By Gabrielle Gainor Fiona Vigdor is pretty awe-inspiring. Really, she needs no introduction. But here goes: When Fiona dances, it's clear that her mind doesn't wander--if her body's in motion, her spirit is there, too. (Plus, her feet would make any bunhead green with envy!). This purity and clarity she possess are old-school modern dance in the best way possible; she's the kind of artist who who doesn't skip class; a dancer who should pretty much just go pack her bags so that she can join the Limóncompany (she'd fit right in). A few other things you should know about this artist/mother/wife: she danced professionally in New York, graduated from one of the top dance schools in the country (Boston Conservatory), she's been reviewed in The New York Times, and was, once or twice, my ballet teacher in college! Most importantly, as you will learn below, she is strong. When confronted with the absolute worst, she's come out on top. Knowing how special Fiona is, I am sure it's not just because of luck. It's because it's her.
RDC is so grateful to have Fiona involved in our group as a dancer, choreographer and mentor for the past four seasons. This year, in addition to creating a new work "Hiraeth," she also worked with Lauren Edson as Rehearsal Director for "Below the Surface." What inspired your piece for our fourth-season show, PRIME? There are many different things that have inspired my piece. The three main elements are: the image of a metal sculpture, music and my own experience with being a cancer survivor.
The first thing that inspired me was an image of this metal sculpture. The front of the sculpture is of a woman standing, and it almost looks like the wind is blowing through her; there's these pieces of metal flying off the back of her. Something really spoke to me about that image: this strong-looking woman facing the world, and all then all these pieces of her blowing away.
This ties into the second thing that inspired me: My experience as a cancer survivor. To me, the sculpture signified how time keeps moving forward, but there are all these different bits and pieces from our past, that make us who we are. I'm now four years out from my diagnosis, and I feel stronger from the experience of survival, but the cancer is always there. My life has seemingly continued to move forward, but the cancer will always be a part of my existence.
The third thing is the music. I love all the different interesting sounds that the composer, Hauschka, uses. Listening to his music makes me curious to explore different ways of moving either with or against the music. It is a huge inspiration for my piece.
Tell me briefly about the journey you've taken with your dancers? This journey represents a bit of a departure compared to what I've done in the past. I am asking the dancers for more feedback than I ever have before. I want it to feel like it's their journey too, and not just mine. Authenticity is very important to me, and I have been working on getting the dancers more involved in hopes that piece will feel more like their own.
What did you learn from the last piece you choreographed, and how has that affected your current work? To try to take more moments of quietness and also to be OK with repetition. The last work I created had a lot of choreography in it. I often feel a need to make all this new choreography when creating a piece, but this year, I am working on incorporating more moments of stillness. When I was working with (former Merce Cunningham Dancer) Alan [Good], I remember him saying that one of the biggest mistakes a new choreographer can make is putting too much movement in a piece and not enough moments of quietness. I am working on creating more moments of stillness to juxtapose the moments of dancing. I think that makes it dynamic and interesting to watch. I am also working a little more with repetition in my work and finding different ways of using it. Again, in the past, I have often created a lot of choreography and this year, I have been interested in simplifying with the use of repetition.
What's the hardest thing about choreography? Being patient with my process. I am a slow processor and sometimes it can take me a while to find my way. I am so grateful to be working with dancers who are willing to put up with my process.
How does your work reflect the times? My piece is just about being human, trying to find balance in life, and also, about how time keeps drawing us forward (and how we can't control that). In my piece, there is always a reflecting back to the past, to the people we used to be and yet, we keep moving forward and can't help it. It's all those pieces from the past that turn us into the people we are. My work is also about how we are always working on finding balance in life. Just when we find balance, we are already falling again.