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Secrets on the Way

A Dance Noir created and choreographed by KATHRYN ROSZAK
Inspired by the poetry of TOMAS TRANSTRÖMER

Secrets on the Way

Danse Lumière presented the first full performances of Secrets on the Way (Hemligheter på vägen) on April 27 & 28, 2013 at the Osher Studio in downtown Berkeley.

Recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize, Tomas Tranströmer is one of the most celebrated and influential poetic figures of his generation. He was born in Stockholm in 1931 and is a psychologist by profession. He began his psychology career in the 1960's at a juvenile corrections institute in Sweden, and worked for several decades in the field. He is one of the world's most translated poets, with books appearing in over fifty languages. Tranströmer is also a highly regarded amateur pianist and entomologist.

The premiere of Secrets on the Way was performed by dancers Blythe Berg, Ramzi Jneid, Nitipat Pholchai, Lissa Resnick, and Linnea Snyderman, with readings by actor Earll Kingston. The music, a mix of contemporary and classical, included works by Schubert and Hindemith. Lighting design by G. Chris Griffin; sound design by Phil Patiris.

English translations by Robert Bly and May Swenson (poems and translations used by permission).

Tranströmer's poetry suggests movement; Kathryn Roszak's edgy, urban choreography combines with dances traveling through the numinous landscape of his poetry. Psychological, mysterious, and filled with surprising imagery, the poems describe journeys into the city and into the wild within nature and ourselves. Going through Walls, Mountains that have Windows, Violence, Blindness, and Trust are all images found in the poetry. Translating poems from one language into another is a form of detective work. Poets, detectives, and psychologists work with broken bodies and souls. The Detective/Writer searches for different parts of the puzzle -- the broken pieces that somehow make up the whole.

As one audience member wrote following the premiere, "There is a strange energy in the performance that I can't describe, but which grips you more and more -- especially in the Schubertiana climax near the end."

This work is supported in part by a grant from the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation.

poetry flash

The following review was originally posted in June 2013:

Poetry Flash
Literary Review & Calendar for the West

Secrets on the Way:
Dance Theatre Inspired by Tranströmer's Poetry

by Sandra M. Gilbert

In Secrets on the Way, Kathryn Roszak's accomplished and spirited Danse Lumière has suavely and powerfully formulated interpretations of poems by the great Tomas Transtsrömer that beautifully capture the writer's lyric austerity, his severe vision. With a single poetry reader, the actor Earll Kingston, who moves like a dancer and reads like a dancer too, with solemnity and grace, and with Swedish language voice overs, as well as precisely suited sound tracks, she redacts "Journey", Tranströmer's melancholy vision of a subway, its deaths and denials. This is followed in "The Couple" by a more romantic (though guardedly ironic) view of a sleeping couple whose "most secret thoughts begin to meet / like two colors that meet and run together... in a schoolboy's painting" - though they are walled in by houses packed with blank-faced people.

Liberation from urban constraints begins to gleam in "Five stanzas to Thoreau,", where Roszak's animated dancers (I almost want to say they are Tranströmer's, so true are they to his spirit) escape the city and seek to "vanish deep into your own greenwood, / crafty and hopeful." The beautifully cadenced concluding excerpt from "Schubertiana," traces the perils of life as the dancers brilliantly tight-rope-walk across the stage and learn to trust "the blind bannister rail that finds its / way in the dark."

Secrets on the Way concludes in joy, as speaker, dancer, choreographer and music together celebrate "All the rolling wheels that contradict death!" Here Earll Kingston, the reader/dancer seems to muse, almost ministerial, on Tranströmer's wide horizons, his never-ending roads, as he repeats that last line again and again. And the dancers, their lithe bodies now stripped to black leotards, affirm the truth he speaks.

We have much to thank Kathryn Roszak for here. She has offered us a strong rendering in dance of a great poet's passionate interpretations of the world. Let's hope we can see this piece again and again, not just in Berkeley but in many other venues.

- Sandra M. Gilbert is a poet, literary critic, and Professor
Emerita of English at the University of California, Davis

Secrets on the Way

The following article first appeared on March 28, 2013 in
the online edition of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

Danse Lumière stays in step at downtown Berkeley home

by Lou Fancher

BERKELEY -- Kathryn Roszak is an artist whose work defies the boundaries of a single genre.

When the choreographer and Danse Lumière Artistic Director presents "Secrets on the Way" at Berkeley's Osher Studio on April 27 and 28, a transatlantic fusion of dance, visual art, theater and the Nobel Prize-winning poetry of Sweden's Tomas Tranströmer will occur.

Like most collisions, sparks will fly, bodies will be tossed, damage -- the sort that bends imagination and torques preconceived notions into transportive beauty -- is likely to release a flurry of audience chatter after the applause has ended.

Which is exactly what the former San Francisco Opera Ballet dancer intends.

"I always go to theater hoping I will be changed," she says, during a break in a company rehearsal at her new Arpeggio Building digs downtown.

After 11 years running a dance program for children and teens at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center, Roszak is thrilled to push her East Bay roots to new depths in the spacious, sparkling Studio B.

"We're near BART, Berkeley Rep -- and we have a theater right next door," she says. "Plus, did you see the hallway with all the art?"

Add an eclectic cast of musicians, a crop of literary icons both dead and alive, all of the celestial constellations, the Golden Gate Bridge and you might have everything that is Roszak's oeuvre.

Noted for its elegant elaborations based on literary and scientific themes and works, Danse Lumière has a mind-boggling range. The company performed at the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, collaborated with UC Berkeley astronomy fellow Bethany Cobb and found purpose beyond pirouettes in exploring the mind of Emily Dickinson.

"We're not about movement invention for invention's sake," Roszak suggests. "It takes years for me to make these pieces; they have to be bigger than an ego. They must be rich and varied to hold my interest."

Lately, Tranströmer has held Roszak spellbound with his highly visual, intensely-clear, psychological poetry.

"His images are striking," she says. "The drama in this piece I am working on now is the conflict between natural and urban worlds."

Roszak says her company is not "trendy," but notes that 100 people attended a recent open rehearsal indicates she has an audience.

Turning her attention to the dancers, she urges, "Get closer, use each other more."

Roszak wants tension, insecurity, discomfort and a feeling of danger to pervade the piece.

Nitipat Polchai, his lithe body built more for fluidity than rigidity, manages to create a beautiful struggle. Lissa Resnick, a longtime associate of Roszak, adds expressive, articulate focus as she claws an invisible layer of skin from her torso and turns a pat on the back into a neurotic physical tic.

"Art is what will allow us to go forward in life, even if we can't see where we are headed," Roszak says, more to herself than to her dancers.

The music, thus far, has been European film tracks and jazz, so a section of the dance set to a Franz Schubert composition is shown. Ancient echoes of spirits and birds fill the movement and spin a misty, is-this-memory-or-reality atmosphere.

Soon enough, the dancers are back to explosive counterparts and Roszak is encouraging risk, saying, "It's not sylphlike. It's much more rigorous!"

In the hallway, before the rehearsal, Roszak had tenderly shepherded little girls in pink-on-pink dance attire, shushing their young chatter and gently responding to parents' questions. Now, she pounds her foot and moves to demonstrate her physical intention.

The contrast is not remarkable, as most dance professionals survive by assuming the varied roles of teacher, choreographer, administrator, marketer, grant-writer and more. But it's notable and admirable. And when it brings joy to young and old, novices and experts, it should not go unacknowledged.

Roszak, more focused on a dancer's ear realistically tilting to hear a surreal, passing train than on the attention from a visitor, is lost (but actually, found) in her element.

"Most dances keep going and going, but they're not meaty enough," she says. "Even if people have not read a book I am using, or these Tranströmer poems, they will leave with a feeling. Everyone is bound, except for one, who reaches to the sun, spiraling into silence."

the Sun King

© 2014 Kathryn Roszak   •   Danse Lumière   •   Dance on Center   •   (510) 233-5550   •   kdance@sonic.net

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