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Rehearsal for Deep Song by Lola Lasurt

Press release
>      17 March 2022
Rehearsal for Deep Song by Lola Lasurt

PRESS RELEASE

Along with Immediate Tragedy, Deep Song is one of the choreographies that the dancer Martha Graham created in response to the still photographs and moving images of the terror and suffering that the North American audience were receiving in magazines and in news broadcasts about the Spanish Civil War. The title of the work is inspired by Poema del Cante Jondo [Poem of the Deep Song] (1931) by Federico García Lorca, and the choreography intended to depict the suffering of the Spanish people due to the armed conflict. It is a short piece, around five minutes long, and was conceived the same year that Pablo Picasso painted Guernica: both dance and painting reflect how the war—with its violence, inhumanity, and lack of ethics—impacted on western modern art. Images of agony, disconcertment and terror represented by the bodies of women. Although both works refer to historical events, with the passage of time the specific has transitioned to symbolise universal suffering. Rehearsal for Deep Song by Lola Lasurt is a work that consists of eight pictorial strips, a stage set, and a bench. The physicality of the movement of dance translates into the exercise of painting as a performative act; the artist also needed to dance Deep Song before painting. As with much of Lasurt’s work, this piece is based on an event and history, dance and the Spanish Civil War, bringing it into the present by means of a re-enactment that seeks to reflect on its present-day meaning. It is a work on historical memory that tries to struggle against our current collective amnesia.

[ Project made possible by Beca Leonardo a Investigadores y Creadores Culturales 2019 de la Fundación BBVA ]

Arms outstretched, knees flexed, muscle spasms, contracted pelvis, spins and slow falls... Movements in crescendo of the body to symbolise the pain caused by violence. This is the Graham technique, one of the main methods of modern dance: a physical language codified to express emotions. Contraction is the main basis of the discipline and is the result of observing how anguish is expressed by the human body. Torso, hands, and legs used as tools to create images.

Along with Immediate Tragedy, Deep Song is one of the choreographies that the dancer Martha Graham created in response to the still photographs and moving images of the terror and suffering that the North American public were receiving in magazines and in news broadcasts about the Spanish Civil War. Both pieces were presented together, with music by Henry Cowell, in a double-bill that took place on 19 and 26 December 1937 at the Guild Theater in New York (Immediate Tragedy had been presented in Bennington two months prior). Deep Song was often performed, from its premiere until the mid-1940s. The choreography was reconstructed in 1988 based on the photographs by Barbara Morgan, the memories of past members of the company, and Graham’s own living memories, in a close collaboration with one of her main dancers, Terese Capucilli (the first performer of the piece after Graham). The music for both pieces was lost for decades: Cowell’s composition Sinister Resonance was used until the sheet music for Deep Song was found in 1992 in the offices of the Martha Graham Dance Company. The original music for Immediate Tragedy remains lost.

The title of the work is inspired by Poema del Cante Jondo [Poem of the Deep Song] (1931) by Federico García Lorca, and the choreography intended to depict the suffering of the Spanish people due to the armed conflict. It is a short piece, around five minutes long, and was conceived the same year that Pablo Picasso painted Guernica: both dance and painting reflect how the war—with its violence, inhumanity, and lack of ethics—impacted on western modern art. Images of agony, disconcertment and terror represented by the bodies of women. Although both works refer to historical events, with the passage of time the specific has transitioned to symbolise universal suffering.

Rehearsal for Deep Song by Lola Lasurt is a work that consists of eight pictorial strips, a stage set, and a bench. The first time that the artist worked from archival documents, basing herself on moving images to paint them, frame by frame, in a format that alludes to the notion of a historical frieze, was in her installation El Partido. Mujeres casadas contra mujeres solteras, una iniciativa de Manuel Ramírez, barman del Club Federico García Lorca, 1976 [The Match. Married women versus single women, an initiative by Manuel Ramírez, barman of the Club Federico García Lorca, 1976], created in 2014. This work consists of strips of sketches and a video that re-enacts the football match between married and unmarried women at the Communist Party’s annual party in 1976, one year before it was legalised in Spain. By means of an open call to women, and a cross-dressed referee to recreate Manuel Ramírez’s original intervention, the project connects to issues of gender and collective memory. The Club Federico García Lorca was created in 1954 by a group of Spanish immigrants in Belgium and it became a cultural reference point for the Spanish colony in the country. Likewise, but in relation to the theme of dance, there is another precedent in Lasurt’s work Flag Dancing Moves, exhibited in 2015 on the empty 25th floor of the World Trade Center building in Brussels. The installation consisted of a pictorial frieze that dissected the motions of a performer with a flag, in an attempt to overcome the dialectic of content and form, as well as the debate over politics and pictorial practices. The physicality of the movement of dance translates into the exercise of painting as a performative act. The artist also needed to dance Deep Song before painting. It is an idea that goes further in Rehearsal for Deep Song, which exceeds the dance performance by means of its recreation through the image.

Like much of Lasurt’s work, this piece stems from an event and history, dance and the Spanish Civil War, bringing it into the present by means of a re-enactment that seeks to reflect on its present-day meaning. It is a work on historical memory, or, rather, ‘postmemory’ if we use the term coined by the American academic of Romanian origin, Marianne Hirsch, in her essay Family Frames (2015), which suggests using the term as an exercise in imaginative reconstruction of lived experience. Therefore, ‘postmemory’ is not interested in the reconstruction of events from history, but rather in the construction of a critical spirit. This is where Rehearsal for Deep Song returns to our present-day, given that the pain of the Spanish Civil War connects with the violence and humanitarian tragedy that the Ukrainian people are currently experiencing.

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Rehearsal for Deep Song is a project by the Fundación Federico García Lorca for the Centro Federico García Lorca.

Project made possible by Beca Leonardo a Investigadores y Creadores Culturales 2019 de la Fundación BBVA