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Poetry in Motion

Intersections between dance and poetry can occur in many ways, as evidenced in these examples spanning various genres and eras.

15 performances

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Poetry in Motion

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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.”

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Playing 1 of 15

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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).

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Playing 2 of 15

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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.

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Playing 3 of 15

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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.

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Playing 4 of 15

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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.

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Playing 5 of 15

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Carmen de Lavallade

As I Remember It, 2014

In this retrospective work premiered at the Pillow, Carmen de Lavallade references John Butler’s iconic Portrait of Billie and juxtaposes it with Robert Lowell’s translation of “The Old Lady’s Lament for Her Youth,” a 15th-century poem by François Villon.

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Playing 6 of 15

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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.

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Playing 7 of 15

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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.

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Playing 8 of 15

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Maureen Fleming

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.”

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Playing 9 of 15

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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.

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Playing 10 of 15

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Yin Mei

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.

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Playing 11 of 15

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Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE

Water, 1999

Poet Cheryl Boyce-Taylor is both seen and heard in this Pillow-commissioned work which premiered in the Doris Duke Theatre.

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Playing 12 of 15

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Blondell Cummings

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.)

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Playing 13 of 15

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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.”

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Playing 14 of 15

José Limón

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.

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Playing 15 of 15

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