Gwendolyn The Graceful Pig: The Use of Text in Dance

Gwendolyn the Graceful Pig, written by David Ira Rottenberg, is the story about a pig that wants to learn how to dance. The story follows Gwendolyn and her friend Omar, a pig that wants to play football, and their journey to gain the grace and beauty they need in order to be successful. After being invited to multiple libraries and schools to read his book, Rottenberg thought that he could make his book more successful by inviting a dance company to dance, act, and simply tell the story as he read. The Connecting Point Dance Company took the task at hand, and created an fun, entertaining, and interactive story for the children. 

This year has been my second year of performing “Gwen,” and I was lucky enough to play the clumsy protagonist herself, joined by Melanie Joseph, the lead of Omar. Being able to play the main character of a story, even if is requires a pig nose and ears, is a lot of fun, especially when you know that what you are doing is making the audience, filled with big eyes and adventurous hearts, laugh and smile. Gwendoline and Omar start off clumsy and awkward, but gain their elegance and grace after a day at the studio with a group of ballet dancers, taught by their teacher, Natasha, "the greatest ballet teacher in 'ze' world!" (I do advise you to go back and read that last quote with a Russian accent; It will make a lot more sense.) The clumsiness of the two pigs is the biggest hit with the children, the second being when Gwendolyn comes out to perform her final solo, the children astonished by her beautiful, “bright, [red] tutu.”

Throughout my internship, I have been using text to create movement phrases. Specifically using poetry, I take lines, words, the sound of the poet’s voice, etc, to create and rework movement phrases that I create. In similar ways, as the performers of “Gwen,” we use lines from the book, specific words, and the way David Ira Rottenberg talks as cues on how to act to fit the story. I have found it extremely interesting how one can take literature, and text, and recreate it with the body, specifically through dance. For instance, with “Gwen,” we as the performers are simply acting out the story as it is told. In comparison, I have been using poetry by taking actual words and using different sounds, shapes, letters, moods, and emotions to create various visual representations of what the poem states, or what the poet says. When working with the Emily Dickinson poem, I used one specific line to create a phrase using letters used in that specific line. The line I chose, "One does not need a chamber to be haunted," I used my body to create the letters O, D, N, H, T, and B. Similarly, when working with Sabrina Benaim's poem, "Explaining My Depression to My Mother," the word mom is used repetitively. Using the word "mom," I created five different variations of an original phrase, which originated from using the letters m, o, and m, over and over again.

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