'She dances featly'

Tracy Terstriep on Making Movement and Dance in Shakespeare’s Sicilia and Bohemia

Tracy Terstriep, Movement/Choreography

It was our pleasure to interview Tracy Terstriep (Movement / Choreography) the other day at the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City. She has since sent us the following insights about how she and the composer, Greg Mackender, worked on movement, dance and rhythm to help make Shakespeare’s Sicilia and Bohemia come to real and vivid life:

“We thought a courtly, social dance, specifically an interpretation of a waltz, would be a great way to reflect Sicilia’s adherence to custom and structure. The interchange of partners is done so openly and joyously, in dramatic contrast to the suspicion that will soon overcome Leontes. Greg Mackender, the composer, and I met a few times in his recording studio to brainstorm over melody and tempo that would capture just the right balance of pomp and circumstance, gaiety, but with underpinnings of foreboding.

Just as Sidonie Garrett, our Director, chose to frame the play within the text “May the heavens continue our love”, I enjoyed finding a physical framework of Hermione-as-statue. To begin the waltz, Leontes shapes his full-of-life Hermione into a statuesque pose that beckons him into the dance. The moment happens quickly, and might be lost on audience, but it is loaded with thematic implications: the artist and the muse, unrealistic ideals of female perfection, subjugation, and in Hermione’s case, even if she does live up to such ideals, the actions of Leontes leave her imprisoned and immobile until time and penitence can bring about redemption.

In our production, our Director chose not to include the satyr dance that is often a part of the Sheep-shearing festivities, but rather place more emphasis on some of the other singing and dancing moments. I looked to ground the group Bohemian dance in characteristics of English Morris dance traditions, with the Clown dancing in and out of the action. The men’s use of scarves and belts was a nod to English step-dancing at the top and button of the number. Layered on top of that is the color, gesticulations, and boastful liveliness of Eastern European folk dancing. Fable-ized ‘Bohemia’ at its best!

We have Equity actors as well as student actors in our productions and I asked them all to share with me what some of their physical “tricks” are. We tried to feature those moments as long as they could be made believable in this world. This helps to make the experience enjoyable for actors and audience alike.

Sidonie Garrett had a strong idea of what she envisioned for “Time:” to lay out in mini-vignettes the stories of Leontes, Florizel and Perdita. Also an opportunity to involve some of our youth actors on a deeper level. I tried to create movement and shape that supported the text and those vignettes. With the props and costumes coming in at last minute, this might have been our biggest experiment and challenge, aside from the Bear. I’ve enjoyed researching how others have interpreted that transition and was happy to help see this one through.

It was a treat to be included in your survey of American Shakespeare festivals. Have a safe and wondrous journey!”

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