Artist Highlight: Four Quartets at CAP UCLA

In the days leading up to a Royce Hall performance, artists, company and crew members arrive to set up shop. From CAP UCLA staff working in basement offices, to production crew members working alongside artists on stage, dozens of individuals are involved in making sure all details are in place for public presentations.

CAP UCLA is presenting Four Quartets this weekend, and among the newly arrived artists is American choreographer Pam Tanowitz, a master of her craft and one of the most significant choreographic voices coming out of this country.

Pam had been carrying around a little book a of T. S. Eliot’s poetry that she says “looked like a prayer book” before she began to visualize what Four Quartets would look like embodied by dancers on stage.

This will be the third performance of Four Quartets since its premiere at Bard two years ago. Thrilled at the opportunity to revisit the work here in Los Angeles, Pam says she can now “see the deepening of the choreography in the dancers’ bodies.”

CAP UCLA’s Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds first learned of the work early on from her colleague Gideon Lester, who is the artistic director for the Fisher Center at Bard. CAP UCLA came on as a co-commissioner along with Bard and the Barbican Centre (London),  and Kristy developed a close connection to the work as she often would join the team during the creative development and audition process.

“When we had decided to do this show no one had heard of me, no one wanted to take a chance. Gideon, Kristy and the Barbican took a chance and I knew I was scared in a really good way,” Pam said.

In search of a deeper understanding of the poems, Pam and Gideon visited the four sites that T.S. Eliot names in the poems, which are all places that held special significance for him. “Each place we went to became part of the fabric,” said Pam. “The research and studio time are always my favorite part. I kept doing the research and reading the poem, but when I went into the studio I would leave everything behind. As I worked it took shape,” she said. At first a few steps in silence, then adding music by Kaija Saariaho, followed by the reading of the poem by Kathleen Chalfant and finally the paintings by Brice Marden. The resulting work is one of CAP’s must-see events of the season.

Tickets are still available for Four Quartets, which The New York Times has called “The greatest creation of dance theater so far this century.”

If you’d like to learn more about that journey and the creation of Pam’s dance, there is a blog about the development of the production at https://fishercenter.bard.edu/events/four-quartets/