In a dance scene that’s characterized by a lot of mediocrity, Ed Tyler stood out in Washington. He’d lived in New York for years and had a creative vision for his choreography that was, simply put, far more sophisticated than that of just about anyone else in the area. Gradually, he developed a team of dancers who would try out his ideas and put them into practice, but no one served as his muse more than the loose-limbed Tzveta Kassabova.
So it’s easy to imagine that no one was more shocked and hurt than she when Tyler died suddenly in 2006.
Three years later, Kassabova created a solo about Tyler and performed it at Dance Place, but it turned out to be only a starting point. “It came to me that it’s a bigger work and I had many more things to say,” she explained.
The result of that realization will be on display this weekend, once again at Dance Place, in a show she’s sharing with dancer Betty Skeen. Kassabova’s piece has grown from a short solo to one that’s almost evening length and includes eight dancers, a few of whom also performed with Tyler.
“In a way, it seemed that it needed a bigger community, so I felt the need to work with a group,” she said. And it’s evolved in other ways, too. “It’s not a piece about Ed anymore,” she said. “It’s a little more global piece; it’s about coping with loss.”
Audience members can expect to see a transformed Dance Place: Kassabova and the tech crew have created massive walls that reach to the ceiling, and the entire stage will be painted white, a background for dancers dressed all in grey.
As a choreographer, Kassbova emphasizes the visual elements of her pieces, something she says she picked up from Tyler, whose sets, props and costumes always stood out. “I learned that from Ed; all his works are very much like a whole world, so I hope I’m following on that note.”
And what about the personal element: did making the piece help her with working through the loss? “I have to say, it was really nice; it felt really good to make the piece,” said Kassabova. “I feel I’d been wanting to make it for a long time and never had the courage, and it’s there now.”
Kassabova’s “The Opposite of Killing” and Skeen’s “Geminuspace” will run at Dance Place on Saturday night at 8pm and Sunday at 4pm. $22.
Amanda Abrams is a local modern dancer and a member of the company Human Landscape Dance.
Photo by Enoch Chan