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Responses to my 50 hours with Quadriptyque


In the research for Quadriptyque I wanted to indulge a desire to aestheticize the handicapped body, to exploit its beauty. The emotional charges, that came from my initial meetings with France many years ago, triggered an interest in occupying a position of dependence with consciousness, love and intelligence, and balancing that dependency with your own politics. I think this response to France and her situation led me to Ingrid Bergman, playing Ilsa in the Hollywood film Casablanca (1942), because Ilsa finds herself both in love and in deep political need. She carries the films theme of duty, duty to her husband and ‘the cause’. She is trapped by matrimony and by her political allegiance. She is also visually trapped between a dynamic series of men who are tracking her every move. She plays out the emotional dilemma of the film through the soft and severe curves of her face. I thought that this was a role that France would both understand and be able to inhabit. Luckily France liked playing Ilsa!

The context of WWII and the presence of the Nazis in Casablanca politicized the negative emotive charges associated with the handicapped body, in an overtly theatrical manner. We made fun of the absurd insanity of the Nazi totalitarian ideal, which had the effect of suffocating the negativity. This is the joy of parody and satire; a subtle and ruthless art that the cast seemed to understand really well.

I did not want to make the handicapped body the subject of the work but I did want it to inform and feed the work. I think this is usually the case with my work; the characters and the story work with the meaning that the performers own body suggests. It is live performance and the performer’s own body is present and conveys meaning, however it is only one element in the world of the piece, and depending on the style of the scene, the body could loose its’ self in the scene.

Though one may expect uncomfortable reactions from people when talking about handicapped dancers, my work for Quadriptyque impressed my friends and family quite a lot. In fact it seemed to lend some kind of legitimacy to my choreographic practise.

Deborah Dunn

January 15th 2017