Theatre Novi Most returned to the Southern Theater with the world premiere of a new play, Dancing on the Edge, about American modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan and her lover, the Russian poet Sergei Esenin. Both a poetic examination of Russian/American relations and a look at two remarkable historical figures, Dancing on the Edge begins with Duncan and Esenin’s first meeting in 1921 in Russia and through a mix of realism and fantasy, explores their stormy relationship, marriage, and disastrous tour of the US and Europe. The play is an unflinching look at a cross-cultural and complex couple who rode through the tumultuous birth of the USSR together with shared passion but no common spoken language. The play includes text in both Russian and English and has embedded within it several of Duncan’s dances and Esenin’s poems. Dancing on the Edge is written by Adam Kraar and was commissioned by Theatre Novi Most. It has been in development since 2011.
Dancing on the Edge was presented as part of The Southern Theater’s ARTshare program and included a team of local and national talent: Theatre Novi Most co-artistic director Lisa Channer played Isadora Duncan and Twin Cities based Sasha Andreev played Sergei Esenin. Both Channer and Andreev have been with the play since its inception in 2011. Visiting New York actors Katya Stepanov and Sergey Nagorny rounded out the cast playing several supporting roles and a group of local children joined the company to play the young students of Isadora Duncan’s school.
Co-artistic director Vladimir Rovinsky directed Dancing on the Edge and Jeanne Bresciani (Artistic Director of the Isadora Duncan International Institute) was Duncan consultant and primary choreographer. The rest of the creative team included Michael Burden (scenic designer), Maxwell Collyard (projection designer), Dan Dukich (sound designer), Heidi Eckwall (lighting designer), Deb Ervin (stage manager), Andrea Gross (costume designer), Zeb Hults (technical director), Elizabeth Larsen (assistant stage manager, properties), Sharon Picasso (movement consultant and choreographer), Wendy Weckwerth (dramaturg), Lisa Cole and Natalie Dess (run crew).
The premiere of Dancing on the Edge was possible thanks to the support of the Playwrights’ Center, the Isadora Duncan International Institute, the University of Minnesota, the Talle Family Fund, The Fulbright Foundation, The St Petersburg Academy of Theatre Arts Russia, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and our supporters. Past workshops of the play were supported by The Playwrights’ Center, the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and the Unison Arts Center in New Paltz, NY.
This production ran in Minneapolis, September 7-10, 2017, before a weekend tour to the McKenna Theatre on the SUNY New Paltz campus, September 22 and 23, hosted by Unison Arts Center and SUNY New Paltz. Tickets for the New Paltz production can be purchased here.
Talkin’ Broadway said that “Director Vladimir Rovinsky staged Dancing on the Edge as if the entire play were a dance, gracefully shifting among scenes… Jeanne Bresciani recreated the essence of Duncan’s unique choreography, capturing its rapturous joy, as well as delving into the soul’s anguish… In its staging and performance, it is a stunning work.”
Cherry and Spoon said it was “a fascinating story about two fascinating people, their art, and their turbulent relationship. Dancing on the Edge is an intense and lovely play filled with movement and poetry.”
Gina at The Room Where It Happens appreciated the language of the play, spoken and nonverbal, saying “there comes a time where words can’t speak on their own and something more is needed. Through Duncan’s movement and the emotional honesty in this piece, something far greater is created.”
Becki at the Compendium raved about the design, saying “The lighting is absolutely gorgeous, leaving the stage awash in a warm effervescent glow that is perfected with twinkling, dangling lights from the ceiling … that really feels like you’re stepping back 100 years.”
Jake at The New Paltz Oracle said, “Even if one had no knowledge of Duncan, Esenin, or anyone else mentioned in the play, the production managed to hook all those in attendance with it’s aesthetically simplistic set, mesmerizing dance sequences and a story filled with humor, romance and emotion.”