Santa Barbara Dance Theater; Photo by Brandon Whited
Santa Barbara Dance Theater; Photo by Brandon Whited

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A Covid-19 Happy Ending: Alison Clancy Finds Redemption Through Rehearsal Footage

A Covid-19 Happy Ending: Alison Clancy Finds Redemption Through Rehearsal Footage

Published on June 29, 2020
Photo by Ken Howard / Met Opera

On July 5, Solo Dance Performance "Der Fliegende Holländer" Will Premiere on PBS

Contemporary dancer Alison Clancy’s awe-inspiring solo stormed the stage this past spring at The Metropolitan Opera. It was a full immersion into Wagner’s epic oceanic overture of Der Fliegende Holländer with heightened storytelling and astonishing 3D visuals. A highly anticipated string of performances opened on March 2nd, 2020. After the pandemic's abrupt cancellation of her “Live from The Met" international cinema debut (as well as the rest of the NYC dates at historic Lincoln Center), a rehearsal taping of her last performance will premiere on PBS July 5, 2020.

Related: The Dance Enthusiast's Q&A with Alison Clancy about her history-making solo debut.


Alison Clancy in a paisley dress
Alison Clancy, 2020 Photo © Andrew Segreti

On March 2, 2020 Alison Clancy “Made Dance History” (The Dance Enthusiast) performing an 11-minute dance solo at The Metropolitan Opera for the overture of Richard Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer. Directed by François Girard and choreographed by Carolyn Choa, Clancy took center stage as the psycho-spiritual embodiment of Senta, the opera’s leading lady.  Her barefoot solo, unprecedented for its length and gravity, was set against sweeping projections by Peter Flaherty and introduced the epic Gesamtkunstwerk of this new production. Clancy summoned a ghost ship and 3D holographic lightning storm and “was nothing short of breathtaking” according to Opera Wire. Clancy, a contemporary dancer who’s danced in the ensemble at The Met for a decade, achieved the title of Principal Dancer, a distinction usually reserved for guest stars from New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theatre.

In a white dress, Alison Clancy lies crumpled on the floor
Rehearsal in Met Opera Ballet Studio. Photo © 2020 Andrew T. Foster

Alison Clancy is a unique and unpredictable instrument of creative catharsis. Her days often start with ballet class and end with an electric guitar. In pre-Covid times she could be spotted in concert dance performances, playing music for experimental fashion shows, and acting in avant-garde films. Her Covid story however, echoes that of so many: anticipation and cancellation.

Alison Clancy performs on the Met stage in a red dress
Alison Clancy at Met Opera. Photo © 2020 Kevin Van Witt

The March 14th performance of Holländer was to be filmed and broadcast live from The Met to over 2,200 international movie theaters. It was a culminating moment in Clancy’s career. Friends and family around the world had tickets to watch her on the silver screen. But March 12, less than 48 hours before curtain, The Met went dark. The live filming and broadcast were cancelled.

In a white dress, Alison Clancy tips her body sideways
Rehearsal in Met Opera Ballet Studio; photo © 2020 Andrew T. Foster

Artists across the world grieve cancelled performances and projects as the industry has come to a grinding halt. Over the past three months Clancy made peace with her loss. And yet, just yesterday, a colleague informed Clancy that The Met has cut together footage from a rehearsal filming of her final performance on March 10th. It will premiere July 5th on PBS (simultaneously streaming on Apple TV, Thirteen WNET New York, Roku, Amazon Fire TV). 

Half-body shot of Alison Clancy with her arms lifted to shoulder height and bent at the elbows
Alison Clancy at Met Opera. Photo © 2020 Kevin Van Witt

Clancy is thrilled her premiere solo will be shared with the world. Wagner’s Senta dreams of stopping the stars, changing fate, of being the one true love who can save Holländer from his curse. It’s a story of redemption through love. Clancy explains her portrayal of Senta was about more than Holländer himself. She aimed to embody the archetype of fiercely gentle feminine love: a woman dreaming of a poetic life and navigating her own contradictions: fragility/strength, restlessness/patience. “I was inspired by medieval maidens, anime warrior princesses, the Statue of Liberty, mystic dreamers . . . I searched for power in a kind of softness and vulnerability. It was an immense honor to originate this role with choreographer Carolyn Chao. When it all came together, I danced on a steep cliff to sweeping music played by one of the most amazing orchestras in the world, and summoned a lightning storm with my fingertips. For those few distilled moments in time, I tried with all my heart to honor the alchemical possibilities.”

Alison Clancy lies on her stomach, arching her back, hair flying
Alison Clancy at Met Opera. Photo © 2020 Andrew T. Foster

 


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