Moving People: Dance as the Living Shape of Emotion
Abstract of the lecture
While recounting the stations, stages, events and experiences leading to my own development as a dancer, choreographer and artist, I would like, in my honorary address, to propose a personal definition of the art of dance as the living shape of emotion. With reference to events during my childhood and adolescence—such as the early discovery of a talent for drawing and painting, while at the same time sensing an unexplainable attraction to theatre dance and an irrepressible instinct to express feelings through my own movement—I would like to recount how these diverse strands of experience led to the realization of my calling as a choreographer and ballet director.
Fragments of early education in Milwaukee Wisconsin—both in many forms of graphic arts as well as the dance lessons taken in a small ballet school—were at first separate activities. These studies, however, provided the solid basis of knowledge and technique necessary to later unite seemingly separate art forms while following a vocation. From the beginning, the urge to express the human situation as a performer on the stage was an inborn instinct. Later, during the study of English literature and Theatre arts at Marquette University in Milwaukee, the guidance of a Jesuit priest, who became my mentor, led me to that specific path, combining painting skills, literary education, spiritual conviction and dance technique which was choreography—the designing of human movement in space and time.
At first, pursuing intensely a career as a ballet dancer, my creative urge was repressed. However, quite soon during my career as a soloist with the Stuttgart Ballet, I rediscovered the need to choreograph. The sudden and unexpected opportunity not only to make ballets but to direct a company of my own dancers in Frankfurt Germany led to experiments combining the knowledge and experience of my beginnings. Freedom in creating a unique repertoire, while training a chosen group of dance artists, combining movement, design, reference to literature, as well as an awareness and personal concern for the human condition, led to the development of a specific artistic philosophy. More than my own performing, dance creation—understood as the moment when the spontaneous invention of movement, inspired by interior feelings and enabled by the discipline of a learned technique, gives shape to deep emotions—became my primary concern. In an organized, "choreographed," human action the physical gives form to the spiritual and is communicated to witnesses who recognize some part of themselves—our own common humanity.
The strands of education, experiment and life experience have been further woven together and constantly developed during many years of creation with my Hamburg Ballet. By creating movement designed to move people, dance continuously gives living shape to human emotion.