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Choreographer Seeks Poetry in the Motion of ‘Blood Wedding’

Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry extends beyond literature to the realm of dance. In fact, the nonverbal elements in his masterwork, “Blood Wedding,” hailed as revolutionary when it premiered in the 1930s, were considered “poetry in motion"-- inseparable from the rest of the theatrical experience.

Nevertheless, most productions of the classic have been staged as straight plays, with little or no emphasis on the motional and musical images deftly woven through the fabric of the plot.

“That’s absolutely true, both in America and in Europe,” said Graciela Daniele, the Argentina-born choreographer who co-directed the critically acclaimed production running tonight through Dec. 4 at the Old Globe Theatre. “They just played all the visuals. The music and dance portions happened off stage.

“I have been exposed to ‘Blood Wedding’ since I was a child in school,” she said, “and the best one I have ever seen was really a dance theater piece--the filmed version. It told the essence of the story without the spoken poetry.”

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Daniele and collaborator Gerald Freedman originally staged their “Blood Wedding” for the Great Lakes Theater Festival, Freedman’s home base. And, despite Daniele’s awe of the material, she was determined to tackle a dance-oriented “Blood Wedding” when the opportunity presented itself.

“To me it was important, because I felt the poetry was missing from the English translation--even the new one, which is the best translation around,” Daniele said . “The language is pure music, but when I read it in English, I said, my God, so much is missing here.”

Daniele had three Tony nominations under her belt from Broadway triumphs before teaming up with Freedman on “Blood Wedding.” But she describes this effort as her most difficult challenge.

“It was hell ,” she said, breaking into a hearty laugh. “You just can’t put in some tangos. It is very balletic in structure, but the play is not about dance. Dance is a metaphor of Lorca’s. It’s just a visual way of underscoring what he was doing, a way to further the plot.”

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In a brief prologue, using the rapid-fire heel clicks of flamenco dance, Daniele foretells the tragic events of the play.

“It’s very short, vibrant and energetic,” she said. “But it’s really an omen of what’s going to happen, even though it’s very abstract.”

Daniele uses abstracted movement throughout the play, but, as she pointed out, “we’re never mirroring what’s going on. There’s a kind of rhythm underscoring the tension and supporting the story.”

“The play is about flying, about risking and about freedom. He was young when he wrote it, and he dared a lot,” said Daniele. “In fact, there’s a totally abstract scene in the play that ends like something out of a Greek tragedy. And that’s what we did. We flew with him. Of course, we wish we had another three months to work on it, but I guess that’s how all creators feel.”

“Blood Wedding” marks Daniele’s debut in San Diego. She said she would have been here sooner, as the choreographer on the La Jolla Playhouse production of “80 Days,” but her schedule got in her way.

“Des McAnuff asked me to do ('80 Days’), but I had a chance to do my own show, ‘Tango Apasionado.’ And Des understood why I couldn’t say yes. But I’d love to work in San Diego, at the Globe and at the La Jolla Playhouse,” she said. “Regional theater is where it’s happening.

“Here, they don’t care about reviews. But to put a musical on Broadway, it costs about $5 million to $7 million. They’re so expensive, you can’t really try it. By the time you open in New York, if the critics (pan) you, you die in two weeks.

“Broadway is more and more a place for consumer products. I worked on Broadway, but most of the big shows are from London now,” she said.

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“We don’t hear about the things that didn’t work in London, so we think everything they have is wonderful. I’d love to do ‘Blood Wedding’ in New York, but I can’t imagine it happening.”


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