Magazine article Dance Magazine

Debut: Taking on Tudor's "Tough Girl."

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Debut: Taking on Tudor's "Tough Girl."

Article excerpt

When Christiana Bennett was asked to dance the role of the "tough girl" in Antony Tudor's politically charged Echoing of Trumpets, she had plenty of emotional references to draw upon. The ballet is a grisly account of a small Czech village destroyed by the Nazis in 1942 and the brutal victimization of women at the hands of the soldiers. Bennett's rock-solid technique and stature (she is just under 5'9") immediately telegraphed a character who was not going to be psychologically crushed.

As she performed, Bennett would expand her chest, angle her shoulders, and turn her head proudly in profile, defining the character's strength through emotional restraint. Since 1963, when the ballet was created for the Royal Swedish Ballet, history has provided more than enough brutal acts of war. During opening week last spring, Bennett said her primary reference was a front-page story about the slaying of women and children in Iraq.

Bennett's character is one of three lead roles. Unlike her counterparts, the "tough girl" (as Tudor nicknamed the part) stands up to her Nazi oppressors. Bennett was the backbone for the other women in the dance. Donald Mahler, ballet master for the Antony Tudor Trust, who staged Echoing on BW, brought a video of the original Royal Swedish production to show the company, which Bennett studied. "Although I didn't want to imitate what I saw, I did want to stay true to Tudor's original intentions and express the raw feeling behind the work."

For Bennett, learning the movement and expression was only the first step. "Tudor's style is very specific. There is a precise track the upper body must follow. And the end position is no less defined; right to the placement of the palm. So it can feel very awkward at first, somewhat antiquated. Your upper body becomes very separate from the feet and legs. …

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