Donald Byrd in the studio with Dylan Wald and Cecilia Iliesiu © Lindsay Thomas.
It is challenging, and nearly impossible, to summarize Donald Byrd in one blog post. He has choreography credits from all around the country across the genres of dance, theater, and opera. His list of accomplishments and awards is staggering: Tony-nominated (The Color Purple), Bessie Award-winning (The Minstrel Show), Doris Duke Artist Awardee, winner of the Masters of Choreography Award from The Kennedy Center, to name just a few.
But perhaps summarizing Byrd is a task best left for the Frye Art Museum, which recently launched an exhibit chronicling his career – Donald Byrd: The America That Is To Be. Instead, we decided to focus in on Love and Loss, Byrd’s piece in the upcoming all-premiere rep LOCALLY SOURCED.
Tell us about the inspiration for Love and Loss.
What drives the work that I do at Spectrum [Dance Theater] is around social justice issues, but I don’t have the social justice agenda in the community of PNB. I think my agenda here is addressing beauty. I want people to feel they are in the presence of something that’s really beautiful and it’s beautiful in the sense of being sublime, that they are elevated by being in the presence of it.
“I want people to feel they are in the presence of something that’s really beautiful.”-Donald Byrd
Where does the title of the piece come from?
The title Love and Loss is a distillation of the title of the score, “Songs of Love and Loss” written by Emmanuel Witzthum. It’s romantic love, about how we connect to another person. Loss is about emotional loss, loss of a loved one, not from death, but from the relationship not working – because l think things like love and loss, those are sublime emotions, that’s what I’m after.
Your choreography often crosses genres. How do you feel about working in the ballet world?
I’ve gone through many phases with how I feel about classical movement – I actually love it, that’s why it can be infuriating, because I love it so much – and that I want it to be more inclusive in terms of what can exist in it. I’m not interested in the artifice of ballet, I’m interested in how European classical dancing can reveal things about our humanity.
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