Making ‘Echo & Narcissus’ Modern: Satellite Collective Returns to BAM Fisher

This Friday and Saturday, Satellite Collective returns to BAM Fisher for the third time with “Echo & Narcissus.” This interdisciplinary ballet — developed out of the group’s signature collaborative process (which you can read more about in Issue 01) — drops the mythical characters in 1970s New York and seeks to “illuminate the unrest and discord of our current political moment.” Collaborators include, but certainly are not limited to, ballet-dancer-turned-composer Aaron Severini, choreographer Norbert De La Cruz III, director Philip Stoddard, writer and artistic director Kevin Draper, and film maker and executive director Lora Robertson. Numerous other creative contributors and designers, dancers, and musicians have been brought in to craft a story told through movement, animation, song, and lighting.

I caught up with Robertson over the phone just as the team’s creative process moved into the final stages of editing, to talk about inspiration, language, and how they bring it all together.

Rehearsal Photo by Melissa Wu.

{ DIY dancer }, Candice Thompson: Why this story now?

Lora Robertson: I have a lot of frustration right now and as a woman, and the resident film maker and executive director, I am coming at the story from the perspective of the gender inequality. The stop motion films I have created deal with that, from Echo’s perspective. In the myth, she is a victim. But we changed it up and made her more independent. Even though Narcissus has a devastating impact on her, life goes on with a broken heart. Women are the custodians of the life cycle and she may not realize the power she has, but it is still within her. Men can’t defeat death with power and ego.

CT: Why do you choose to call it a ballet, when there are so many disciplines involved?

Rehearsal Photo by Melissa Wu.

LR: We have had a lot of discussion in the group about that. Norbert is always trying to find new ways to interact with the dancers and bring more diversity to the art form.We are not interested in having an environment where a choreographer choreographs on dancers. Michaela Rae Mann is working with us again in the role of Echo and she is a very collaborative artist. And yet, with the recent reporting in The New York Times about the three principal males at New York City Ballet, it is clear there are problems in the tradition and hierarchy. However, in our use of ‘interdisciplinary ballet’ we are referencing the parts of the ballet that we find beautiful, the structure, the athleticism…a mix of classical and hip hop musicians will be performing live from a balcony above the stage.

CT: How do you layer all of it together?

LR: We always start with the libretto and then this time, the music was the first major component to be finished. Norbert and I started responding to Aaron’s score, building work together. As things from the dance jumped out, I would tap that for my films. Then later on, there were higher concentrations of us working together and responding to each other. Now it is on freeze and we are in editing process, mashing it together, finding accidents that work and trying to make sure we don’t lose them.


Echo & Narcissus
BAM Fisher
9/14 at 8 p.m., 9/15 at 7:30 p.m.

Click here for tickets.

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