Becky Malewitz | January 26, 2018
Contemporary dance doesn’t have to be intimidating.
“People will be surprised at how approachable modern and contemporary dance can be,” Jammie Walker, a dancer in the Jessica Lang Dance Company, says during a phone interview from the Charlotte, N.C., airport.
“I think, sometimes, there’s a stigma of modern or contemporary dances being too weird our out there or 'I didn’t get it' or something like that, but I don’t think that’s the case with the program that we have.”
For the company's performances Friday and Saturday at the University of Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, the program consists of three pieces, including one choreographed to Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s setting of the “Stabat Mater,” a 13th-century poem written from the perspective of a bystander who witnesses the Virgin Mary’s suffering during Christ's Crucifixion.
"It’s just a beautiful story, and I didn’t do it literally, but, you know, there is probably enough nods to the story so that it’s somewhere in between,” artistic director Jessica Lang says. “I feel like if you're religious, it will speak to you, and if you're not, it will still speak to you because it’s about being human.”
The piece, which was originally commissioned for the Glimmerglass festival in 2013, makes its premiere outside of New York at DeBartolo, where the company performs it with vocalists and orchestral accompaniment from Notre Dame's music department.
“You do a lot of research and thought and thinking about the audience and what is my reaction to this timeless historical story,” she says about integrating movement to tell such a well-known story.
In addition to “Stabat Mater,” which will be the entire first half of the program, the second half of the program includes “The Calling” and “Thousand Yard Stare,” a piece dedicated to those affected by war, particularly veterans. "Thousand Yard Stare" is set to the adagio movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15, written while the composer was in the throes of a fatal illness.