In Conversation With Claudia Schreier About The Source, Her New Work For Miami City Ballet
By: Orlando Taquechel / Artburst Miami
Choreographer Claudia Schreier occupies a special place among the artists who accompanied us during the most devastating period of the COVID pandemic. Getting up early on Thursday, November 19, 2020, to enjoy the online premiere of Places – her first commissioned work for the Miami City Ballet (MCB)– was one of those memorable experiences that, under challenging times, lifts your spirits and makes you appreciate the role of art in our lives.
Claudia is returning now to present The Source (El Origen, in Spanish), her second work for the company directed by Lourdes López. It will be the main attraction of the last program of the MCB season, including the revival of Prodigal Son by George Balanchine. Also, the addition to the repertoire of Herman Schmerman Duet (choreography by William Forsythe and music by Thom Willems) and After the Rain Pas de Deux, by Christopher Wheeldon, with music by Arvo Pärt.
We visited the MCB headquarters to see a rehearsal of The Source and spoke with Claudia for the first time in person (when we interviewed her for Places, we did so via email).
Almost two years have passed, and she wants to clarify that The Source “isn’t a ballet that comes out of the pandemic. It’s not in response to the pandemic, and it has nothing to do with that whatsoever. It’s just about talking about a relatable human experience, and it’s an adventure story because we didn’t want to make something that made the audience feel downtrodden and depressed. So, it’s not about that at all.”
The program notes begin: “On a foggy, cold morning in a remote harbor, eight strangers burdened by grief seek to rid themselves of their pain. Holding their anguish in the palms of their hands, they launch it into the distance — and the world suddenly rips in two…”
“And they find themselves in this new universe where they’re trying to pull out the roots of the pain but find they’ve gone to a world where it grows,” adds Claudia. “It’s kind of a source, and that’s what The Source means. It’s the source of their pain. The allegorical structure allows us to tell the story without being too didactic. None of us [The Source creative team] is the kind of people who want a piece of art to tell us what the lesson is. We know we can let our audience draw their own conclusions.”
The first thing that strikes us when entering the rehearsal room is the number of people present. Nine in total, plus Claudia and her husband, Adam Barish, who appears in the credits as the director of The Source, and the 16 dancers participating in the work, which lasts half an hour.
“They were all there today,” says Adam, “because we started the technical week.” And he adds amusedly, “You came on a busy day.” They are Jason Ardizonne-West (Scenic Designer), Abigail Dupree-Polston (Costume Designer), Mark Stanley (Lighting Designer), Alex Basco Koch (Projection Designer), and Stephanie Beattie (Associate Projection Designer).
It is clear that The Source is a multidisciplinary project, and Adam comments that the plan is to make the ballet and a film with the same material. “When we’re making the movie, we’ll take the play out of the theatrical environment and make it for a movie audience,” he says.
Claudia points out that their roles overlap, “basically because of how we designed this project.” Adam states that his job is not to tell Claudia what she should do but “build her a playground.”
When we ask Claudia what her most significant influence has been, she doesn’t hesitate, smiles and points to Adam. “I have learned a lot about myself as an artist and person through my relationship with Adam. Adam is very musical, and thanks to him, I have started to internalize music differently. I have even started to see movement differently thanks to him.”
The sound universe of The Source opens with “A Nearer Sun” by Riley Mulherkar, advances with “Outrage at Valdez” by Frank Zappa, “Summerland” by William Grant Still, and a piano quintet by Canadian composer Alexina Louie. It closes with a custom suite based on Julius Eastman’s “Femenine”, arranged by Gary Sheldon.
Claudia confesses arriving at rehearsals with “a 50-page Google document with each grade counted” but acknowledges that “you have to leave room for adjustments” and adds, “sometimes it’s just a gesture.” In this case, she thought it was beautiful how someone was hugging someone in the back of the room during one of the rehearsals. And she did her own version of it, which was incorporated into the piece.
Regarding the work with Nathalia Arja and Renan Cerdeiro, who give the impression of being the protagonists of The Source. Claudia explains that “to a large extent, this is an ensemble ballet, but I think we needed a team leader. We also wanted a narrative anchor to begin and end the work. So, it was intentional to keep them together for quite a while throughout the ballet.”
Claudia believes that “Miami dancers can just do everything, which is amazing.” Moreover, she points out, “they are very special and take my work to another level. I love that”.
Finally, we ask Claudia what choreography is for her. “It’s joy,” she exclaims. “It’s all I know, and I’ve ever known. It sounds a bit cheesy, but I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I’ve been creating dances since I was a kid.”
Definitely, Claudia’s enjoyment must be contagious. Because when we say goodbye to her and Adam, we leave with the impression of having spent a fun afternoon with a couple of friends that we already want to see again. It’s a joyous feeling of openness and familiarity that we suspect The Source will manage to convey to the public.
Don’t miss our final program of the 21/22 season:
Kravis Center: April 29 – May 1, 2022
Arsht Center: May 6 – 8, 2022
Broward Center: May 21 – 22, 2022
Photo credit: MCB dancers in The Source. Choreography by Claudia Schreier. © Alexander Iziliaev. Claudia Schreier and MCB dancers rehearse The Source.
Choreography by Claudia Schreier. © Alexander Iziliaev.
Claudia Schreier and MCB dancers rehearse The Source. Choreography by Claudia Schreier. © Alexander Iziliaev.