String Dramaturgy: Roxanna Lewis @ Edfringe 2017


Presented by the Dance-Forms 74th International Choreographers’ Showcase

Venue: The Emerald Theatre, Greenside at Nicolson Square, (Venue 209)

Tickets: Mon-Fri £12 (Full) £6 (Concession)

Dates: 7-11 Aug 2017               

Time: 9:15 am (opening piece)

Box Office: 0131 618 6967


A New Work by Choreographer / Director Roxanna Lewis

What was the inspiration for this performance? About a year and a half ago, I received an impromptu 'High Wire Baptism' from my good friends, Jade Kindar-Martin (a world renowned high wire artist and Guiness Book of World Records holder) and his wife, Karine Mauffrey (an “extreme acrobate” and Hollywood stunt woman). Jade and Karine met while performing in Cirque du Soleil and got married on the high wire. 

When not performing on film & tv and events around the world like the Calgary Stampede, Jade and Karine run an artist retreat , “Mas Pinet,” out of their 300 year-stone old home in the south of France. 

Little did I know that this “home high wire,” running about 250 feet and bridging two hills over a river valley would be a catalyst of change in my life. 

This epic walk took nearly 90 minutes to complete … it takes Jade about 5... I had no idea that walking above the treetops, nearly in mid-air, would become an existential experience for me. 

I felt the oxygen running through my blood. I felt the air from the Middle East rushing past me and through me yearning to reach Newfoundland. What stories did the wind carry? How was this force of nature so much more powerful than all of the cells in my body? Could I make love to the wind? Could I resist the wind? Could I resist the force of life itself? Could I defy death? What does it mean to live - one step at a time? I, alone, decided my fate. I, alone, had to decide how to work with nature. I had to give in and become one with all … while holding firm on my will to fulfill my goal of getting to the other side.

After the walk, I experienced a watershed moment and was inspired to create a new artistic work that explores the tension between the competing forces of Order and Chaos.  With STRING THEORY, I embarked on a theatrical experiment to push the limits between the poles of gravity & space, harmony & discord, heart & mind, art & science, individual & Universe. After my walk on the high wire, which was both harrowing and exhilarating, my idea was to create a new performance piece that honors the deep connection between the exploratory passion of math and science, and our uniquely human emotional and spiritual navigational system.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? erformance is the ideal arena for the public discussion of ideas. Performance is intentionally provocative. Artists have a “zoom lens” that’s focused on issues of humanity, current events and world history. We are asking large questions about what's happening in our lives - in the world and why ~ is this moment different from what's happened in the past? Is this better or worse? This process of artistic questioning plants seeds of dialogue for the audience. These discussions can be carried to educational forums, around dinner tables, at coffee shops, during intermission in the theatre, and even to the ballot box.

How did you become interested in making performance? I think that most of us tend to forget we have the power of choice and live assuming a self-defined role (or character) until we grow out of it, or something drastic enough happens to us that forces us to change. I was caught between sadness of all of the things that I couldn't control and all of the things that I wanted to experience but I was afraid because it might take away from someone else ... in that dilemma, creating performances (dance, theater, tv/film) felt good. I wanted to inspire people to make choices that bring them closer to the life they want to enjoy. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show? I guess I took all of the biggest challenges I could think of for myself and I decide to tackle them one at a time!  For instance, in terms of geography, I live in Florida, my dancer lives in London, my actor never worked with a dancer before, my vocalist lives in Washington, DC, and the songwriter was in Italy.  Early in the process, we had working rehearsals in Florida, but we did a lot by Skype as well.  I’ve worked with Sonja Perreten, who was a featured dancer in my earlier work called “Dreambody” and Kelli Young is a classical vocalist with whom I’ve been friends since we both attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC.  Douglas Lanier, the composer of the song “Lux Aeterna” and I have worked together on a number of projects, on Broadway, off Broadway, Six Flags America, etc.  So in addition to the geographic spread of the cast and collaborators in the show, there were personal relationships, and everyone pushed themselves to their artistic limits to weave the disparate elements of dance, music, and spoken word to come together.

Given what I’d experienced on the high wire walk, there was no way to convey that directly.  I had to use a multi-media approach, disparate movement and vocal modalities.  To express what was pretty much inexpressible, I also needed to use physical props (a bungee chord) as metaphor and to project film footage. I wanted to reach the audience through all sensory stimulants, to move through a living experience.

Does the show fit with your usual productions? That depends.  When I direct theatre, the productions tend to be crowd-pleasing classics, entertaining American musical theatre shows or contemporary message-driven content.  In creating choreography, I’ve always had a penchant to tackle subject matter that elevates humanity utilizing a highly physical and technical vernacular complemented by a complex musical structure. DREAMBODY for instance was considered ground-breaking because it expanded the boundaries of dance using performers both with and without disabilities, in and out of wheelchairs.  It was a 34-minute exploration in dance of the Eastern “chakra system.” Glen Velez, the master frame drum player, created the score, all of it percussion.  But the theme itself dictated these challenges.  I guess I like to tackle the unknown, projects that are scary, taking risks as a creator, yes.   STRING THEORY is something new entirely.  It’s multi-media dance theater.  This is a first for me.

What do you hope that the audience will experience? A sense of self-value, love of life, inspiration to make choices that take them toward hope and the goals they want to create in their own lives.  Beauty, love of dance, love of art, an appreciation for all of the things that had to line up in the right order for them to be sitting in the seat in the theater.  I don’t take the valuable time of my audience for granted.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I set up the piece using every artistic voice and modality I could, given the limitations I had to adhere to with time and space in the theater.   This is an 8-minute piece and there were strict limitations on the use of props for instance.  

But the theme demanded that I “pull out all the stops” …that’s what I felt on the high wire, a tempestuous yet unified field of experience, what is essentially so inexpressible … my strategy was to cover all senses …and if the dance didn't inspire, perhaps the words, if not the words, perhaps the music, if not the music, perhaps the footage, if not the footage, perhaps the song, etc.  A totality.  Just as I felt the universe itself to be.  That reverence, you see, was my safety net.

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Labels: Dramaturgy database Edfringe 2017 Greenside



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