Performed in Dresden, Germany
October 8, 1999
Scene from Ascent IV
Iris Sputh, Dancer
Music: Stephen Rush
Scenario: Stephen Rush
Set: Michael Rodemer
Choreography: Iris Sputh
Contrabass: Matthias Bauer
Dancer: Iris Sputh
"Hoop Dances" is a collaborative artwork by composer Stephen Rush and sculptor Michael Rodemer, with additional creative improvisational input from Contrabassist Matthias Bauer and Dancer Iris Sputh.
The narrative of the work is derived from a vision experienced by a Lakota Sioux mystic named Black Elk. His vision was recorded in John Niehardt's book "Black Elk Speaks".
In the vision Black Elk sees his nation, the Sioux, symbolised as a hoop and a tree. Stephen Rush has constructed the piece "Hoop Dances" in five large sections or movements, each reflecting one of the "Ascents" described by Black Elk in his vision. These Ascents, or steps, are like the rungs of a ladder, steps that his nation must take in order to survive and transcend the unsettling presence of the "white man" on native soil.
At the beginning of the First Ascent, the hoop lies around the base of a tree. The hoop is a symbol of wholeness, vibrancy and vitality. The Second Ascent sees leaves falling from the tree, symbolizing a weakening of the tree. The Third Ascent marks the breaking up of the sacred circle, accompanied by the sound of "the whole universe carrying the war in the winds". At the beginning of the Fourth Ascent the tree is actually wilted and dead.
Then another plant begins to grow in its place, and the hoop returns in a three-dimensional web of hoops, with bright-colored blossoms growing up around the plant to symbolise the vitality of the restored culture.
The piece "Hoop Dances" is a way of retelling Black Elk's vision to a contemporary audience, and is meant to embody the transformation and healing of all world cultures.
This piece was written expressly for the "Dresden Days" in hope that the transformation taking place in Germany, especially in Dresden, can be celebrated by the collaboration of German and American artists in the premiere performance of the work.
Special thanks are due to Iris Sputh and Matthias Bauer for their generous and giving spirit.