Stage + Studio: A Louisville Ballet Blog- A Pathway of Creations by Annie Honebrink

Love is the universal thread that weaves humanity together.  All souls have loved or been loved—have felt the thousands of ways in which that same force manages to manifest itself.  To love and be loved is, quite likely, the deepest and most fervent desire of every human spirit.  For this reason have composers, actors, painters, dancers, poets—artists of every discipline through the ages—sought greater knowledge and understanding of this very subject.  Delving into their art, these artists have worked to comprehend the utterly overwhelming despair of losing a loved one.  How to heal the shambled brokenness of a shattered heart.  How to sooth the acid cup of bitterness, sway the seething wrath of malice, calm the tormented mind from the edge of darkness and destruction.  These creators pursue the answers of the heart.  How to breath when you see naught but red.  How to feel when the numbness of nothingness is the only relief.  How to stand when the knife is still wedged securely in your stomach, bleeding you dry.  How to see when nothing but the lost pieces fill your eyes, trailing down your cheeks and dripping softly, slowly into a void, unfeeling world.  Strange—how the airy lightness from a lover’s kiss; the warm peace from a parent’s encouragement; the sturdy serenity from a friend’s handshake—and the heavy weight of a lover’s betrayal; the cold end to a parent’s life; the tumultuous confusion from a counterfeit friend—all derive from that same source.  Strange—the way love and hate walk such a tied path.  Strange—the infinite ways in which a heart can break.  Strange—the way the only force that can save humanity is the same which can destroy an individual.  Strange—the millions of stories written, songs sung, and paintings painted—devoted to that same thread.  The wars waged, peace won—all because of that infernal, destructive, potent, serene, elusive, beautiful force.  Love.

Human Abstract will mark Lucas Jervies’ second new work created for Louisville Ballet. The city of Louisville, and Louisville Ballet specifically, are honored to host this esteemed choreographer.  Jervies is a graduate of the Australian Ballet School, Victorian College of the Arts, and the NIDA Directing Course.  He danced with The Australian Ballet, Dance Works Rotterdam, and Scapino Ballet Rotterdam.  Jervies has created dance for such companies as The Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, Queensland Ballet, West Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, Milwaukee Ballet, and Stuttgart Ballet, among others.  In 2010 Jervies, along with Robert Curran, Andrew Killian, and Laura Tong, formed a contemporary dance company called JACK.  When interviewed about the company, Jervies stated, “Basically we just want to make beautiful things!  Who doesn’t?” (1)  Jervies has been described as “One of Australia’s most sought after Directors.”  (2)  Louisville is fortunate to experience Jervies and his talents.

Human Abstract will explore the universal theme of loss through a conceptual story of love, abandon, and isolation.  The characters in this new work will guide the audience in remembering the deeply physical feeling of loss and how it can destroy one.  Jervies’ hope is that the audience members will take the emotions generated by the artists of Louisville Ballet and form their own personal narratives founded upon their own stories—their own lives.  This profound form of storytelling will present a unique and intense experience for spectators.  Each viewer will be given the chance to find his or her own meaning within Jervies’ story.

In exploring the themes of love, abandon, and isolation, Jervies has used a philosophical approach to the ballet’s movement.  He desires the movement and, consequently, the dancers and their embodied characters, to have strong, though not literal, directions.  Jervies employs subvert task work and then flips it on its head and dives deeper.  This process enhances the meaning of the work and gives a physiological purpose to the physical efforts—linking the two.  This bond of mind and matter brings to light new meaning for dance as an art.  The steps and patterns become something more—something greater.  The movement itself embodies emotion.  This innovative process gives the dancers the ability to emote with the choreography.  Emotion is not a layer added upon the movement—they are one and the same.  In order for a work as this to come alive, a relationship of trust must be formed between dancers and choreographer.  The dancers must invest in the work for it to come to life.

One way in which Jervies helped bring the dancers to this emotional and physical link was a chair exercise.  Jervies had the dancers inhabit a chair.  They were prompted to find physical pathways in the chair, using it to deliver their weight and rely upon.  Then the chair was taken away.  The physical dependence on the chair was related to reliance upon another person.  There is a recurring motif in the subsequent movement of grabbing and slipping away.

Jervies and the dancers also examined how to take and idea and exaggerate it.  The method of exaggeration is often used in the arts, bringing greater meaning to a reality by conveying the subject in unrealistic proportions.  Jervies and the Louisville Ballet dancers searched for the extreme of the feeling of loss and determined it to be war.  Next they studied the opposite of war—peace.  In seeking ways to show peace, they settled on mandala patterns.  Mandalas are symmetrical and infinite—a fitting symbol of peace.  These patterns are often used in meditation.  However, as the dancers create the mandala shapes of symmetry and peace, they also build tension between one another, exhibiting a sense of discord—war.  The ensuing scene is mesmerizing.  Just as the smooth patterns of the mandala and the steady pulse of the music lure the viewer into a sense of security, a dancer will abruptly break from the symmetry.  This ripple of unison and individual carries through the section, driven by the constant beat of the music.  The dancers are forced to breathe as one, embodying the word teamwork.  This interwoven cycle of war and peace reflects the turmoil wrought by love and loss.

In his rehearsals, Jervies often poses questions beginning with the phrases “how does…” or “how can you…” or “I wonder if….”  These questions keep the artists constantly involved in the work, creating along with the choreographer.  There is plenty of laughter and joking between the small, intimate cast and director.  As he creates, Jervies often makes sounds to accompany his movements.  His excitement can be contagious.  “Love it—I want to see twenty-five,” he says about an arm swing movement.  He decides on five.  “It has to be odd.”

Jervies also speaks about “building people” and “building yourself into a structure” while rehearsing the beginning of the ballet.  He asks each dancer to shape his or her arm with the other arm or body or leg—creating his or her own look.  This idea of “building yourself” reflects the coming of age portion of Human Abstract’s story.  Every human story is rooted in self-discovery.  But what happens when we lose those parts we found to another?  Or to the world and its version of who we are and what we should become?  How often do we grab for love, just to have it slip away?  Human Abstract will carry the audience through a heartbreaking and painful journey that will remind us how fragile our souls can be.  How dangerous it is to lose ourselves.  This ballet will evoke memories tucked safely and secretly away in the deepest part of our hearts.  It will bring them to the surface, perhaps reopening the wounds.  And it will teach us something about those experiences in a profound way only art can teach.
(1) Mulready, Rose.  “JACK’S Lucas Jervies Talks Animal.”  The Australian Ballet.  Site by

Carter, 18 May 2011.  Web.  7 Februay 2017.
(2) “Lucas Jervies.”  Queensland Ballet. Web.  7 February 2017.