Over the centuries, choreographers have created ballets about swan maidens, fairies and even a dancing rose. Now we can add white collar criminals to the list, thanks to Philadelphia dance maker Rebecca Davis’ new ballet, Greed: The Tale of Enron.
For Davis, founder and artistic director of the Rebecca Davis Dance Company, artistic inspiration comes from the stories in the headlines, history books and works of literature. Her last ballet, Darfur, depicted real-life U.S. Marine Brian Steidle’s experiences in war-torn Sudan.
Greed, which premieres this weekend in Philadelphia, charts the rise and fall of the energy giant through the relationships among key players Jeffrey Skilling, Andrew Fastow, Kenneth Lay and J. Clifford Baxter, who committed suicide in 2002.
After the jump, Davis talks about translating the corporate scandal into movement.
Flavorwire: How did the Enron scandal appeal to you as a choreographer?
Rebecca Davis: First of all, it’s a story that can be told through relationships, and that’s what makes it so applicable to dance. You have a lot of different people who became intertwined in friendships and corporate business dealings that allowed them amazing growth, but were also the source of downfall. Anytime we can attach relationships to a story, we can translate it into dance.
FW: How did you prepare your dancers for the piece?
RD: Part of the rehearsal process involved learning a lot about Enron. Then we talked about who Skilling was and what he was like, and who Cliff Baxter was and how he was different. The collision of those two characters specifically helps to show how they weren’t able to reconcile their differences. In previous productions, we’ve worked with pictures and documentaries, but this was based more on news articles. When Jeff Skilling was being resentenced [in the beginning of January], we brought in those articles, too.
FW: In what ways do you think dance is particularly suited to engaging audiences in topics like Enron and Darfur?
RD: I think the power of dance lies in the emotions it can evoke in someone who’s watching it. If you go through an emotional experience, it’s more likely to impact you in the longer term, whereas if you read a story in the newspaper … when you put down the newspaper it’s like it never happened to you. That’s really why the narrative is so important; if you can get people to laugh and cry and feel all those things — without being didactic, just thought-provoking — it transcends verbal communication. The repercussions of Enron were not contained to the corporate environment. And I think it’s important that all of us understand it because it affects all of us.