By Maureen Needham
The Ghosts of the Civil War
Presented by Tennessee Dance Theatre
8 p.m. June 16-17
War Memorial Auditorium
This coming weekend, War Memorial Auditorium will resonate with footsteps of real, live ghosts. Bloodied soldiers, brave little drummer boys, and wispy Southern belles will rise from their graves during the Tennessee Dance Theatre presentation of ”The Ghosts of the Civil War.“ The power of the piece comes from its visual imagery as much as from the dance movement itself: The performers are dressed in blue on one side and gray on the other, not to speak of their half-blue, half-gray painted faces. When each presents himself to the audience, he represents the dichotomy of the American Civil War experience within one body.
Inspired by Ken Burns’ PBS special several years ago, TDT artistic director Donna Rizzo decided to investigate what the Civil War meant to her personally. She visited Shiloh. She read history books. She talked to members of her family, who come from East Tennessee. At the point when she began to feel ”the unbearable sadness“ of the war’s impact well up within her, she knew that she had something to say. Around the same time, she and TDT cofounder Andrew Krichels came across a book of ghost stories and found the frame for their story.
Rizzo’s partner, in contrast, was initially leery, wondering what he as an outsider could contribute to this subject that still rattles the psyche of every patriotic Southerner. ”After all,“ he says, ”everyone agrees that war is bad and fighting one’s brothers is bad.“ Nothing new there. Krichels then began to reflect on his mother’s family tales of abolitionist activists and realized that he had his own ancestral ghosts with which to contend. As he and Rizzo worked together on the piece, both became aware of its personal significance—to themselves, to the company, and to their Nashville audiences. ”We took the piece seriously,“ Krichels says, ”and felt a responsibility to do it with honesty and passion.“
The two chose to eschew the structure of a conventional story ballet and instead decided to use poetry and music to focus on what Krichels calls ”the afterimages“ of the war in the Southern collective memory. Rizzo sees the piece as a ”poetic landscape“ set to the piano and cello music of Franz Schubert. Carol Ponder, Stella Reed, and John Wiggins function as ”witnesses“ who speak Walt Whitman’s poetry while the dancers express the human experience.
The stage opens on a snowy scene, a white ground cloth covering the stage. The dancers rise in slow-motion waves, levitating from their frosty graves, reeling and falling again and again. The first danced solo shows Elke Schwartz as the nurse, who tenderly embraces bits and pieces of limbs while the narrator comments how she sits by ”the dying and soothes them or silently sits by the dead.“ Daniel Wooden depicts the lonely valor of the wounded man, who must dig his grave with his own crutch. The third scene recounts the tragic tale of the young drummer boy who knows the code for ”Advance!“ but remains ignorant of the tattoo for ”Retreat!“ Other dancers include Cari Barfield, who portrays the young widow transported by an ecstatic vision of her husband’s ghost, and Clay Daniel as the aged general who fights till the end. Two dancers perform a dance of reconciliation between black and white—a duet that, as Krichels sees it, provides no healing resolution.
Ever since they founded their company in 1987, Donna Rizzo and Andrew Krichels have continued to address aspects of the Southern heritage in their choreography. This time they took on the Big One—the war itself. The two partners, reflecting on the differences in their own Southern/Yankee backgrounds, have collaborated to explore themes of national reconciliation and unity. ”The Ghosts of the Civil War“ is an ambitious undertaking, and its epic sweep is unlike anything these two gifted choreographers have ever done before. For this reason alone, it is an important piece and marks a watershed for Tennessee Dance Theatre.
Ever since they founded their company in 1987, Donna Rizzo and Andrew Krichels have continued to address aspects of the Southern heritage in their choreography. This time they took on the Big Onethe war itself. The two partners, reflecting on the differences in their own Southern/Yankee backgrounds, have collaborated to explore themes of national reconciliation and unity. ”The Ghosts of the Civil War“ is an ambitious undertaking, and its epic sweep is unlike anything these two gifted choreographers have ever done before. For this reason alone, it is an important piece and marks a watershed for Tennessee Dance Theatre.
The show is coming back. End of story.
The old Nashville Banner column was "Why do the heathen rage" or something like that.
Google the George Strait 60 for 60 campaign. It worked.
Reading comprehension hasn't informed yours, Fool.
It makes me throw up a little in my mouth to see arrogant, prideful know-it-all…