by Karen Krolak
Apparently, yesterday's post on Actors' Shakespeare Project's Coriolanus perplexed some people. Rest assured that there will be no random "dream ballets" interrupting Shakespeare's plot. Perhaps it would help if I explained that I define choreography as 'creating meaning with movement'. When working on dramatic plays, therefore, I try to emphasize thematic metaphors through movement, to generate subtext through body language, and to shape the physical narrative.
Coriolanus unfolds through a series of battles between the Romans and the Volsci. Though we don't often think of it, dancing and fighting have a long and tangled history that pre-dates Michael Jackson's Thriller by at least a several hundred years. Just this afternoon I stumbled upon a picture of a Marine break dancing in between training exercises in Djibouti in the latest issue of National Geographic.
The Afro-Brazilian martial art, Capoeira, for instance, was intentionally designed to look like a dance even though it could have deadly consequences. Developed by slaves who were bound at the hands and forbidden to fight, opponents would tuck razor blades between their toes added a lethal edge to their stunning kicks and turns.
Coriolanus' director, Robert Walsh is a proficient fight choreographer who envisioned a production that would explore the shapes and sounds of violence. Together we are weaving martial arts, Viewpoints technique, contact improvisation, modern dance, and gymnastics together to ratchet up the visceral intensity of the plot. Rehearsals have been fairly grueling for the actors thus far but I am really excited by the results.