A new telling of an age-old story

By Ruth Davis

One of the works being presented during Up Close on Hope this November is by award-winning choreographer Ty Parmenter, who is also a company dancer. This will be the fourth piece he has created for our Up Close on Hope series.
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This work is most unique – a collaboration between Ty and local storyteller Valerie Tutson. Valerie has been entertaining and performing in schools for more than 25 years and is the founder of the Rhode Island Black Storytellers Association and the Funda Fest, a local storytelling festival. The choreography is set to Valerie’s rendition of an African folk tale of How We Got the Stars.

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Ty said, “This collaboration began when Misha asked me if I’d be interested in working with text.” He continued, “I had been thinking about using narrative in my work, and thought it would be a great opportunity to work with a storyteller. Previously I had created a work using dialogue from an old movie and poem my sister had written, so I was all ears to hear what Valerie and I could do together.”

Valerie was thrilled to be working on this project with Ty. “I usually work alone, so I was excited about the opportunity to work with another artist. And this is great.”

Ty and Valerie met to listen to her recording of the story. She said, “I saw Ty’s brain go clickity-clickity-click.” She added, “I can’t wait to see what Ty is going to do with it, whether he’ll have a direct response to the story or an interpretation.”

Ty was also thrilled. He said, “It’s a beautiful story with lovely underlying themes about lightness and darkness, and there’s a wonderful line where Valerie says there’s always light on the other side.” Ty added, “Valerie’s recording is stunning – she has a phenomenal way of speaking.”

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When asked about the process of creating a ballet set to text, Ty said, “Overall, the beginning process of choreographing to music or text is very much the same. I’m discovering that in the later stages of creating, the text wants you to be more intentional.” He continued, “With music, there are demands but with text, there’s only one way to interpret those words. On the other hand, as a choreographer, I try not to rely solely on the narrative, but to let the audience bring their own sensibilities to what they’re seeing.” Ty added, “This balancing act is quite a challenge, that’s what’s great about it.”

Explaining how the piece has been unfolding, Ty said that in the early stages of rehearsal, he didn’t play the story for the dancers.  “I told them what they’re in for, that there would be no music.” Gradually, he started to introduce the words and elements of the text on top of the dancing so that the dancers could find their own connections.

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The four dancers in the piece will perform to the recording with the exception of a special night when Valerie will perform the story live. Ty added, ‘It will be great for the dancers to perform to the recording, but also it will be great when Valerie is there live – her presence will add a whole other element.  Who knows, she may not perform the story exactly the way she recorded it.”

See Ty Parmenter’s new work at Up Close on Hope, Nov. 4-6 and 11-12, 2016. Ruth Davis manages Public Relations for FBP.

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2 Replies to “A new telling of an age-old story”

  1. Wow!! This sounds very exciting What a good theme to be working on ..”Up Close on Hope” so very needed today. This seems like a wonderful collaboration . My only wish is that I lived close enough to see the production

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