Poetry in Motion
Intersections between dance and poetry can occur in many ways, as evidenced in these examples spanning various genres and eras.
Brian Brooks Moving Company
Flight Study, 2021
Composer Bryce Dessner found inspiration for this work’s score in a poem by the American-Yiddish poet Irena Klepfisz, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto who wrote “Di rayze aheym” (The Journey Home). Dessner described his music as a “musical evocation of the idea of flight and passage.”
Compañía Irene Rodríguez
Pena Negra, 2017
In creating this world premiere, Irene Rodríguez was inspired by Federico García Lorca’s poem entitled “Romance de la Pena Negra” (or Ballad of the Black Sorrow).
Nederlands Dans Theater 2
Shutters Shut, 2015
The accompaniment for this dance by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot is Gertrude Stein’s “If I Told Him, A Completed Portrait of Picasso,” read by Stein herself.
Jessica Lang Dance
The Wanderer, 2015
Jessica Lang set this ballet to Franz Schubert’s “Die schöne Müllerin,“ a classic 1823 song cycle based on 20 poems by Wilhelm Müller.
Nimbus Dance Works
Strange Fruit, 2015
The text for this 1943 work by Pearl Primus is Abel Meeropol’s anti-lynching poem entitled “Strange Fruit,” perhaps best known as a song popularized by Billie Holiday.
Carmen de Lavallade
As I Remember It, 2014
Wendy Whelan & Lloyd Knight
"Moon" from Canticle for Innocent Comedians, 2013
Martha Graham derived her title, Canticle for Innocent Comedians, from a 1938 poem of the same name by Ben Belitt, a colleague of Graham’s from Bennington College.
Dance Theatre of Harlem
The Lark Ascending, 2013
Alvin Ailey set this work to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s single-movement score, which was in turn inspired by an 1881 poem by the English writer George Meredith. All three works share the same title.
Dialogue of Self and Soul, 2008
This solo is an excerpt from the full-evening Waters of Immortality and Other Works, inspired by the writings of William Butler Yeats and his vision of merging mystical symbols into an “art of the people.”
Bill T. Jones
"Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait" from Ballad, 2008
Bill T. Jones both speaks and embodies the poetry of Dylan Thomas in this excerpt from a 1996 work entitled Ballad.
Armitage Gone! Dance
time is the echo of an axe within a wood, 2006
The title of this hour-long work is derived from a poem by Philip Larkin entitled “This is the first thing,” and the dance explores “the tension between grace and a world out of joint.”
Empty Tradition / City of Peonies, 1999
Though not specifically focused on poetry, this strikingly original work considers the written word, paper, and books—all from the perspective of a Chinese-American artist who grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution.
Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE
Poet Cheryl Boyce-Taylor is both seen and heard in this Pillow-commissioned work which premiered in the Doris Duke Theatre.
Chicken Soup, 1989
Pat Steir’s text combines with Blondell Cummings’s movement to depict overheard conversations in a kitchen on a hot summer day. (For full text, click on “More Details” and scroll to the bottom.)
Emily Frankel & Mark Ryder
At the Still Point, 1955
The title of this contemporary ballet by Todd Bolender comes from T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” which has often been excerpted in program notes as: “At the still point, there the dance is.”
Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, 1946
Doris Humphrey based this work on a poem by Federico García Lorca about the death of a famous Spanish bullfighter, premiering it as the centerpiece of the José Limón Dance Company’s very first program.