POSTCARDS: A Choreographic Journey During Covid with Cherylyn Lavagnino, Artistic Director of Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance

POSTCARDS: A Choreographic Journey During Covid with Cherylyn Lavagnino, Artistic Director of Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance

By Cherylyn Lavagnino

Published on November 15, 2022
"Mythologies; photo by Charles Roussel

Catch the Company at NYC Center Studios on November 27, 2022 for A Reimagined Reprise of "Mythologies (2021)" and "The Winter’s Tale"

 Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance presents  A Reimagined Reprise of Mythologies (2021) and a first look at The Winter’s Tale, a new theater-dance work in process, at NYC Center Studios on November 27, 2022  at 3 PM ET.


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Reflecting on these years following the COVID-19 lockdown, I am beginning to comprehend the impact this period has had, not only  on our company's artistic dance practice, but also on our ability to present work. Fortunately, we were able to complete our February 2020 NYC season, including the world premiere of Tales of Hopper just one week before lockdown began. 

head shot of Cherylyn Lavanigno a mature fair skinned woman with long brown hair looks out at us knowingly
Cherylyn Lavagnino: Photo: Travis Magee

Tales... was crafted carefully over a long period. We made several drafts, and had multiple showings and feedback sessions, all  of which supported the development of a detailed, rigorously rehearsed, fully-considered work. Suddenly, the  pandemic placed a myriad of restrictions on us which challenged everything.

Head shot of composer Scott Killian on left a fair skinned man, balding with grey hair, grey rimmed glasses wearking a light blue collared shirt. On right a photo of a fair skinned woman with straign strawberry blonde bangs she looks up into the heavens as she holds her face and seems to be wearing all black
Composer Scott Killian and Musician Carol Lipnik : Photo of Killian Courtesy of Company, Photo of Lipnik: Albi Mitchell

In the fall of 2020, we began  work on Mythologies with our long-time collaborator, composer Scott Killian and his colleagues, Jacob Lawson and Carol Lipnik. Finding it near to impossible to rent rehearsal space in the city,  the company traveled to Tannersville, New York for a short, intense development period under the auspices of the Catskill Mountain Foundation. That December and later in the spring and summer 2021, we  conducted a handful of three, four-day rehearsal periods. In total, the workshopping process of Mythologies was about three weeks – an unusually short period in which to create a fully-wrought dance work. 

Cherylyn Lavagnino and her company of dancers in street clothes in a candid picture
Cherylyn Lavagnino ( center in a blue dress) with her dancers: Photo: Courtesy of the company

We began seeking out performance spaces in NYC for a Thanksgiving weekend showing. Time and again, obstacles emerged: restrictive contractual requirements, exorbitant costs, and limited availability of space. This was stressful indeed. It took  months to finalize an appropriate, affordable space for the work.

two maile dancers in tight grey/black outfits are suspended in air in a pose where there legs are extended wide in a inverted v jump. there arms are angular, one extended to the side the other bent two dancers huddle to their side

Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance in Mythologies; Photo: Courtesy of the Company

On a sabbatical from Tisch Dance (I now serve as adjunct instructor there), I temporarily relocated to Salt Lake City's University of Utah  to serve as visiting professor of ballet. During my student's fall break, I  came to NYC to  further develop Mythologies. I had hoped to use this time for deepening and defining the choreography and characterizations. Unfortunately,  by this point,  I lost two of my four, male, original-cast members to other projects. New dancers joining the rehearsal process necessitated re-teaching the material while trying to refine it. 

A week of daily rehearsals flew by and, while fruitful, left much work to be done.  We still had to clean and tweak the choreography, heighten the characterizations,  and address key technical details relating to the music, lighting, and costuming. This all needed to happen during my next  planned return to New York , just a week before our November 27-28, 2021 performance.

Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance in Mythologies; Photo: Courtesy of the Company

Then, the day before I was to fly out, I tested positive for COVID.  In addition to my absence as artistic director --which meant the dancers had to restage the work themselves  --another performer tested positive two days before the show. Despite all this, my dancers  with the guidance of Corinne Hart, CLD's executive administrator (also a performer), rallied.  The season came to  fruition! 

Given the constraints and restraints of this process, I am happy to be returning to Mythologies  this November 27th.  I look forward to presenting a reimagined reprise..  We've had  focused rehearsal periods for each section of the dance this past spring and summer, and as of September, we began rehearsing regularly in the NYU Tisch Dance studios again. Now that most of the stringent COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, Tisch Dance faculty can once more bring their company dancers into the building for creative development. This has been a tremendous bonus for CLD -- to work in spacious appropriate studios that are free of cost! (Throughout 2020-2021, a sizable amount of the company’s financial reserves went toward studio rentals that were expensive and limited.) I can now stand a good five to seven feet from my dancers to observe and amend the dance in a comfortable manner. 

Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance in Mythologies; Photo: Courtesy of the Company

We have newly engaged the writer and dramaturge, Brian Sostek, to add layers to Mythologies in this incarnation. Brian’s text interwoven with the choreography and musical score, will enhance the theatrical arc of the dance.The centerpiece of the work is now the “Sirens”. They are present in each section, reinforcing their role as narrative bards, and steering the audience to and from the other legendary Greek figures. I have clarified the inter-relationships and choreographic intention of all my characters and I've been more deeply considering the fluid sexual practices of this period. I find that there are curious parallels to current cultural mores.

As CLD reimagines Mythologies, we are excited to share these developments with you. Please join us at New York City Center Studios on November 27, 2022, at 3 PM ET. You will also be able to get a first look at our newest creative project, The Winter’s Tale.

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