When I was reading the Taziyeh we read a few weeks ago I was immediately struck by several aspects of its composition. Firstly, the sense of hopelessness that pervades the work was a major source of inspiration for me. The sense of struggle and the general theme of martyrdom that fills much Shi’a literature also stood out to me. Last week, I was listening to a new CD when I heard the piece of music seen in the video, and I immediately saw how the piece captured that sense of emotional outpouring and journey towards certain death.
The piece of music is by one of my favorite composers, Michael Nyman, and is called “Memorial.” It was originally inspired to be a funeral march in honor of people killed in a stadium collapse in the mid 1980′s. The piece also borrows certain sonic elements from Purcell’s “King Arthur,” which furthers the sense of a struggle for the sake of God.
In choreographing this piece, I drew considerable inspiration from the choreography of famed Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova, whose work captures perfectly the slow build to the passionate outcry of the ending. Just as the Taziyeh built over the course, I made an effort to start the program with smaller movements as the character comes to terms with his fate, then accepts it as he passionately struggles onwards. I used the march-like timing of the music to syncopate my steps and create the sensation of a long, drawn-out march towards a certain fate. I also used a traditional choreographic technique in older styles of ice dancing where I execute a choreographic sequence, then repeat it two more times in sequence. This was to help contribute both to the build and to the sense of struggle I was attempting to create.
The piece was also physically challenging. Because the piece builds continuously, it is important as a choreographer to leave moments for breath so as to not become too tired. While the choreography I created was simple because I didn’t have much time to do it, to carry that speed for three and a half minutes is extremely tiring. Despite that, I managed to perform the piece on the first try satisfactorily. If I were to turn this into a performance piece, I would spend many weeks polishing it to a high standard of quality, but for such a quick work I’m very happy with the result.