Choreography by Donald McKayle
World Premiere - Performed May 2003 by Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley
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Sea: Kai Davis, Catharine Grow, Rika Onizuka, Dalia Rawson
Storm: Ivan Bielik
Fisherman: James Strong
Skeleton Woman: Beth Ann Namey
Woman Reborn: Sayaka Tai
DEATH AND EROS is the initial entry in Donald McKayle's Story Dance Theatre, a project
immersed in the lore of indigenous peoples. The dance is a movement illumination of the
legend of the Skeleton Woman, an Inuit tale passed down in the oral tradition from
generation to generation.
A father casts his daughter into the sea for committing an act of unforgivable effrontery to communal mores and sacred beliefs. Beneath the waters her flesh is eaten away leaving only her bare skeleton and her spirit that remains alive. A hungry fisherman, far away from his home, comes to the cove of the Skeleton Woman, a place believed haunted by the local fishermen and therefore avoided. The fisherman arrives as a great storm suddenly ceases and he casts his line into the waters. He hooks the skeleton woman tossing in the currents below and pulls her upward to his kayak. He retreats in fear from the horrific sight that he beholds, dragging the caught skeleton woman with him. In a macabre dance, she seems to trip across the surface of the water. He reaches land and races across the frozen tundra; the skeleton woman, tied to him, in constant pursuit. He reaches his hut and dives into the darkness. Trembling with hunger and fear, he lights a fire. In the flickering glow of the flames, he perceives the skeleton woman lying in an entangled heap. In this vulnerable state, she is no longer frightening or dangerous. Something is awakened within him; he approaches her, rearranges her bones, and decides to bury her properly the next morning.
As he sleeps, tears seep from his eyes. The skeleton woman crawls over to him and drinks the salty liquid. Flesh returns to her bones and hair grows lushly upon her head. She awakens the sleeping fisherman, pounding his heart like a drum with a sacred and lustful rhythm. They join together in a communion of body and spirit.
Whenever the northern lights are seen, they are there, ever-present as two piercing stars within the Aurora Borealis. Their love is eternal and stronger than death. [Donald McKayle's program notes]
Photo images copyright © 2003, Bob Shomler.
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