Whenever I am given a role to play in dance or in theater I spend some time meditating on it. I turn its concept over in my mind. I gather books and articles, or even snatches of words and phrases that I feel are related; I compile playlists of music to get into a suitable mood. I halfjoke to my husband that this is a form of summoning magic. By surrounding myself with things I associate with a character, I begin to feel close enough to her to be able to communicate with her, to ask her: “Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want?”
When I was assigned the role of Demon in Mother Nature, it was no different. As I type this, a copy of Paradise Lost and a Bible are at my elbow, along with a pile of Alan Moore comics and William Blake’s works. In another corner of the of the Internet, a Pinterest board of my own working teems with body horror specimens, vaginas dentatas, and gaping, howling maws.
Sometimes, even despite all this preparation, I’ll struggle to grasp a character, and Demon was one of those problem characters. I thought I knew her, but I had trouble putting her into the music I’d been assigned. However much I reached out to her, she did not reach back.
At least, not until my first choreographing session when I stopped thinking about her and began to move her. In the early stages of building the choreography and fitting it to my body, Demon appeared, and very clearly told me who she was and what she wanted:
I am the fury and helplessness of the Captured Queen.
I am the alienation and desperation of the Workers.
I am the aggression and paranoia of the Warriors.
I am the pain and shame of the Sex Objects.
As you have sown, so shall you reap.
I am empty, I am hungry, I am devouring, and I am the end of your world.
So I have that to deal with. Yes, she’s loud.
For all her hatred of the body, the body was where Demon was residing, and that’s where I had to reach her.
But the more I dance her, the more it’s clear to me: of course that’s where I’ll find Demon. The story of Mother Nature is a story that brings the abuses of bodies especially women’s bodies into parallel with abuses of Nature and her resources. If the body is a gateway to the soul, it makes sense that the debasement of one would lead to the corruption of the other. And who is Demon but that corruption, in the flesh?
“But Parsons,” some might protest to me, “Why are you taking on this character, who is evil/Satanic/corrupt/unhealthy? Why are you talking to her, indulging her?” To that, I can only reply that every narrative needs an antagonist, and Mother Nature is no different. Demon appears in the show to pose the question, “Who is the protagonist Nature, who has been corrupted, or humanity, who must confront the world that it has made?” I don’t think that’s a question Demon can answer I don’t think she knows the answer. The character knows that she is an enemy, but she’s unclear on whose enemy. She is present in Mother Nature to tell us that as we have sown, so now we shall reap.
Or, perhaps, by looking on the face of evil, we may learn how to overcome it?
All collages by Melissa Menard in reflection of Mother Nature dance production.
This blog is designed to provide information about Moon Belly and MOON dance company happenings. At times, it becomes an open journal of our various theatrical explorations. At other times, it serves as a source of education on belly dance culture and history.