JOQ with Terese

TereseDancing

JOQ with Terese

Katya and The Bolshoi Brazil

bolshoibrasilKaterina Novikova, dance teacher at The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow (Katya) and I were discussing Leo Tolstoy again.
Katerina (Katya) is a dance instructor at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. Moscow was also the new “home” of Russian author Leo Tolstoy who became so overwhelmed with all the poverty … he asked:

What then must we do?”   –Leo Tolstoy

I told Katya about Bee Gilbert’s humanitarian work with Anno’ Africa in the Mathare slums in Kenya (I was born in Kenya and attended school there). Bee and her team are bringing creative expression through art forms such as ballet.

Katya thought about what Bee was doing for a while and then wrote this back to me:

Of course – that is a positive thing to do for the children in the African slums. I understand. That is why we have the Bolshoi Ballet school in Brazil for free for talented kids from poor families and I know how it works on them is a miracle!

This is from the official website of the Bolshoi Brazil:

A single project that unites art with social responsibility

BolshBrazThe Project of the Bolshoi Theater School in Brazil is not just for the purpose of opening the doors to the world of art through the professional formation of ballet artists, it wants to go beyond this, and reach those who have never dreamt of having the chance of being part of the art world and to develop, through them, citizens who not only have a comprehensive education but are more aware of what is around them.

_______________________________________

BrasilBolshoiFollowing the same socially orientated philosophy of the Moscow School – whose first young students were orphans – the Brazilian School is repeating the experience of the Russian one two centuries later.

92% of the approximately 220 students who receive free studies, food, uniform, transport, emergency medical aid and physiotherapy are scholarship holders from low income families and from the municipal schools in Joinville.

 

Bee Gilbert and Anno’s Africa

Bee and I were discussing the Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai – Bee had read my article on Maathai entitled Why Not Plant Trees? Bee wrote me this very thoughtful response:

I read Wangari Mathaai’s autobiography last year and am very moved by the tree planting programme and the sustainability it provides.

I was brought up in a cottage in the middle of an ancient, primarily broad leaf wood in Cornwall so trees are a very important  part of my life too!!

It was a place called Heligan and has now become rather well know since  part of the Estate has been revived as “The Lost Garden’s of Heligan” and the guy who cleared the debris from the exotic part of the woods and renovated the old bee hives and greenhouses, went on to found the Eden Project …

So dance and trees sounds a good combination!

KenyaAnnos

Annos Africa students from the Mathare slums in Kenya

Anno’s Africa

= “Creative Arts Education for

Orphans and Children from the Slums”

Here is an excerpt from Bee’s Blog:

This year we had 90 children participating in the ballet from the two slum schools and…  it was the third year in Mathare for the kids (including 8 boys who joined).

Terese and Martha Graham

In 1987, I was teaching high school in Harlem. For one weeknight per week I bantered at Cicero’s Corner. For two other weekday evenings and every Saturday I was a dance student at Martha Graham Dance Studio in New York City.

Terese Capucilli was a Principal Dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company at that time – a position she held for 26 years.

The noteworthy moment I recently reminisced with Terese about was in that year of 1987 when Martha Graham got tickets for all us students to see her production of Appalachian Spring. In that historic, unforgettable performance Terese Capucilli danced the role of The Bride to Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Husbandman and Rudolf Nureyev’s Preacher.

Subsequent to this performance which I was privileged to see Terese in – in 1987 – Terese was partnered again by Baryshnikov in Martha Graham’s Night Journey (at the 1989 ABT/Graham Gala at the MET) and in 1991, El Penitente at City Center, subsequently touring the work with Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project both in Paris and in London.

Terese Capucilli is a faculty member at Julliard School of Dance.

Her vast accomplishments are documented in detail but here are some excerpts from her bio:

Terese Capucilli, acclaimed interpreter of the roles originally performed by Martha Graham, is one of the last generation of dancers to be coached and directed by Graham herself.
A Principal Dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company for twenty-six years, she became Associate Artistic Director in 1997 and from 2002 to 2005 served as Artistic Director, with Christine Dakin, seeing the organization and its dancers through the rebirth of the Company. A torchbearer and driving force of Graham’s work for nearly three decades, she is now Artistic Director Laureate.

Terese Capucilli came into her own as the most powerful dramatic dancer of the decade. — Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times 1984

Terese became a prominent figure on the Graham stage, touring the world and performing in all of Graham’s major work.

Dancing a diversity of roles, they include Jocasta in Night Journey, The Bride in Appalachian Spring, The Principal Sister in Deaths and Entrances, She Who Dances in Letter to the World (with Kathleen Turner as She Who Speaks), Hecuba in Cortege of Eagles, Joan in Seraphic Dialogue, Mary Queen of Scots in Episodes, She Who Seeks in Dark Meadow, Medea in Cave of the Heart, Empress of the Arena in Every Soul is a Circus, The Virgin in Primitive Mysteries, The Woman in Errand into the Maze, the title roles in Hérodiade, Phaedra, Heretic and Judith and Graham’s classic solo, Lamentation

Roles created for Ms. Capucilli include The Chosen One in The Rite of Spring, Crescent Moon in Temptations of the Moon and the lead role in Ms. Graham’s final ballet Maple Leaf Rag.

In 1999 she was invited by Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz to be photographed for  Ms. Leibovitz’s book Women for her Pirelli Calendar series.

Terese is a recipient of a 1985-86 Dance Fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA and was subsequently awarded the Princess Grace Statuette.

Question from Karim


Terese, you are one of the last dancers to be taught by Martha Graham – what has that meant to you in your career as a dancer and as a dance teacher who carries the legacy?

Response from Terese

JohnDeanePhoto

Terese Capucilli – a portrait photograph by John Deane


What Terese has is very rare and very wonderful.  It’s a matter of her musical timing.  As a dancer, you must not follow the music, you are the music. It’s an emanation of your body.

Martha Graham to Sasha Anawalt, New York Times Magazine

It is common knowledge that Martha Graham saw herself as a dancer first.

She wished first and foremost to be remembered as such, but her power today extends far beyond that, as one of the greatest American choreographers and revolutionary innovators of the 20th century.

She left a legacy of dances, an enduring technical language, as well as a philosophy by which to live and work. Of vital importance to all of this, is that this legacy and all it encompasses, the dances, the technique and the philosophical approach to working, all live within the dancer’s body; the many generations of dancers who have nested, struggled and lived inside Martha’s work.

Without the dancer as interpretive artist, the work cannot live. Without dancers of courage who are able to expose all the sensitivities, the strengths, the vulnerabilities, the wretchedness and the joys that make humanity the ever-enduring wonder it is, the work does not live truthfully.

And further still, the dance lies within the memories of those that have found themselves drawn there, to the theater, to find a piece of themselves in the beauty of the ‘fourth wall’, which every performer wishes to penetrate and strives to capture at least one heart…

I spent half of my life living within Martha’s theater – inside her most vital masterpieces inhabiting some terribly wonderful, vibrant characters. It is a journey that few have the opportunity to experience with such depth.

Like the richness of the Shakespearean theater, I found myself dancing Martha’s vast array of archetypal characters and finding myself as an artist within, discovering how Martha’s theater appeals so enormously to audiences’ emotions because of the gloriously huge figures, the myths, the legends, the types of poetic and heroic themes she dealt with.

There is always something to grasp onto that has a strong validity and vitality to it. Working with these characters of grand stature — the men and women of Martha’s work, like Jocasta, Oedipus or Medea and Jason, Clytemnestra as well as Emily Dickenson, the Bronte sisters, Joan of Arc, Mary Queen of Scots — you discover that they are really so tangible.

They speak about gut-level truths about human beings.

At the basis of it all, is the instinctual knowledge that the life I have lead as a professional dance artist is inseparable from the life I lead as a child, a daughter, a sister, a friend or my life as a wife, a mother, a teacher.

Martha always spoke of dancers as ‘ the Chosen Ones’, and as primitively rooted as dance is to our world, there are so many that will never truly understand the absolute necessity to embrace this piece of humanity that lies so deeply within our bodies, their bodies, within our culture, within the universally expressive needs of human beings.

Through many years, I have shared with my students Martha Graham’s own credo, which I include here as I believe it to be of vital importance to all, dancer or not:

I am a dancer….I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, sense of one’s being, satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.

Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire, Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.

I think the reason dance has held such an ageless magic for the world is that it has been the symbol of the performance of living. Many times I hear the phrase…the dance of life. It is close to me for a very simple and understandable reason. The instrument through which the dance speaks is also the instrument through which life is lived…the human body. It is the instrument by which all the primaries of experience are made manifest. It holds in its memory all matters of life and death and love. Dancing appears glamorous, easy and delightful. But the path to the paradise of that achievement is not easier than any other. There is fatigue so great that the body cries, even in its sleep. There are times of complete frustration, there are daily small deaths. Then I need all the comfort that practice has stored in my memory, and a tenacity of faith that Abraham had wherein he… “Staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief.”

Terese

Terese Capucilli as Medea in Martha Graham’s “Cave of the Heart”; Photo by John Deane

As quoted by Anna Kisselgoff,  The New York Times:

It takes ten years to make a mature dancer. The training is two-fold.

There is the study and practice of the craft in order to strengthen the muscular structure of the body. The body is shaped, disciplined, honored and, in time, trusted. Movement never lies. It is the barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who read it. This might be called the law of the dancer’s life…the law which governs its outer aspects.

Then there is the cultivation of the being. It is through this and the legends of the soul’s journey are re-told, with all their gaiety and all their tragedy, the bitterness and sweetness of living. It is at this point that the sweep of life catches up the mere personality of the performer and while the individual (the undivided one) becomes greater, the personal becomes less personal.

And there is grace. I mean the grace resulting from faith…faith in life, in love, in people, in the act of dancing. All this is necessary to any performance in life which is magnetic, powerful, rich in meaning.

In a dancer there is a reverence for such forgotten things as the miracle of the small beautiful bones and their delicate strength. In a thinker there is a reverence for the beauty of the alert and directed and lucid mind. In all of us who perform there is an awareness of the smile which is part of the equipment or gift of the acrobat. We have all walked the high wire of circumstance at times. We recognize the gravity pull of the earth as he does. The smile is there because he is practicing living at the instant of danger. He does not choose to fall.

– Martha Graham

It begins in the heart – a passionate quest in search of expression — It is simply a love for the raw beauty of that very vulnerable place of learning and discovery, the studio.

The place where the dancer trains day after day, year after year…

…first absorbing the technique into the body, continually fine tuning it so that it becomes second nature, that the very core of one’s being can speak freely through it. One hopes that movement is absorbed, into every fiber, every sinew of the muscle, finding the depth of physicality, and upon repetition, repetition, repetition…a certain inevitable truth begins to reveal itself. This can only happen if the artist is courageous enough to delve physically and emotionally to the breathtaking, yet frightful point where teetering on the edge of a cliff brings a keener awareness, sensitivity, tremendous texture and richness of expression.

This language has become the language and philosophy I move through life with, whether in the studio rehearsing, with my students teaching, or at home reading with my son. Here these experiences become intertwined with life as it is lived.

I have always likened the accumulation of this kind of physical and emotional knowledge to the building of a beautifully terraced garden.

She is a performer of prodigious physical prowess and generous personality, of burning passion, with the impact of an unsheathed weapon.

Agnes de Mille, MARTHA (The Life and Work of Martha Graham)

You are given the chance to construct it as imaginatively as a child may build a castle. It is life-long. Here you will place all the knowledge and experiences that you are fortunate to acquire and from the layers of that garden you will, moment after moment, year after year, draw from it. Those physical and expressive memories that have been planted for some time will have such deep roots that they will have absorbed themselves as deeply into your being and can be delivered through a character as subconsciously as a breath.

Those others that are not so easily drawn upon will require attentiveness, questioning, challenging, (in a sense…watering…re-planting.)

I attempt to feed my students with the desire to question and observe and sensitize themselves to the many layers that make us humans, human. In this way they ask their own questions and in time, if they persevere, arrive at their own answers.

Martha was driven by the necessity to get down to the essentials of expression and that carried her far to search for movement that penetrated the depth of human emotion. Dance as entertainment or dance as an escape from life did not interest her. She saw it as a means of inner regeneration, an attempt to bring one closer to life and our own realities.

She wrote:

“I did not want to be a tree, a flower or a wave. In a dancer’s body, we as audience must see ourselves, not the imitated behavior of every day actions, not the phenomena of nature, not exotic creatures from another planet, but something of the miracle that is a human being, motivated, disciplined, concentrated…My necessity is to attempt to reveal the inner landscape, which is the soul of man….I have never been able to divorce the dancing from life”.

–Martha Graham

The elemental forces in Martha’s theater are her characters. They are not types, but archetypes. They are every man and every woman and should we be open to accepting it, (or admitting it) we probably know every aspect of them as well as we know ourselves. Very often audiences are not willing or emotionally able to allow themselves to look that deeply within and therefore lose out on an opportunity to truly experience the work… or themselves fully.

One might ask –

Does dance live in the deep recesses of the heart of the performer or does it live in the hearts and minds of those watching, the spectator?

[Feature Image on Teacher Thoughts heading of Brick Project 2016 website:

Terese Capucilli’s performance of Martha Graham’s “Dark Meadow” at the Joyce Theatre – photo by Julie Lemberger for CORBIS]

 

  1. Allan04-30-2012

    Sitting under a clear fall sky in Mezimbite, confusing the dance of the fireflies and the stars I am a million miles away from Terese.

    Well not really when you think of it and just substitute a few key words for the original ones of Martha Graham

    “I am a tree planter/carpenter…I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to plant trees/fashion wood by practicing planting trees/crafting wood or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, sense of one’s being, satisfaction of spirit…”

    Thank you for reminding me that all of us crafts persons are pretty much the same, and that us brutish wood workers can happily sit on the same pages as ballet dancers.

  2. Karim04-30-2012

    Allan – whenever you and I talk on the phone you never seem to get my sense of humor. It just goes over your head. Personally, I think you’ve spent too much time in the Mozambique forest with those fireflies. Now let me try to explain this more clearly:

    I am writing about a dancer. Think about that. And then I say:

    “Terese Capucilli was a Principal Dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company at that time – a position she held for 26 years.”

    “A position she held…” And she is a dancer. Don’t you get it?…

    Oh well…

  3. Nigel C-T04-30-2012

    If it helps Editor, I do get it… yes, very droll…

    What I also enjoyed is this beautifully, beautifully articulated piece by Terese Capucilli. Here is something that really touched me:

    I have always likened the accumulation of this kind of physical and emotional knowledge to the building of a beautifully terraced garden.

    You are given the chance to construct it as imaginatively as a child may build a castle. It is life-long. Here you will place all the knowledge and experiences that you are fortunate to acquire and from the layers of that garden you will, moment after moment, year after year, draw from it.

    Those physical and expressive memories that have been planted for some time will have such deep roots that they will have absorbed themselves as deeply into your being and can be delivered through a character as subconsciously as a breath.

    As Lorena quoted in her article:

    Nous devons cultiver notre jardin* – Voltaire

    *”We must cultivate our own garden
    – French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) in Candide

  4. Editor04-30-2012

    Nigel, I was talking with my 14 year old daughter, Anastasia, about the biography we had both been reading by Diane Solway on Rudolph Nureyev. What comes across in Nureyev’s biography is reflected in what Terese says here, quoting Martha Graham:

    There is the study and practice of the craft in order to strengthen the muscular structure of the body. The body is shaped, disciplined, honored and, in time, trusted. Movement never lies. It is the barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who read it. This might be called the law of the dancer’s life.. the law which governs its outer aspects.

    There truly seems to be a “law” in operation within a dancer’s ethic.

    This comes out clearly in what Charles Jude says about Nureyev:

    Rudolf Nureyev did not just pass on his knowledge; he personified the school of life for a dancer. We have, thanks to him, been trained in the four basic rules of life.

    The first:

    Do not waste your time: “you work in a profession for the young, a profession that will come to an end very quickly. If you do not do it now, it will be too late. Roles cannot be learnt when you are 40 years of age, they must be learnt before you are 25, at most 28, years old.”

    The second:

    Enrich yourself, open up your mind, look all around, take it all in, and put yourself in the position of understanding and interpreting the choreography, not just performing it.

    His way of communicating and passing on to us his boundless sense of curiosity made him a being of exceptional intellect.

    The third:

    Work. Never bank on your reputation or your successes. Go through your corrections as soon as the performance is finished. Rudolf insisted that his female and male dancers leave nothing out, following technical difficulties through to their logical conclusion even at the risk of falling.

    The fourth:

    The stage, always the stage. We danced all over the place, in the best and the worst of places, often lacking technical support, often without rehearsals. But we danced and the audience seemed happy!

  5. Leslie Williams04-30-2012

    Leslie Williams
    The Julliard School of Dance

    Well, I am certainly glad to be studying The Graham Technique.

    Everything that has been said in my Wednesday and Thursday Graham class has been extended upon in this article. I may be a beginner, but already I can feel how these concepts and technical elements I use while dancing can be used in life.

    Every time I leave the class I feel like I learned something bigger than how to do a proper contraction or tilt; I feel as though I now have a fuller understanding of how my body works and how energy flows through it. And it feels great!

    This article exudes a serious passion for dancing, The Graham Technique and philosophy, and the beauty of life itself, which makes me feel even more passionate about learning! I am so fortunate to have such an insightful and inspiring figure as my teacher! Thank you so much, Terese! :)

  6. Jeffery Duffy04-30-2012

    Jeffrey Duffy
    The Julliard School of Dance

    Today I got a really nice compliment from one of my teachers and I can honestly say that admiring Terese and soaking in all of the passion that illuminates out of her helped me gain reach a spot in my artistry to gain such a compliment.

    Every time she teaches you feel it beyond her soul.

    Thank you Terese, for passing on Martha Graham’s legacy and YOURS!

    Martha Graham portrait photograph by Barbara Morgan / Courtesy of the Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York and The Smithsonian Magazine

  7. Concita04-30-2012

    Not too many people know also that Dame Margot Fonteyn‘s maternal grandfather was actually a Brazilian man by birth and breed by name of Antonio Gonçalvez Fontes.

    I only to mention this because I think that Dame Margot would have been very proud of the initiative that Katya has told us about The Bolshoi Brazil. Dame Margot would have been happy to see these children who are from the favela (very poor slums) of Brazil, receiving dance instruction also moral support to transforming their lives for sure…

    Lorena has been writing on favela so she must be happy too about Bolshoi initiative!

    These Brazilian kids look happy and hopeful to dance even if they are from the favela.

  8. Ruth05-01-2012

    Ruth
    The Julliard School of Dance

    Learning the Graham technique from Terese this year has changed how I look at dance.

    The intensity and truth with which Terese and the Graham technique is revealed in this article is how I have experienced every class taken from Terese this year. It is truly amazing how inspiring a teacher can be, but as she said in the article:

    “This language has become the language and philosophy I move through life with, whether in the studio rehearsing, with my students teaching, or at home reading with my son. Here these experiences become intertwined with life as it is lived”

    She embodies what she teaches.

    The technique comes alive through every moment spent with Terese.

    As students we can only hope to follow her example and find in ourselves an ability to question, challenge, and make ourselves vulnerable.

  9. Jovanni Soto05-01-2012

    Jovanni Soto
    The Julliard School of Dance

    In reading this esponse from Terese, it moves me to know how Martha’s process and her richness in embracing so many distinct characters with such beautiful movement.

    It is an Honor to have Terese as dance faculty at the Juilliard School teaching me a technique that as she stated:

    “Without the dancer as interpretive artist, the work cannot live”.

    It allows me to invest myself even more after hearing her speak about the quality and dynamics of the movement as well as watching her demonstrate with this richness of expression and awareness of every body part.

    Martha Graham – a portrait photograph by Barbara Morgan

  10. Penny Frank05-02-2012

    Unbelievable (not really, knowing you as I do).

    Gorgeous, both as written word and in content. This too is no surprise.

    What a fabulous piece, dear Tere, It is so You, so wise, wonderful. Only you could have written it, only you have the experience, the material within you and the ability to get it out there for others to see and understand.

    Bravo, my friend. Another tour de force. Add it to the long long list.

    Terese Capucilli (center) with Christine Dakin and Fang Yi Sheu, in Jacqulyn Buglisi’s Frida, based on the life and paintings of Frida Kahlo.

    Buglisi Dance Theatre – Photo by Nan Melville – Costume by A. Christina Giannini.

  11. Nicole Alger05-02-2012

    Terese, what a wonderfully moving portrayal of your life in dance.

    It’s so hard to use words to really describe movement– or music and painting for that matter– but you manage to do so.

    Congratulations to you for your continuing contribution to dance.

    You are very impressive!!

    xxN

    Terese Capucilli as photographed by Martha Swope, DM Archives

  12. Michael French05-02-2012

    As much as I can appreciate the “practice of living”, and how this might be manifest in one’s art, I’ve seen Ms Capucilli on stage a number of times and to watch her is to transcend all that is earthly.

    Martha Graham – a portrait photograph by Imogen Cunningham

    I’m sure if Ms Graham and Ms Capucilli, as teachers and performing artists, felt they could convey a tenth of the meditative experience they seem to have on stage, they would be quite satisfied.

    To observe the practice of “Chosen Ones” is to enter the temple of life with all it’s gifts.

    Thanks to Mezimbite for this wonderful interview and insight into two American treasures, Martha Graham and Terese Capucilli.

  13. Karim05-03-2012

    Thank you, Terese

    Terese – I have the same response to you as to Janet Echelman in the previous post…

    who’d have thunk it?

    From watching you dance with Martha Graham Dance Company in the mid-1980’s, to us working on this article together all these years later. The heartfelt testimonies of your students speak volumes about your character Terese – and remind me of this quote:

    To stimulate life, leaving it then free to develop, to unfold, herein lies the first task of the teacher.

    — Maria Montessori