Interview with Alexandra Elliott by Grace Wells-Smith
Note: This version has been amended from the original, which stated that the title of the piece was named after Logaria, a disease state in which a person is unable to control his or her speech patterns.
Grace Wells-Smith: Your piece is called Logarian (low-garian) Rhapsody.
Alexandra Elliott: People seem to say it different ways, but we usually call it Logarian (law-garian) Rhapsody.
GWS: Where does the title come from?
AE: Tedd Robinson is the choreographer of the piece and he named it that. In reference to Logaria, the urban dictionary says “can’t control the words coming out of the mouth; one has no idea what they are saying in a sober state of reality”, which really does describe the state that Ian and I enter.
GWS: Can you tell me a bit about how the piece started?
AE: I commissioned Tedd to make this work for myself and my dance partner, Ian. This was in 2015 and at the time, Tedd was living in this big beautiful home in rural Quebec. And in his home, he had a built-in studio. So, we flew there, and we lived with him for three weeks. He would make all the meals, we would eat together, talk together, and then throughout the day he would create this twenty-minute duet that I had commissioned from him as well as his composer, Charles Quevillon. So, he came and joined for the third week … the very first thing [Tedd] had asked us to do was just to stand and look out into the distance and imagine the most beautiful thing that you can imagine so that it would bring about actual tears.
GWS: What was that like?
AE: That was a big day for me, it was like whoa! I’m surprised that I remember. I guess I’m not surprised, but I don’t often remember, necessarily, the very beginning of how a piece was made. But I definitely remember that one. And then after a few rehearsals, [Tedd] came up from the living room to the studio, and he had this beautiful, huge, green granny smith apple. So, the piece is very much about this apple. We have this apple with us the entire time, and for the whole twenty minutes we’re intensely whispering words of desire and ecstasy and warning to each other.
GWS: What’s the idea behind the apple?
AE: It’s basically the essence of temptation. We’re constantly describing how beautiful it is, how shiny, how firm, how juicy it is on the inside. I’m often telling Ian not to take it, or to give it to me, or that I will be the one to surrender. And he’s sort of saying the same thing to me. Everything we’re saying is improvised but has a very specific score or it’s always about something specific. Charles also took us to his basement sound recording studio while we were there and recorded these things that we say out loud, these whispers of desire and ecstasy. So, you also hear them in his original sound score.
GWS: What was that three-week period like?
AE: It was amazing. It was very intense just to be so focused on that. There was no running off to work, or other tasks or jobs and family and things. I really liked it. Ian and I get along really well, and I think I’m quite certain that the piece is what it is because of that intensive period. Tedd is very much a mentor. He’s an award-winning choreographer and nationally renowned, so he has a lot of experience and wisdom to share. That’s something that he does as his career as well. Artists can go and stay with him, and he acts as an artistic consultant for them and their work. I think almost every evening, Tedd and Ian would stay up late and watch old works of Tedd’s and talk about them and I’d end up having to go to bed much earlier than them. So, it was a great time.
GWS: What about these three weeks made the piece what it is today?
AE: I think just because we could focus so clearly on it. I could see that Tedd, the next day when we’d start again fresh in the morning, had already gone much deeper into the work in his mind. I find as a choreographer, my life is so busy that unless I’m in a residency away from my home, it’s really hard for me to continue to research the idea and go deeper into the idea after I’m out of the studio. So, I think that was something that we all could really do. Even outside of the studio, we could subconsciously stay immersed in the initial stages of the process.
GWS: What does it feel like to dance this work?
AE: It’s incredible. It’s like there’s always this point right near the end that I actually do feel like the stage has started to tip sideways. And whenever that happens, I know that it’s going well. It takes so much breath support to whisper for the whole twenty minutes. It takes every ounce of me physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s so exciting because it’s never the same twice because of the words being improvised. Ian is an extremely generous performer, so he will give 110 per cent or more every single time. So, that helps me a lot because I can ride on his level. So, we have a pretty extensive warmup both physically, vocally and emotionally. It’s really exhilarating. I would say that would be the word.
GWS: What is the hardest part?
AE: For me it’s the extreme push. The extreme emotional and theatrical push. I would say for Ian, I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but when we have spoken, he comes from a theatre background, so he can go to that to that like extreme level of theatricality and emotion quite quickly. He’s very natural to go to those places. Whereas it’s less natural for me, so he helps me get to those places. Whereas for him, he came to dance much later in life. So, it’s the physicality that I find I can go to quite quickly and naturally, but for him, he tends to get me to kind of help him with that part. So, we really relied on each other that way.
GWS: What do are you hoping the audience will get from this duet?
AE: That’s a great question. I think just the same as me when I watch Tedd’s work, just sort of this electric charge. For me, when I watch a work that is so powerful and charged, it sends me back out into the world, I guess, transformed on some level. We can get really microscopic in our day to day, so it’s exciting when something can kind of blow us wide open.