excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Masses and Cantatas
Roelof [Ron] Peter Snippe
December 10, 1996, Toronto Dance Theatre
Premiere Dance Theatre, Toronto
(1) Bill Coleman and The Company; (2) The Company; (3) Sasha Ivanochko, Michael Sean Marye; (4) Darren Bonin, Graham McKelvie, James Robertson, Ron Stewart, Michael Trent; (5) Bill Coleman, Grace Miyagawa; (6) Kirsten Andersen, Marie-Joseť Dubois, Sasha Ivanochko, Coralee McLaren, Robin McPhail, Naoko Murakoshi, Suzette Sherman, Laura West; (7) Michael Sean Marye, James Robertson, Suzette Sherman; (8) Darren Bonin, Marie-Joseť Dubois, Ron Stewart; (9) The Company; (10) The Company
Consider, His bloodstained back
in every way, is like unto Heaven.
-- St. John Passion
Sang premiered at the special program in David's honour to mark his final season with Toronto Dance Theatre.
Sang is a suite of dances to arias from Bach's sacred works -- the St. Matthew Passion, the St. John Passion, the B Minor Mass and several cantatas. An intensely physical work on a large scale, Sang reveals not only the depths of this great music but also the incredible gift of light it offers us 200 years later. Sang (French for “blood”) suggests not only the passions of humanity but the passion of Christ -- two polarities that David has tried to connect throughout his lifetime. In June 1997, four sections of Sang were re-set under the title Passions for Robyn Allan's Dance and Desire show at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver.
This work was created to honour the life of Michael Conway, friend and lover, who died on July 16 of this year. It is dedicated to all lovers living and dead, and to the sacred nature of desire. I would like to express my gratitude to Bill Glassco for his generous donation to the making of Sang, in memory of Michael Conway, for whom he was a constant support.
Interview with David Earle, December 3, 2002
Sang opened with Bill Coleman as the Christ figure, walking along a lit pathway, trailing long red ribbons from his hands. It is a vision I have often imagined -- Christ wandering through a crowd of people who fail to identify him. There was a scene of Christ praying in the garden and being led away with his wrists bound; a scene of angels; a scene of the death of a loved one. The final scene was a long, flowing procession of figures en route to paradise -- a summation of individuals transcending human concerns. We borrowed a red floor from Robert Desrosiers and used vintage red and black velvet dresses. Despite this being my final work with TDT, the dancers were enthusiastic with the collaboration. I also invited Grace Miyagawa and Suzette Sherman, two of my muses and most extraordinary artists, to be in the piece and I was surrounded by some of the best modern dancers in the world.
Journal: Friday, September 27, 1996
It seems that I will do a new work for my final season with TDT. I thought of doing all of Bach's St. John Passion, which I heard at the Elora Festival in a vast barn only a few days after the death of my beautiful Michael. I wanted to do it in his memory, but it is too daunting -- the recitative would be perilous. I love arias from it and began to find other Bach arias. I've thought of a collection of songs for some time now.
Journal: Sunday, October 6, 1996
I was about to throw away a magazine picture of an El Greco portrait when I decided that I liked it and, very spontaneously, with two scraps of paper put a white X across his mouth. Underneath in large letters is written SANG -- blood. It strikes me that Sang would be a good title for a collection of songs and this image a good poster for my season. It's nicely perverse, the past tense of sing -- and blood.
Journal: Friday, October 18, 1996
Today I started a new section -- a tango to a soprano aria from the St. John Passion. I spoke to the dancers about the realization that the names we are given in our childhood pervade every moment of our existence. Also, the notion of life going on around a tragedy -- people out participating in rituals oblivious to the dramas being reenacted within the people around them.
Journal: Friday, October 25, 1996
Michael Sean and I are working very closely on the creation of this work. He has so many perceptions that are clear and powerful. What began as a series of very full dance pieces to sacred music now has a theme emerging. It is a “sacred marathon” I thought yesterday -- “a walk with Love and Death”. It is the consummate statement of my principal theme -- Death and Sensuality. It is also how the suffering inherited from a Christian conditioning finds its way into love relationships … of course it is perilous tying all this together. But sharing the task is much easier.
Journal: Thursday, October 31, 1996
A breakthrough in the men's section based on Michael Sean's suggestion that Graham McKelvie sit down during the duets. It gave me a sudden image of one of my themes -- The Night in the Garden. I felt, on the entrance, that he was a Christ figure -- everyone touching him to take strength from him. And when he lifts each body as if to waken it, each falls back into slumber … perhaps I've set it up unconsciously. All I added was a kiss in the last moments and Graham being led away with his hands bound behind his back. I should use a red ribbon.
Journal: Monday, November 11, 1996
I realized what the theme of this piece actually is: “The war between Christianity and Nature has brought us to this dead end”. When I decided to call it Sang it took off on this course. The flyers came out Friday; the original design trendy and frigid -- but I made changes -- the colours especially. I think it is very striking although more horrifying than I would have wanted. The poster is to have more humanity. I particularly like the red for Sang.
Journal: Wednesday, December 11, 1996
The day after. Epic response … overwhelming … humbling … inspiring. Standing ovation after Maelstrom, but many many cheering calls after Sang. Veronica Tennant came onstage in floods of tears and said it was the most beautiful performance she'd ever seen. She used the word humanity several times. So many friends at the reception -- like drowning pleasantly.