Tamar Rogoff's Diagnosis of a Faun, performed at LaMaMa e.t.c. December 3-20, was nothing short of inspirational. Based on Nijinsky's Afternoon of a Faun, Diagnosis lives up to the legacy of its predecessor, also making waves but in its own way. Although it is still loaded with sexual undertones (or overtones), the electrical current flowing through both works, Diagnosis shows us the possibilities and the limits of the human body. The show stars Gregg Mozgala, the faun, who has cerebral palsy and who Tamar has been working with on methods of release since March.
In Diagnosis, the story of a ballerina with a torn achilles, danced by Lucie Baker, is juxtaposed with that of the faun, played by actor/writer Gregg Mozgala. These two stories beautifully intertwine, and are driven by the characters of the Doctors - one played by Don Kollisch, an actual physician, and the other by Emily Pope-Blackman, a dancer, not a doctor. The Doctors "make light" of the seriousness of each medical condition, embarking on humorous interactions with their patients as they try to explain the conditions in scientific terms the audience cannot necessarily completely understand. The highlight of the piece for me was an amazingly executed and emoted sensual duet between Emily and Gregg.
During the post-show Q&A, Gregg explained to us how, with his cerebral palsy, his brain is continually sending signals to his legs to tighten up, resulting in inward rotation and difficulty walking. Tamar would give Gregg simple movement cues, like "sternum down," that he could apply throughout his daily routine. Through these exercises, he has been able to reinforce a new pattern of moving which subverts the other one.
An audience member asked Lucie and Emily how it was to work with non-dancers in the making of the work. I really related to Emily's response: "When you teach something to someone else, it reaffirms it for yourself." In speaking with Emily after the show as well, we talked about how working with Gregg helped with her own alignment and sternum-tailbone relationship.
Tamar is currently working on a documentary about the training of Gregg for his performance in Diagnosis. To keep in touch with this incredible story, visit tamarrogoffpp.blogspot.com.
Diagnosis of a Faun will next be performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC on June 10, 2010 (kennedycenter.org).