“The Atlantic Man” has seen three iterations over the last twelve years. Two of those were staged in the early 2000’s. Jean originally set the work on her UCSD students in the winter of 2003, where a 19-year-old Erica Ruse performed as a sophomore. Shortly after that, Jean further developed the work on the SDDT company dancers, and along with Liv Isaacs-Nollet and Terry Wilson (who helped to set the piece), our beloved John Diaz performed it. Both John and Erica will be on stage next weekend in this new version of “The Atlantic Man” for Dances of Love, Laughter & Loss. They’ve shared some memories from the past, as well as their insight about the process.
You’ve been with Jean for many years. What has it been like to create and re-set works with Jean over the years?
Creation of a new work with Jean requires a certain amount of vulnerability and malleability in order to bring her vision to fruition. Our rapport with each other is one honed over the years of working together. On my end, I am willing to try movement-wise what she is asking for (even if at times it seems impossible), and I know that she trusts my instincts. Sometimes it looks to an outsider that we might be communicating telepathically as we come up with what we are going to do in the moment. In reality, in the creation of work, the space is allowed for the dance to be born without imposing preconceived ideas first. Throughout these various years I have functioned as demonstrator, répétiteur, movement generator, and embodiment of the work. In resetting works, the process has been to remember when something happened, who was there, where did we dance the work, and to trust my body’s kinesthetic memory to bring forth the drive behind the actions. Working with resetting dance is not so straightforward as viewing a video and coping verbatim however. The variables change as to who is doing the work, where it is to be performed, and addressing what is needed currently to resurrect it. This last point could be something small as adding a set element or as drastic as expanding/excising or creating a whole section.
Tell us about your first experience with The Atlantic Man 10 years ago.
I really enjoyed performing “The Atlantic Man” when we first created it. I especially appreciated the complexity of dealing with empty vs. full… the layers of video, text, and sets. It had a definite sense of place and created its own world, complete with rules, sense of time, and motivations for our actions in response to the emotional landscape. When we danced this, everyone had a very strong artistic investment in this work, and I was transported and transformed in rehearsing and performing this work. It was a great opportunity to put myself aside and fully commit artistically.
What is it like to perform this new version?
It feels strangely refreshing. I get to dive in again into this world this time with a greater sense of depth and curiosity. I am not the same person, yet that part of me that is connected to this dance feels very unchanged and always present. The same holds true for this incarnation of ‘The Atlantic Man’; even with the amendments to the various sections, the very essence/presence/spirit is still very much alive and unchanged. In the reconstruction of this dance, I must acknowledge two very important people who helped to bring this work back to life, Terry Wilson- Bean, and Liv Isaacs-Nollet. Their contributions to this work cannot be underestimated, nor for myself, overlooked. How they moved when remembering movement phrase work, their reasons for why we were doing what we were doing, and artistry all were instrumental to helping bring this dance back to life. It is as if I needed their bodies to remember on a very deep level of how to make this dance live again. I have great reverence for this work and am very honored to perform “Atlantic Man” again.
Tell us about your role in the original version.
In the beginning of this recreation process, I wasn’t sure how my role in the original was similar to what it is now. As the piece developed, I was given more and more material that harkens back to when I first learned it. Even though there are major choreographic differences, I would say that there are times when my role was/is to represent one half of a relationship that has ended or is ending. I was used in the video that is projected behind the live performance back in 2003, and it was fun to reshoot the video for this production. It really is a little bit like a time warp.
What has it been like to re-work this piece as part of SDDT?
I believe everyone involved would agree that the work of recreating was tedious and a bit frustrating at times. Most of the dancers were starting from scratch, but John Diaz and I had bits and pieces to sort through in our bodies and memories- some things to reuse and some to let go of entirely. The most exciting aspect has been getting to dance with seasoned artists who all know how to make smart choices about the movement and who make it their own beautifully. What I love about this piece is how layered and rich it all is!
How does it feel to be back at UCSD performing with Jean?
This is definitely what I would consider a full circle moment in life… The Atlantic Man was the first time I felt I might be able to pursue dance as a career. Despite going into UCSD with the intent to major in dance, I really didn’t know anything about contemporary/modern before taking Jean’s class. It was her teaching, mentoring, and providing me with opportunities that made it all possible. Obviously a lot has happened in the 12 years since I was a 19-year-old college student! It’s all very tender and meaningful and hard to describe, but I value the chance to revisit this piece and to be back onstage at UCSD after what feels like quite the evolution; marriage, moves, two babies, etc. I’m excited to challenge myself to be stronger and somehow give more and outperform my younger self (ha!). Mostly I’m just looking forward to sharing this with an audience and I hope they can take something meaningful away when they walk out of the theater.
Catch these two stunning performers and this not to be missed revival, live on January 16, 17, & 18 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre!
Performance Information: sandiegodancetheater.org/LoveLaughterLoss.html