“Ordo Virtutum”

Ordo Virtutum is a 12th century morality play by The Blessed Hildegard Von Bingen aka Sibyl of the Rhine/Saint Hildegard. I was approached in late 2009 by my friends and collaborators Stephen Marc Beaudoin and Ben Landsverk of Fourscore Classical Manband to choreograph and dance for their production of Ordo Virtutum. We staged and choreographed and presented our first showing in Feb. 2010 at First Presbyterian Church as part of their Celebration Works program.

This process was a really intense crash course in choreographing for a large group of singers. They really wowed me with their commitment and their willingness to bend, stretch and be flexible not only with their bodies but with some “unorthodox” movement. *remember milking the spirit cow anybody? February’s production was the first time I had worked with singers and a cast of 15. Basically, the largest production I’ve worked on to date. I was very proud to have choreographed and helped stage 2 hours of movement in about a month working every day at a feverish pace, while learning latin and sight reading. But, as I’ve come to realize later this year Ordo Virtutum, and Hildegard herself demand that kind of attention. The work is poetic, sensual, dramatic and way ahead of its time…much like HVB herself.
Check out more info of Hildegard here
Or more about Ordo Virtutum

After Feb. I moved onto other projects, started work with Culture Machine with Tahni Holt and kept plugging away at dance and drag in PDX.

In July I got word from Fourscore that they got picked up to re-stage the work at St. John the Baptist at Oregon Episcopal School out in deep SW PDX. I jumped on board, excited to try some new ideas and work in some new movement and shift focus from what I felt was too literal of movement from the first time. For a better explanation here’s my artist statement from the Sept. performance.

As a mostly self-taught dance maker and performer my work is based in observation, intuition and collaboration.  It has been a swift and curious journey to distill movement from such rich and symbolic words. Last time at First Presbyterian I focused to unearth and create movement and motion, which embodied the text literally, characteristically, and sometimes abstractly.  This time, at the beautiful Saint John the Baptist, I felt divorcing literal meaning from movement while highlighting abstraction and character would create more interesting form, gesture, and presence.  By combining both approaches I hope to juxtapose the symbolism of the text with the inherit character of the body. With the intention of utilizing the architecture, detail and feel of the space to its fullest we’ve decided to move the performers through the entire church. But, as you’ll notice the church is no longer a church. The church has become a home, a garden, a sanctum, and a hearth.  The virtues inhabit an almost psychedelic playground where the line of performer character and symbol are blurred. It is in this in between space where their identity as heavenly beings is best understood as a construct, moving between performer, character and symbol. Just like the first time we’ve kept the role of the soul as two bodies, one voice, and one dancer. We’ve decided to push the concept of many-as-one, or one-as-many to new territory with another significant character, and I hope the shifting of identities is a welcome surprise.  Another exciting change is the performance is in round.  As performers we have nowhere to hide! And the challenge of moving through 360* space creates surprising new points of view. Working with such talented and dedicated collaborators and singers has been a pleasure, and I am truly blessed to make singers dance while I move to their song.

Kaj-anne Pepper
Sept 24th 2010

We decided to really push the severity and drama mixed with some pretty ambitious staging and vocal elements. Just like last time the more we sank into the piece the bigger and more intense it got. Every little detail could become an immense symbol the play could shift on. Every look, attention and detail became highlighted in a space we were surrounded in. Movement wise I really pushed the soloists to combine many textures and concepts while performing to the whole space and beyond. When developing the movement I paid close attention to the directions and attention the performer was moving through as opposed to working just from the text. I felt each of the solo arias were really a collaboration between myself and the singer. This time around I had new and returning performers who really laid it all out on the table. I am really impressed with their ambition, virtuosity and willingness to GO THERE. And GO THERE we did. We covered the entire church from Narthex to the far end called the Lady Chapel. Even at one point placing a soloist on a 12 ft ladder to perch on! We moved and covered the whole space, I climbed 9ft in the air up an altar covering structure, and even climbed through the audience on the pews towards the end.
While I am relieved the 6 hour nightly rehearsals are over, and I have a brief reprieve between shows (Culture Machine is next OCT 15th) I am sad I wont get to spend a lot of time with some really sweet, hardworking, talented quality people.

Here are some pics by my friend and photographer Sarai Black

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Oregon Music News
Oregon Music News Interview in FEB 10′
Oregon Music News Review of the FEB performance… he wasn’t so into my contribution…


About Kaj-anne Pepper

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