Commissioned by the Atlanta Ballet
Choreography by Tara Lee
Pavo is the Latin word for peacock. When I began working with the enormously talented choreographer/dancer Tara Lee on this piece, we both gravitated towards the imagery of the peacock and constructed a work that incorporated ideas from the mayurasana, or the so-called peacock pose in Yoga. The piece derives much of its dramatic narrative from an article written by Catherine Ghosh entitled The Peacock Pose: Dance with Divinity. When Tara came across Ghosh’s article about the spiritual significance of the peacock, it provided inspiration for the central themes of the ballet. Because a peacock has the ability to digest poisonous snakes, it represents the transformation of poisonous tendencies into something beautiful. Within my own faith tradition, I was also aware of the peacock’s depiction in Byzantine art as the soul and its beautiful, incorruptible status as well as the Orthodox Christian view of the peacock as an ancient symbol of the Resurrection: as he sheds his feathers, the peacock grows more brilliant ones than those he lost.
The entire work is cast into five movements played without interruption:
i. The piece begins with a relatively slow and atmospheric introduction that leads directly into the first aspect of the peacock pose.
ii. the poisons: In this movement, the music and dance concern themselves with the peacock’s uncanny ability to digest snakes, poison and all.
iii. the gathering storm: This movement plays with the imagery of the wonderful, restless dancing a peacock performs just prior to rainstorms. Having reached a very energetic and rhythmic high point, the music and dance abruptly shift gears and move directly into the climatic section of the piece.
iv. transfigurations: Peacocks choose mates for life and as such have become symbol of fidelity. In this movement, there are two ideas at play. First there is the aspect of faithfulness and strength; two characteristic that protect one’s senses from wandering. Secondly, the entire work has the subtext of cycles and the individual breaking out of those cycles. These cycles can represent negative aspects of our lives (addictions, poor choices, bad habits, etc.) or the entire cycle of our lives. In either context, the individual has the ability to break negative cycles as well as transcend the earthly life cycle. Thus, this movement provides a context wherein the dancers are transfigured beyond the circle they began within.
v. After this climatic dance, the music ends quietly with an atmospheric epilogue that is a sort of retrograde of the ideas found in the introduction and thus leaves the listener with a question: will I transcend my own cycle or remain within?