DRACULA’S GARDEN: A SERIES OF CONTEMPORARY BALLET POEMS
This contemporary dance series explores the universe of Gothic literature: its stories, creatures, and themes.
We are interested in how Gothic literature and its themes evoke a range of emotions, from love to horror. Curiosity, excitement, exploration of something dark or dangerous, adventure, loss, deformation, search for humanity – the themes reflected in these stories that continue to appeal to us many decades after they were written. In this series, dance artists explore the personal, cultural, and historical symbolism of pointe shoes in the context of ballet, and re-imagine and re-invent their meaning, use, and symbolism. The Gothic literature themes, stories, and personages provide a juxtaposition to the classical balletic ideology of beauty. We look for ways to un-demonize and resurrect creatures, habits, humans, and emotions that, through processes of marginalization, are banished from cultural spot light.
“Dracula’s Garden Rising: a contemporary dance film.
This film presents dance work from different choreographers in Dracula’s Garden series. It showcases choreography and concepts from several different dance poems in the larger series. In a way, it is a preview for the larger “Dracula’s Garden” series, giving a glimpse of themes, narratives, emotions, and personages we are exploring in this larger body of artistic work. The full length film is coming soon – stay tuned for an announcement about screening date!
More about the series:
The Dracula’s Garden series investigates social constructions of beauty; ugliness; deformity; both the sublime and the grotesque, and the line between the two. We look for the moments of the uncanny and the sublime, expressed in psychology of writers and readers of Gothic fiction.
The Gothic literary universe provides many useful vehicles that we are applying to the development of dance works for this series: the projection of cultural fears onto those who are Othered; the justification of humans who are marginalized via discourses of monstrosity, inhumanity, and incivility; and the representation of suppressed unconscious urges and impulses in the actions of those deemed ugly, Other, or deformed. Within the dance work development, we investigate how what and who has been Othered and deemed deformed may possess meaning, function, or a personal, non-hierarchical beauty aesthetic.
Concept and Artistic Direction: Alina Sotskova. Choreography: Alina Sotskova and Rachel Helten, in collaboration with the dancers.
LIST OF DANCE WORKS
Six dance works have been developed in this series to date: “Dracula’s Garden Rising,” a contemporary dance film that highlights excerpts from movement research and specific works in this series (see above); “Slugs in the Cemetery” solo; “A Monster’s Heart” duet; “The Graeae” ensemble piece; “The Veiled Portrait” ensemble piece; “Others” ensemble piece; and “Apparition/Creature/Mass” ensemble piece. We consider each piece a dance poem – a self-contained narrative, telling its own story, exploring new characters and themes. The overarching themes of investigating beauty, monstrosity, horror, and the grotesque connect the individual dance poems together.
“Slugs in the Cemetery” solo
A dance poem that is a meditation on the mundane of the Gothic world, what some might be as existentially insignificant. There are no glorious supernatural creatures here, just worms and slugs living their typical life in a cemetery by an abandoned castle. Do you experience them as beautiful? Ugly? Endearing? Why? How do you know what beauty really is? Are you sure…
Choreographed and performed by: Alina Sotskova. Music: “Be So,” by Unwoman.
“A Monster’s Heart” duet
Grief. A universal human experience, though we all feel it differently. The Gothic heroes, villains, and monsters have much to grieve: do they grieve the loss of their humanity or the terrible pain they feel when their humanity is not recognized, when they are made out to be monsters by others who are just like them? A pairing of creatures may appear horrifying, but why does it frighten so? After all, they feel grief and loss just as you do.
Choreography: Alina Sotskova in collaboration with Rachel Helten. Performed by: Alina Sotskova & Rachel Helten. Music: “Hunger” by Unwoman.
“The Graeae” ensemble piece
Three sisters gather. In the distance, soft whispers and screams guide their wake. Their ritual begins. Possessed by the moonlight and figures of beauty. They transform into creatures of the night. Three heads upon their vessels. Dread, horror, and alarm are their names. Colliding and abiding by the rhythm of their shadows. Their desire grows thicker and deranged. The time has come to pass. Escaping the pyre of their ghastly pasts. Their breath slips away as they seek the life of the moon once again. This work has been inspired by the works of Oscar Wilde & Edgar Allan Poe. Bless their powerful influence and the opportunity to find catharsis through their understanding of the light and the darkness.
Choreographer: Rachel Helten in collaboration with dancers. Performed by: Alina Sotskova, Kestrel Paton & Rachel Helten. Previous collaborators: Samantha Presley & Sophie Brassard. Music: Mix by Ezequiel Peralta.
“The Veiled Portrait” ensemble piece
Imagine a museum, filled with portraits from many centuries ago. The dry, painted eyes almost seem to follow you. You come to a mirror – your own living, breathing portrait is staring back at you: uncurated, soft, made of flesh. It does not have every hair painted perfectly in place. But you know you could make it so. You have your own perfect portrait-making device in your pocket. It can make you look like a dream. Then you remember: you don’t know how you got to this museum. You don’t know where it is. And you don’t know how to get out.
This is a work in progress. Choreography: Alina Sotskova, with contributions by the dancers (Rachel Helten, Kestrel Paton). Music: Chris Giles.
“Apparition/Creature/Mass” ensemble piece
The movement in this dance work is entirely improvised. The dancers are given different tasks; the title hints at three different qualities they explore and embody. The dancers’ main focus is on genuinely becoming something new, behaving as whatever or whoever they embody. What you see will never be seen again – the creatures they become come to life for but a moment, only to fade into the next fantasy. Perhaps they are mouse-scorpions skittering along the floor of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, or bat-spiders crawling on the wall behind you.
Artistic Direction: Alina Sotskova. Choreography: The dancers. Performed by: Rachel Helten, Kestrel Paton, Alina Sotskova.
“Others” ensemble piece
This work contains excerpts from Slugs in the Cemetrey, The Graeae, and improvisational elements of movement research from Dracula’s Garden series.
YOU CAN SUPPORT THIS SERIES DIRECTLY!
Right now, we are raising funds to continue work on this series in 2020, and have exciting collaborations planned with dancers, operatic artists, and musicians! If you want to support grassroots, meaning-oriented art and dance, please consider making a donation to our campaign on our Go Fund Me page here:
For more videos, see playlist titled, “Dracula’s Garden” in the “Videos” section on our Facebook Voirelia page.
Photos from rehearsals, movement research, and specific works in this series:
Photos from shooting of “Dracula’s Garden Rising,” a contemporary dance film in this series:
The Dracula’s Garden series is interdisciplinary. It also includes photography, film, poetry, music and other original works of art. More photography from this series can be found in the Photography section of our website.