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May 13 , 2019

Hubbard Street Dancers Elliot Hammans (left) and Jacqueline Burnett in Crystal Pite's A PICTURE OF YOU FALLING. All photos by Todd Rosenberg. 

Time for another interview series! We caught up with dancers Jacqueline Burnett and Elliot Hammans as they prepare for their performance of Crystal Pite’s A Picture of You Falling during the Summer Series June 6, 8 + 9 at the Harris Theater.

In your own words, what is A Picture of You Falling about?

Jacqueline Burnett (JB): I think A Picture of You Falling is about two people grappling with their relationship and re-hashing it and eventually letting it go.

Elliot Hammans (EH): It feels to me like the process of something happening and then the decision, more so on the female character’s part, to leave. But I think my character also has some part in that choice as well.

What is your relationship to each other in this piece? As characters or as dancers?

JB: When Elliot and I are dancing it, I feel like our relationship is really based around the physicality and the rigor of what the choreography asks; coordinating our bodies together with this strange soundscape and challenging lighting and spacing. It’s trying to negotiate how our two bodies are going to problem solve these challenges together. This idea of problem solving also drives the narrative, that’s what so great about Crystal’s work is the emotional and narrative content is so integrated into the physical actions, when you tap into one you inherently tap into the other.

How does Kate Strong’s narration play a part in this piece?

JB: We are definitely using Kate’s voice as a musical score or a trigger for an action, but in the broader sense, Kate’s voice is speaking to the audience. She keeps saying “This is you,” and “here you are,” and I think she’s really talking to you in your seat.

EH: Both this piece and The Other You come from this larger piece called The You Show that’s main objective is to put the audience member on stage, and allowing the audience to understand these characters through us, and the narration helps do that.

What challenges do the moving lighting features in this piece bring? And how does it enhance the work?

EH: The lighting is very specific and we spend quite a bit of time in technical rehearsal focusing them so that they shine perfectly on Jac’s face or our torsos. The lighting is also very connected to the music and a lot of the cues are triggered from certain time stamps in the music. It’s kind of like a puzzle that we have to reconfigure every time we do it.

JB: The lights really add another layer to the focus that it takes to get through A Picture of You Falling. In addition to coordinating with our bodies and the music we are also coordinating everything with the lights to get into the right light at the right angle at the right time. What’s beautiful about Crystal’s work is how she crafts all these different elements together.

This piece can seem very personal, like you’re playing a part in the narrative, do you feel any sort of connection to this piece in that way?

EH: Even though a lot of the emotion is driven from these physical actions, I think that the emotions are very real. Even though they aren’t necessarily connected to a personal experience it’s still a real feeling that brings the audience into that moment. It’s important for those feelings to be real and honest because that’s what makes the piece so effective.

JB: It’s interesting sometimes when I leave at the end of the piece, you can kind of hear this sigh in the audience, and it leaves them at a loss, or reminds them of something that they have experienced, and Elliot and I go through that in the moment too.

See Elliot and Jacqueline on stage performing A Picture of You Falling on Saturday June 8, during the Summer Series performances June 6, 8 + 9 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.  Learn more and purchase your tickets here.

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