Andrea Dawn Shelley: “For Saskia”

Saskia van Uylenburgh, the Wife of the Artist, 1638. Rembrandt (1606-1669)

When I think of the Baroque period, I think… opulence. The architecture, music and art, so very extravagant and rich in every way. There is much to be absorbed. This is where my mind went when I spoke with Misha over the phone and he offered that he would like his guest choreographers to choose a Bach Violin Sonata as the music for our new works. He then went on to tell me that all Bach selections would be played ‘live’ and my particular two choices, by a violist. The plot thickened and I chose to focus my energies towards not only the frenetic and complex Bach score but, Rembrandt. Rembrandt, a prolific artist of the Baroque period whose work in many ways contrasted the Baroque style. I specifically found myself gravitating towards his self portraits that use dark and dismal color, yet are rich with detail and emotion. The more I began my relationship with Rembrandt and these portraits, the furthermore I wanted to learn about his personal life.

As we know, art often imitates life and is inspired by our personal experiences. I began to read about Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia and learned of their personal tribulations. They had the misfortune of loosing three of their children as infants. Only one of their children, Titus lived into adulthood to the age of 26. Saskia was to never know that her child Titus survived beyond two months of age, as she perished soon after his birth of tuberculosis. Rembrandt survived them all. Is this a disenchantment with the miracle of life that I see when I look into his vacant expression in his self portraits? This is the story I began to weave and my focus shifted.


The physical and emotional burdens this young mother and wife must have experienced are truly incomprehensible. “For Saskia” tells a narrative about her physical burdens and emotional torment. Her grief, hopelessness, confusion, distress and heartache. Through the dancers artistry, Bach’s recapitulating sonatas and our “pied piper” casting her magic spell of forthcoming death with each stroke of her bow… they collaboratively convey a tale of despair through frenetic movement and music.

Andrea Dawn Shelley (bio) is co-founding director of iMEE Dance Company. Her work “For Saskia” can be seen in Up Close on Hope, Program 1, Nov. 13-22. Details & Tickets…

David DuBois (left), Jaime DeRocker (aloft), and Alex Lantz in rehearsal for Shelley's "For Sasika"
David DuBois (left), Jaime DeRocker (aloft), and Alex Lantz in rehearsal for Shelley’s “For Saskia”


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