One of the greatest things about being part of this film is getting to see Robbins through someone else’s eyes. Neither Henry nor Jodi (the directors) were ever dancers, and they have had no experiences with the Jerome Robbins way of dancing aside from coming to NYCB to watch. So needless to say I was looking forward to see their take on Opus Jazz.
For us it’s easy to describe dancing in a Robbins’ ballets in the same old ways. You “perform” less, you share the “communal feel”, and you use the “less is more” approach. But those ways of describing dancing Jerry’s ballets are selling the man short. Yes, his ballets are some of the best to dance, but the real benefit is how his ballets make you feel as a person, not just as a dancer, as a person. His works force you to examine why you dance, why you interact with certain things in life, why you feel certain things. People talk a lot about how Jerry was a task master and how he’d break you down if you didn’t give your all. But even though I never got the chance to work with him directly, I can say with out a doubt that Jerry was an extremely cool guy.
He wasn’t a kid when he made Opus Jazz, and yet he didn’t set Opus Jazz to be “lived” in his own adolescent days as others probably would have, but he captures the essence of all youth in angst. A spirit that gets past down through the ages, urging the young to rebel, explore themselves, explore others and don’t trust anything but yourself.
I find it amazing to watch Henry and Jodi find all of the hidden elements to this ballet. They don’t know the names of steps or the reason that one step comes after another, but they completely understand the reason of the ballet.
Having someone take a ballet that you know inside and out, having had already come up with your own inner story for it and then they give you theirs, seems like it would be a hindrance, but I actually find it quite liberating. We’ve all been able to take our own created stage characters and place them perfectly into Henry and Jodi’s world that they are creating around us. It feels like home. It feels right. I keep expecting to look up and see Jerry standing next to the camera with an old fashioned megaphone and a smile across his face. I think he would have loved this. To see a ballet filmed in truth. To see it danced with love.