by Michele de la Reza
In Defense of Gravity opens in less than 5 hours! I see you as my family – the people for whom we create art – and I want to share with you some of our thoughts and our process as we come closer to this performance weekend.
And for that, please forgive the lack of brevity.
It has been a very special process to revisit this work within the lens of continued tragic events in our community and throughout our world. The poem, Little Feet, by Jimmy Cvetic, guides this 70-minute performance into and out of darkness, revealing an unspeakable tragedy that reverberates through both personal and collective memories.
But this work is as much about that tragedy as any other. The performance follows a central character representing a universal witness to loss, and asks all of us to embrace the broken pieces of our mind and our lives — to own them and allow them to guide us to hope, action and compassion.
Earlier this season we performed at The Braddock Carnegie Library, just across the street from the Nyia Page Community Center. The community center is named for and honors the memory of a two-year-old girl who was horrifically left out in the cold to die. This is also the subject of Cvetic's Little Feet, which drives In Defense of Gravity and serves as the lyrics to Ben Opie's haunting musical composition, sang by Anqwenique Wingfield.
The aphorisms that are heard throughout the second part of the performance are from Jimmy's book of poetry, The Zen of Elves. They are simple and profound, funny yet poignant:
"The best lie told is the one you tell to yourself and the greatest lie is the one that you tell and believe." — Jimmy Cvetic
We use them to represent whatever "script" you choose to read and listen to - whatever personal, spiritual, philosophical, or historical guide you use for your actions and pathways in life. They are the voices in our head, the voices of our ancestors, or maybe the voice of our kindergarten teacher. In this journey, it is where we look for hope, and also the healing and strength to move forward.
We make art as a way to connect, grieve, process, celebrate, and learn. Some of you have asked why we chose to revisit this performance. The act of performance and sharing it with an audience is part of our creative process. It leads us to the next step in our never-ending iterative process. In revisiting this work, we have learned more, felt more, and created more. We hope that this performance offers space for reflection and an opportunity to defend your gravity.
Peter and I are both performing in this work, and we are thrilled to create with such an exquisite and generous cast of dancers and musicians. Together, we crafted an experience which reminds us all that the broken pieces belong to us; they are not meant to be shed or forgotten. To own them is to accept them, and in doing so we move to action and compassion — for ourselves and others.
Thank you for the journey so far. I look forward to seeing you along the way (and hopefully this weekend).
Michele de la Reza (with Peter Kope)