The Big Bang, Quantum Physics and the Drive To Make Dances

Editor’s note: On May 22, 2012, choreographer Lar Lubovitch received the Benois de la Danse prize for choreography in Moscow. At the ceremony he stated: “For some crazy reason, I make dances. And what’s more crazy is that the world allows me to do that. And my grandparents left Russia in between the first and second world wars, and they would be extremely proud to see me standing on the stage of the Bolshoi with this award.”

In 2011 Lubovitch received the Dance/USA Honor Award in recognition of his many contributions to the dance field. The Dance/USA Honor is presented to an individual who, in the eyes of the dance-going public, has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the dance field by reason of artistic excellence and/or force of vision. Mr. Lubovitch joined an illustrious group of past Dance/USA Honor recipients, including Antony Tudor, Alexandra Danilova, Martha Graham, Robert Joffrey, Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille, Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, Katherine Dunham, Bella Lewitzky, Charles Reinhart, William Christensen, Donald McKayle, Bruce Marks, Judith Jamison, David White, Jeraldyne Blunden, Dr. Charles “Chuck Davis, Arthur Mitchell, Anna Halprin, Frederic Franklin, and Carmen de Lavallade. The award was given on July 15, 2011, during the Dance/USA Honors Celebration, a part of the Dance/USA Annual Conference held July 13-16 in Chicago, IL.

Remarks by Lar Lubovitch upon receiving the Dance/USA Honor

Albert Einstein proposed a very large view of the world—one which started with a Big Bang—

And now, quantum physics, in an opposite tact, has revealed that everything in our known universe is actually composed of tiny strands of vibrating energy—this is called string theory. This podium, the floor, this room, we and the air we breathe are each unique combinations of trillions of these infinitesimal vibrating strands of energy. To add to the wonder and beauty of what string theory proposes, each of these trembling strands emits a tone that is inexorably drawn to other strands with which it is in harmony. Much like when the bow of a cello is drawn across multiple strings at once, producing a synchronicity of vibrations more beautiful and complex than that of a single string alone. These impossibly complicated combinations of tones are unique to the one and only thing that they join together to create. Each thing then, one might say, is like an original piece of music, which, when played, produces each of us and every other thing in this miracle of existence.

If that is the case, then you and I are never really standing still. We are made of frenzied vibrations in a huge cosmic concerto.

I recently asked students at a course I was giving to help me define dance. Many beautiful ideas were tossed around. But the one we arrived at that stood out, especially in this context, was that dance is a vibration of the spirit, that stirs the body to move when music is being played. By that definition, it is not unreasonable to conclude that if the quantum universe is made of music then we are all dancing right now.

If you were to ask me what I do, I would say that I make dances. I don’t know why, and it doesn’t matter why. When early man deduced that without rain, no food would grow, he raised his arms to the sky and swayed and jumped and spun in circles entreating the mysterious power in the sky to let the water fall down. He didn’t ask why, he just believed it.

So did the Greek warriors of centuries past when they danced in unison before a battle—in a belief that the dance would unite them against the enemy.

In medieval Italy a wild dance craze swept over the people, which was declared by the church to be a communion with the devil. Ancient etchings depict cartloads of crazy people being hauled off to the madhouse from dancing the Tarantella.

In the French court of Louis the Sun King, himself a great dancer, one’s station and favor with the king was influenced by one’s dancing ability. And Louis invented pirouettes and entre-chats to challenge their comeuppance even further. After the French Revolution, every celebration of the free people included a dance by a group of women in white as a symbol of the purity of the new spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity. It was also commanded by the revolutionary council that every theatrical presentation include, at some point, a dance by these women in white. In fact, that was the origin of white ballets such as Swan Lake and Giselle.

In the Sun King’s court, men and women performed side by side always facing front, so as not to turn their backs to the King, and for many decades theatrical dance followed the same tradition. But some time later in Viennese dance halls, eyebrows raised as men and women faced each other with their bodies touching as they whirled in the thrall of the waltz—a scandalous sexual provocation that nonetheless influenced the development of partnered duets in ballet. And that provocation continues to this day as young people perform their ornate mating dances in clubs across the world.

The point is that dance has always been there and humanity and the tiny musical strands of which it is made have been vibrating in one way or another since the beginning of known history.

Over the course of a few recent centuries, besides its social function, dance has become an art form, still the youngest amongst its sister arts and forever being born again in its insistence on its right to exist. It reinvents itself constantly because it is only really there when it is happening, and then quickly vanishes except as a memory. Perhaps that accounts for its poignancy, like a perfect rose whose beauty is treasured all the more because it dies so quickly. A perfect silk rose could live forever but who cares?

I love to make dances and all the dances I have made are about dancing itself and to me that is no small matter. It’s as big as Einstein’s bang and as magical as quantum strings. I do it because I have to. Don’t ask me why. Even if I could explain, I wouldn’t.

It is my good fortune that people, such as are in this room this evening, work endlessly to create a world in which dance is allowed to flourish, and provide a ground upon which that exquisite inimitable expression of the human spirit may stand. I am honored to receive the award considering those who have been recognized before me, and I continue to strive to live up to the standards of my predecessors, by whose work I am humbled and inspired.

Forty-four years and more than 100 dances later The Big Bang, Quantum Physics and the Drive To Make DancesI am still hoping to get it right, really right, at least once before I finish. But it doesn’t really matter whether I do, or do not, do it perfectly. I probably can’t. But what does matter is that in the arts it is the “struggle itself” for perfection that counts and lifts people the world over to take inspiration from a place where idealism and the search for beauty reign supreme. I thank the mother of all creation, or whomever is in charge of all of this, that I have been allowed to be a part of that action.

In addition to that, I have had the good fortune of spending my life in the company of dancers, many hundreds of them by now, and that has always been an enormous source of inspiration—each of them a most splendid and unique vibration in a universe made of music.

Thank you.

Born in Chicago, Lar Lubovitch was educated at the University of Iowa and the Juilliard School in New York. His teachers at Juilliard included Antony Tudor, Jose Limon, Anna Sokolow, and Martha Graham. He founded the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in 1968. Since founding the company 43 years ago, he has become one of America’s most versatile, popular and widely seen choreographers. Based in New York City, the company performs throughout the world. His dances are also performed by many other major companies. His dances on film include Othello (broadcast throughout the U.S. on PBS’s “Great Performances” and nominated for an Emmy Award), Fandango (winner of an International Emmy Award) and My Funny Valentine for the Robert Altman film The Company (for which Lubovitch was nominated for an American Choreography Award).

Lubovitch made his Broadway debut in 1987 with the musical staging for the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical, Into the Woods, for which he received a Tony Award nomination. In 1993 he choreographed the highly-praised dance sequences for the Broadway show The Red Shoes. For his work on that show, he received the 1993-94 Astaire Award from the Theater Development Fund. In 1996 he created the musical staging (and two new dances) for the Tony-Award-winning Broadway revival of The King and I. In 2004 he was honored with the Elan Award for his outstanding choreography.

In addition to his work for stage, screen and television, Lubovitch has also made a significant contribution to the advancement of choreography in the field of ice-dancing. He has created concert dances for Olympic medalists including John Curry, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Brian Orser, JoJo Starbuck and Paul Wylie and has choreographed two evening-length ice dances for television—The Sleeping Beauty starring Olympic medalists Robin Cousins and Rosalynn Sumners, and The Planets starring Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay (nominated for an International Emmy Award, a CableACE Award and a Grammy Award).

In 2007, he founded the Chicago Dancing Company, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to present a wide variety of excellent dance and build dance audiences in his native Chicago. Initiated by Chicago-born Lubovitch (and Chicago-based dancer Jay Franke), the Chicago Dancing Festival was launched in cooperation with Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the City of Chicago. For visionary risk-taking in establishing the festival, Lubovitch was named a “2007 Chicagoan of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune, and in 2008, Lubovitch and Jay Franke were both named by Chicago Magazine as “Chicagoans of the Year.”


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