Q&A with LGDF's Isabelle Stark

March 11, 2016

This production is a little darker than your average dance performance. Have you done anything like this before?

"(Co-director Byron Suber) always does something a little bit weird or a little dark. In past shows, he’s shown us pictures of architecture, and we’re supposed to base our movements off of the architecture. It always ends up being music that’s kind of dark, or maybe there’s an idea you’re supposed to be thinking about that’s dark. But I feel like this performance is definitely more narrative and it’s very obviously dark."

Your background before coming to Cornell was in ballet, does ballet tend to be more narrative than abstract dance?

"Yeah, definitely. It was definitely of a challenge for me, at least, doing more of the abstract stuff we were supposed to have an idea and let your body do whatever that idea is, whereas for ballet it’s all about technique. The narrative is there but it’s more about the technique."

How do you prepare yourself for something like that?

"I guess I just try to let my mind be as open as possible. You think of a picture in your head, or sort of an idea and then as you’re practicing it develops. At first it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but then you just try something and then eventually it will develop into something that makes sense to you."

What does this show's theme of melodrama mean to you?

"Well Byron had suggested we look at movies like Heathers, Mean Girls. I watched Heathers—I had never seen it before—I actually really liked it, because it seems very normal but all of a sudden it gets really freaky, so I’d kind of been thinking about that. And then another thing I was thinking about the other day when we had to do the very strange, contorted poses—you’re supposed to be like a beauty queen who’s trying to hold on to (her beauty)—so I was thinking about Cinderella’s ugly stepsister, kind of like that. Like you’re trying to be really beautiful but it’s just very contorted and weird."

What do you like the most about this performance?

"I really like acting and acting like someone that I’m not, so for this performance I get to think of something really messed up and just embody that. So I think that’s really cool. That’s my favorite part, is the acting."

Do you have a specific role in the show, or even several roles?

"I think everyone has a similar role, like the beauty queen: very messed up and twisted on the inside and dark. So I feel like that’s kind of everyone’s role, and everyone thinks of it differently, but that’s kind of the idea.

What do you think of the costumes? These are not stripped down at all. Do you find them to be at all physically inhibiting?

"I haven’t seen all of the costumes yet. I know we’re wearing big ball gowns for one part, they’re very colorful. It’s going to be very interesting—we’ve practiced with long skirts, and already it’s difficult to do some of the movements with that, so I’m excited to see when we put on the ball gowns how it’s going to be. We also have these big, dark capes that we wear in the beginning, and you’re supposed to kind of be covering up the color of the dress—it’s supposed to be a surprise when you finally unveil it. So those are very heavy, and it’s again hard to do certain movements with the cape. Another costume we have is like an entertainer costume, which sort of looks like a clown outfit. I really like that one. It’s a big fluffy skirt and cool colorful jacket."

Normally dancers like to have a stripped down costume so you can see the movement through the body. Do you think the movement of the costumes will add an effect to that visual?

"I think it’ll definitely affect the way that we’re moving, and it will probably end up enhancing the effect that it’s supposed to have. We’re supposed to have difficulty doing the movements. We’re supposed to look like we’re struggling, trying to hold on to being beautiful, so I feel like with the heavy gown, it’ll make it even harder."

Are there any performers or parts of the performance you’re particularly excited to see onstage?

"There’s a quartet—I’m not in this part so I watch it at rehearsal—that Byron did twenty five years ago, which is really powerful and cool. So I’m really excited to see how that’s going to look onstage. Also, the beginning of the performance, where the girls are getting all carried around and everything is really chaotic, and Nick is lifting us over his shoulder and running around—I think that’s also going to look really cool, so I’m definitely excited."

What’s your favorite music in the show?

"As a ballet dancer, we’re using Swan Lake, but it’s a darker Swan Lake, it’s a little creepy. So I really like that part. But then it goes quickly into a more upbeat jazzy kind of thing, which I also like. But definitely the Swan Lake."

Co-Director Jumay Chu’s choreography is interwoven throughout the performance. How do you think that adds depth to the story?

"In past LGDF’s, Jumay’s is separate from Byron’s, so Byron will be Act One, and Jumay is Act two. This time it’s very integrated, and I think that’s going to look very cool, especially because there are parts where Byron’s piece is happening, at the same time one of Jumay’s dancers is doing something from her piece. At one point, we all do a movement from Jumay’s piece. It’s going to be cool to see everything integrated together, because their styles are very different but I think it’s just going to look very interesting."

If you could give the audience one thing to pay special attention to during the performance, where do you think you would direct their attention?

"Because the show is supposed to be focusing on excess and melodrama, I think that thinking about that while you watch the show will help you understand the darker side of that. So I would say think about that while you watch the show."

Isabelle Stark