Poetry in Motion

PRU choreography by Lucy Rupert, with Rupert, Jennifer Bolt and Caroline Niklas-Gordon, part of fFIDA 2002's Late Show Series, August.

PRU choreography by Lucy Rupert, with Rupert, Jennifer Bolt and Caroline Niklas-Gordon, part of fFIDA 2002’s Late Show Series, August 16 at 11 pm. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Rating: NNNNN

Lucy Rupert has heard the mermaids singing. And she’s trying to capture their essence in an ambitious new dance work. Rupert’s Pru is inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock, a work that looks at an older man’s ruminations, full of women coming and going and life measured out in coffee spoons.

“Like a lot of people, I knew lines from the poem, but I didn’t really get to study it until recently,” says Rupert, who last December read the work as research for Allyson McMackon’s and Theatre Rusticle’s experimental piece Dinner At 7:30, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves.

“It’s not an interpretation of the poem, and it’s not a dance story of the poem,” explains Rupert. “There isn’t even text in the piece. I’m just trying to capture the mood and imagery with movement. The poem is a blueprint for the piece.”

During the rehearsal process, if anyone had any questions Rupert would haul out the well-thumbed poem.

“There’s so much imagery to draw from,” she says. “Dancers would ask how and why they get from one place to another, and we’d find a line or even a word that would make us understand why the movements go together.”

The piece, performed to a textured score by American minimalist Steve Reich, is danced by Rupert and two other female dancers — hardly Prufrock types.

“No, we’re not old men,” says Rupert, who likes the work’s shortened title because of its unusual sound and the fact that it suggests a woman’s name.

“We’re actually more like the mermaids. But we’re taking on some of the characteristics of the narrator. Anyone can relate to Eliot’s best works. For me, the poem deals with the idea of being alive, of being close to death and this magical other world of the mermaids.”

Rupert sees the piece as part of a larger work, one inspired by writers who were all friends of Eliot’s, like Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell and Woolf. A graduate student in European history, Rupert’s fascinated by the past.

“I read Shakespeare at 10, I dressed like one of the Andrews Sisters at 12, I worried about nuclear war and hostages,” she laughs. “Even when I was little, I’ve always been a very old person.”

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