ONE WORD, the 2011 Philly Fringe production from MM2 Modern Dance, seems like a simple idea: dancer-choreographers choose one word to inspire a piece. But according to the young dancers of MM2, choosing a word of personal significance reveals ever so much more than simply that word’s definition.
“I wanted to do an emotional piece,” said Jessica Bryan. “I chose the word ‘penitent.’ The dance is crazy emotional. You have to go to a place where you have harmed others. Being penitent, you have to hope for and rely on people’s forgiveiness.”
Brianne Scott, who dances in Jess’s piece, said it was tough. “I try to stay away from emotions like that,” she said,” becuase I can’t change it. I had to try to figure out what she wanted.”
Another of Jessica’s dancers, Jenna Eugenides, said she found it easy to tap into what Jess wanted. “I’m often penitent,” she said. “I make mistakes.”
Kate Capato chose the word “need,” based on her experience working during a religions mission to an orphanage in Mumbai, India.
“It was the hardest experience of my life,” Kate said. “I try to tell the story of that emotional experience. I saw need there and in myself. The piece brings it back to my home. It’s about seeing need, feeling need, and being comforted. The orphans would come to me and grab at me—they yearn for attention.”
Kate said her trip to Mumbai was emotionally complicated as well, and left her feeling “needed and inadequate at the same time.”
Her dancers, many of whom share Kate’s Christian faith, said that they’ve tapped into their own experiences to understand her personal journey.
“A lot of us have done mission trips like that,” said Heather Fleischman. Mike Nguyen, a guest artist for this show who is also joining MM2 as a dancer this fall, agreed. When we spoke, he had just returned from a month-long trip to Saigon, Vietnam, where he visited his father’s family.
“Just waking up and seeing these millions of people—look, we have things that they don’t have, and we take a lot of things for granted like the Vietnamese don’t, like open space. There’s no room in Saigon. You see little kids playing in the street with chopsticks and matches,” Mike said.
“Even on my return,” said Kate, “the needs I saw didn’t go away, like the need for love, family, friendship. Everybody knows that need to be loved. It’s just met in different ways.”
Stephanie King’s word, and piece, was inspired by her grandmother, who is battlign peritoneal carcinosis, a form of abdominal cancer.
“I chose ‘resilient.’ The piece represents the medication inside—she’s getting four kinds of chemo simultaneously. And the emotional side is what she’s been through. I wanted to portray her positive attitude, compared to how we complain. We get upset about little things, and she’s out there planting flowers,” Stephanie said.
MM2′s inspiration wil be on display during ONE WORD on September 10 at the Maas Building, 1325 N. Randolph Street, Kensigton. Performances at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm, $15.