There was a joyful spirit of anticipation all around the place, as the audience kept filing into the Florence Gould Theater at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco for the annual Dancing Poetry Festival on Saturday. Each person came equipped with a keen eye, a keen ear and a readiness to celebrate the creative union of the spoken word and the art of innovative dance movement. And a celebration it was, one that did the gods of dance and of poetry proud.
Ana Elsner on stage with the dancers of her Grand Prize winning poem
Ana Elsner, a poet who also organizes and hosts diverse poetry programs, said in 2007: "It seems to be part of human nature to be single-minded and to compartmentalize. Art lovers go to exhibitions, music lovers go to concerts, dance lovers go to performances and poetry lovers go to readings. There is not enough cross-traffic. I want to change that."
Elsner shares this ambition with Natica and Richard Angilly, originators and longtime hosts of the Dancing Poetry Festival.
The concept of combining poetry and dance is not new. It has been employed throughout history by different cultures. The pioneers of modern dance, Isadora Duncan, as well as Ruth St. Denis and Martha Graham, drew inspiration from poems. Andrew Lloyd Webber, creator of the dance-musical 'Cats', used T.S. Eliot's poetry.
Conversely, countless poems across the ages were sparked by dance, even though the readership and audience might not be aware of it. Unfortunately, poets rarely disclose the source of their inspiration.
Natica Angilly says about her Poetic Dance Theater Company, "What we try to do is make poetry enjoyable, beautiful, and powerful, to become one with its content or context." She works hard to find the right music for each piece, sometimes soliciting original compositions. Her characteristic style of choreography can be described as an 'acting-out' of a particular poem by using gestures, movement and special costumes and props.
The poems selected to be danced were from the winners of the 2010 AEI poetry contest which received a total of 495 entries from six countries.
Grand Prize winner Ana Elsner and an enthusiastic audience saw the premier performance of Elsner's choreographed poem 'Duet'.
As she stepped up to the podium to read her prize winning piece, Ana Elsner opened with these remarks, "We are witnessing the creative merger of two forms of artistic expression, poetry and dance, here on stage at the Legion Of Honor Museum. ...I am pleased to have been awarded a Grand Prize by Artists Embassy International. I believe in the interrelatedness of the arts. And having my poetry choreographed and translated into dance is a demonstration of this interrelatedness."
The poem by Ana Elsner was set to the music of Pangia, v.6,'Edges of Tradition' (Pat Olson, Denise Mannion and Carmine Guida).
The poem was danced by Wanda Ingmire, Nancy Merrit, Shukriya DeVine and Loywanner Haddadou (Natica Angilly Poetic Dance Theater Company).
Ana Elsner's winning poem has been incorporated into the repertoire of the Natica Angilly Poetic Dance Theater Company. It will be danced at future performances and various venues.
Combining initiative, creativity and dedication, AEI is a timely and timeless ambassador for promoting the universal language of the arts with programs such as the Dancing Poetry Festival and other cultural events.