Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dance Magazine Blogs On FAUN

Wendy Perron, Editor of Dance Magazine featured Diagnosis Of A Faun on her blog on December 9, 2009. We have included a link here. Thank you Wendy and Dance Magazine for all your help and support throughout the process!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ballerinas Aren't Supposed To Speak -or- Have You Seen My Calliope?

painting by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

We had a great closing on Sunday, December 20th. At the party each member of the cast brought a poem that was near-and-dear to them and read it at the cast party. Wonderful words from wonderful people to commemorate a most wonderful experience.

From Emily Pope-Blackman:

by Sylvia Plath

Haunched like a faun, he hooed
From grove of moon-glint and fen-frost
Until all owls in the twigged forest
Flapped black to look and brood
On the call this man made.

No sound but a drunken coot
Lurching home along river bank.
Stars hung water-sunk, so a rank

Of double star-eyes lit
Boughs where those owls sat.

An arena of yellow eyes
Watched the changing shape he cut,
Saw hoof harden from foot, saw sprout
Marked how god rose
And galloped woodward in that guise.

From Lucie Baker:

A Blessing
by James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

From Dr. Donald Kolisch:

By Tony Hoagland

Why should I have to deal with so-called human beings
when I can be up on the roof
hammering shingles harder than necessary,

driving the sharp nails down
into the forehead of the house
like words I failed earlier to say?

And when a few wasps eddy up
from their hidden place beneath the eaves
To zoom in angry agitation near my face

I just raise a canister of lethal spray
and shoot them down without a thought.
Don’t speak to me, please,
about clarity and proportionate response.

The world is a can of contents under pressure;
a human being should have a warning label on the side
that says: Disorganized Narrative Inside;
Beware of frequent sideways bursting
Of one feeling through another
-to stare into the tangled midst of which
would make you as sick and dizzy as those wasps,

then leave you stranded on the roof
on a beautiful day in autumn
with a mouth full of nails,

trying to transplant pain
by hammering down
into a house full of echoes.

From Gregg Mozgala:

The Last Wolverine
By James Dickey

They will soon be down
To one, but he still will be
For a little while still will be stopping

The flakes in the air with a look,
Surrounding himself with the silence
Of whitening snarls.
Let him eat
The last red meal of the condemned

To extinction,
tearing the guts

From an elk.
Yet that is not enough
For me.
I would have him eat

The heart, and, from it, have an idea
Stream into his gnawing head
That he no longer has a thing
To lose, and so can walk

Out into the open, in the full
Pale of the sub-Arctic sun
Where a single spruce tree is dying

Higher and higher.
Let him climb it
With all his meanness and strength.
Lord, we have come to the end
Of this kind of vision of heaven,

As the sky breaks open
Its fans around him and shimmers
And into its northern gates he rises

Snarling complete in the joy of a weasel
With an elk's horned heart in his stomach
Looking straight into the eternal
Blue, where he hauls his kind. I would have it all

My way: at the top of that tree I place

The New World's last eagle
Hunched in mangy feathers giving

Up on the theory of flight.
Dear God of the wildness of poetry, let them mate
To the death in the rotten branches,
Let the tree sway and burst into flame

And mingle them, crackling with feathers,

In crownfire. Let something come
Of it something gigantic legendary

Rise beyond reason over hills
Of ice SCREAMING that it cannot die,
That it has come back, this time
On wings, and will spare no earthly thing:

That it will hover, made purely of northern

Lights, at dusk and fall
On men building roads: will perch

On the moose's horn like a falcon
Riding into battle into holy war against
Screaming railroad crews: will pull
Whole traplines like fibers from the snow
In the long-jawed night of fur trappers.

But, small, filthy, unwinged,
You will soon be crouching

Alone, with maybe some dim racial notion
Of being the last, but none of how much
Your unnoticed going will mean:
How much the timid poem needs

The mindless explosion of your rage,

The glutton's internal fire the elk's
Heart in the belly, sprouting wings,

The pact of the "blind swallowing
Thing," with himself, to eat
The world, and not to be driven off it
Until it is gone, even if it takes

Forever. I take you as you are

And make of you what I will,
Skunk-bear, carcajou, bloodthirsty


Lord, let me die but not die

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Faun Is Timeless

Friends of FAUN respond to the recent review in the NY TIMES

painting by Bernadette Wulf
Re: Roslyn Sulchas, "A 5000-Year-Old Being Without Physical Limits"
December 16, 2009

Dear Editor,
I attended the performance of Tamar Rogoff's "Diagnosis of a Faun" that Roslyn Sulcas reviewed. After reading the review, I began to doubt we saw the same show. She seems to have watched Gregg Mozgala "stretching indolently" as the Faun at the opening and then turned off her interpretive eyes. I am no dancer, but what I saw was the Faun languorously awakening to the sexual chargedness that shaped the rest of the performance.
It unfolded into the contrasting dialectic between the two pas de deux, the first a pas de desir with the second doctor and the second a pas-d'-amour with the nymph. Ms. Sulchas seems to have missed entirely the subtler plays ("...the rest of the story doesn't matter too much") between wholeness/halfness, back stage (forest)/front stage (operating room) as well as the contrasting motions from the sides.
What she really missed was Ms. Rogoff's magic elixir of fantasy world (fauns and nymphs) intersecting with the real world (an injured achilles, an operation), and wittiness (the second doctor turning upstage and revealing a very undoctorly bit of leg) joined with moments that were truly touching (the doctor's pas de deux with the ballerina he has healed to dance again).
Ms. Sulcas would have been more honest if she had told her editor "I don't get it. I just don't like this piece. Get someone else to review." I could have even understood her saying "I don't like this work" but she was afraid to state that. Strangely for a New York Times dance reviewer, Ms. Sulchas seems deficient in the history of dance. 
Ms. Rogoff pushes the envelop to the edge, challenging our perceptions in the gray-flannel world. She also challenges our perceptions of what dance is about and which emotions it evokes.

Frank K. Flinn- St. Louis, MO

-From Alice Bloch-

Dear Tamar, Gregg, Emily, Lucie, and Don,

What Times review? Didn't she see the show? Did she decide in advance what she was going to see and write about that? Is she the same person who reviewed Clare's solo? that reviewer couldn't get around the fact that CLARE DANES was performing. I felt some of the same about this--she decided what it was going to be about. It is also sort of like when Arlene Croce refused to review Bill T Jones "Still Here," because she said the interviews he used with the very ill prevented it from being considered as a work of art.

And Lucie and Emily, I have seen lots of really good dancers and that now includes both of you!

The other thing that is so off base is that she couldn't see what an ensemble show this is--that each of you are so powerfully yourselves, and yet something more.

Please go by the laughs, sighs, and applause of your delighted audiences--which include some really sophisticated viewers--and let this one go.

Frank is writing a letter to the Times. he will send you a copy.

He also sent on an article about a St Louis MD who has a huge research grant to help CP people walk by strengthening their ankles--but his mehtod is pure Western medicine--all machines and reps. Still, things are moving , so to speak, and maybe Tamar and this doc can get in touch and maybe that will help you get to StL. Have a wonderful closing weekend.

Love and many bravos,



-From Anita Michael NYC, NY-
Was that woman even in the theatre, watching the performance, or was she on drugs? How is it that everyone of us who witnessed that performance was able to see and feel the beauty, depth, art and humor of the work, and she didn't get it? This is why I personally never read reviews, until after I've seen the work. I don't follow this reviewer's work although I do see lots of dance. She is totally out to lunch. And I say that not based on any connection to you, Tamar, but because one knows when one experiences trancendant art, which Diagnosis of a Faun is. Let's face it most innovative art was not understood or appreciated at the time it was first presented. All I can say is Phooey on Sulkus for not being able to truly see what she was looking at. Never let grandiose jerks like her stand in your way.  You have the gift, and you graced, and touched us all with it on Saturday evening.  With admiration, deep respect, and friendship.

Sent from my iPhone

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
-Theodore Roosevelt 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Faun Air: WBAI's "The Largest Minority" Interview

Tamar Rogoff and Gregg Mozgala had a fantastic time with Lawrence Carter-Long and the rest of the staff at WBAI's "The Largest Minority." It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about the piece and the process with members of the disabled community for members of the disabled community- and anyone else who would listen. Please check it out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

FAUN On CBS Sunday Morning

CBS Sunday Morning featured Diagnosis Of A Faun on their December 6, 2009 episode. Unfortunately, we can't embed the video but have provided a link to the CBS website.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"The Faun-O-Blogs"

It seems our Faun has gone viral. Diagnosis Of A Faun has appeared on several other blogs on the world wide web. Here are just a few.

An East Village Arts blog...

A writer friend of Gregg's...

an interesting perspective on the NY TIMES article from members of the disabled community. We hope they come see the show...

A review of sorts...


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Faun Takes Manhattan

This photo (minus mosquito bites) appeared in the December 7th, 2009 issue of NEW YORK MAGAZINE. The blurb has been reproduced here verbatim.

photo by Harvey Wang

Tamar Rogoff has repeatedly embraced the idea of creating works for nondancers. She had a special challenge though, in actor Gregg Mozgala (pictured), whose movements are limited by cerebral palsy. Especially for him, Rogoff made Diagnosis Of A Faun, which explores how science and nature cpnverge. See why Oliver Sacks called Mozgala "the cerebral-palsy Nijinsky" Starting December 3 (at La Mama E.T.C.)

Didn't Nijinksy have a nervous breakdown and die peniless and alone? Perfect.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New York Times Features THE FAUN!

The New York Times ran a feature article on the front page of the ARTS section on November 25, 2009 about Diagnosis Of A Faun. The link is below.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dance! Dance! Revolution!

Pictured- Vaslav Nijinsky

Recently our Faun, Gregg Mozgala sat down with dance historian, Alice Bloch for a brief interview.

Gregg: I’ve been doing some research and I wanted to post something about how groundbreaking and original Afternoon Of A Faun was. I read somewhere recently that it fell into obscurity and was thought lost for nearly seventy years because no one really liked it, how it was perceived as lewd, etc. Then apparently, it had a big resurgence in the 1980's, (not just in dance but in pop culture to (check out the blog post, “Freddie & The Faun”- a video from the band, QUEEN), after it was reconstructed from Nijinsky's own journals.

Alice: Actually, Faun stayed in the repertory of the Ballets Russes after Diaghilev's death, and may have been done through the 1940's or possibly 50's. There were two Ballets Russes--DeBasil's Ballets Russes, and the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. One of them toured Europe and the US, the other did a lot in South America and Australia. According to a huge dance history book called "Ballet 101," Igor Youskevitch danced it in the 1940's. They attribute its revival to Rudolf Nureyev in the 1970's. I think if it left the repertory it was not because of lewdness, but because ballet companies of the Ballets Russes mode which performed repertory evenings kind of went into eclipse during the 50's and early 60's. That type of company--American Ballet Theater, the Joffrey (which in part focuses on preserving 20th century masterpieces) did not really come back into their own until the big dance revival in the 1970's.

As far as I know, the dance was never lost, because so many people still living in the 1970's had done it. I don't know who Nureyev learned it from and I don't own a bio of him (I should!). Rite of Spring was lost, and then reconstructed, and the same people who did that also did Jeux (both dances were Nijinsky's choreography), though that dance was a trio and very few dancers were around who did it. There is no way the dances could have been reconstructed from his journals because he did not write detailed descriptions. The works stayed in dancers' muscle memories, and in the case of “Rite”, in notations on the score. It is possible that there were notations on the Debussy score for Faune.

One other source--Anne Hutchison Guest did a reconstruction from a Labanotation score (ask Tamar to explain), but I don't know when the dance was notated. Supposedly it had a direct link to Nijinsky, but I don't know what that link was. I saw that and the Joffrey version and the notated version seemed much more innocent--less consciously sensual, if that makes sense. Maybe you could contact the Dance Notation Bureau if you wanted to find out.

Gregg: This is great. I will never trust Wikipedia again. Can you speak on how revolutionary or groundbreaking Afternoon Of A Faun was? What was it about it exactly that challenged ideas of what dance could be up to that point? That's not quite how I want to ask it but I haven't had my coffee yet. Sorry. The inherent eroticism, the frieze style- what was it exactly?

Alice: It was revolutionary for all the reasons you mentioned. Plus, Nijinsky, famous for his elevation, jumped only once. The extreme of the style and his revealing costume were also part of it. It did cause a scandal, but Diaghilev loved that. Have you ever watched the whole thing? It is really beautiful.

Gregg: Yes I have. I love it. What else are you currently working on?

Alice: I spent the weekend at an event called PeaceJam where Nobel Laureates come work with high school students to encourage them to get involved in community action. I was one of a group of volunteers who gave workshops--mine was on body image and healing and included some of the work a dance therapist called David Alan Harris does with boy soldiers in Africa. A good thing to do.

Gregg: Most definitely. Well Alice, thank you so much for your time. This was very fun and informative.

Alice: Happy to be represented. Keep up the good work. We look forward to seeing you in December!

Alice Bloch is an independent dancer/choreographer and dance historian who wrote her doctoral dissertation on how the dance of Isadora Duncan and Vaslav Nijinsky affected the cultural construction of the body. As a dance educator she specializes in Arts Integration. She is on the advisory council of a new performing arts magnet school in St. Louis, MO.

Gregg Mozgala can be seen this December in Tamar Rogoff's, Diagnosis Of A Faun along with ensemble cast, Lucie Baker, Emily Pope Blackman, & Dr. Don Kollisch

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Misha! Misha! Misha!

Tamar Rogoff Performance Projects is pleased to announce that it has been selected as a company in residence by the Baryshnikov Arts Center for the month of November 2009!

Pictured- Mikhail Baryshnikov

Thank you B.A.C.!

This will go a long way in helping make Diagnosis Of A Faun the best show it can be.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Altered Beast

L' apres - midi d' un Faune was revolutionary for it's time-- more on this in a later post-- At its 1912 Paris premier it caused quite the scandal. In the newspaper Le Figaro editor Gaston Calmette wrote:

"We have had a faun, incontinent, with vile movements of erotic bestiality and gestures of heavy shamelessness." To him Nijinsky's dance was "the too-expressive pantomime of the body of an ill-made beast, hideous, from the front, and even more hideous in profile."

"...the body of an ill-made beast, hideous, from the front, and even more hideous in profile."

Looks pretty good to me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Freddie & The Faun

This is Queen's video for their 1984 hit song, "I Want To Break Free." What's the connection to the Faun? Press PLAY, and In about two minutes all will be made clear.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mozgala On Rogoff- The Experiment

photo by Lucie Baker

The following two posts are from writings that Gregg and Tamar wrote independently of each other to document what they refer to as, "The Experiment," the unique year-long process of turning Gregg into a dancer.

A quick note: This is a long entry and some of the content may not be suitable for every reader. Though there is no graphic language, no nasty words and no graphic scenes, it does acknowledge the existence of sex.

This Is A Week In The Life Of Gregg & Tamar

MONDAY: Around 8:27am I leave my apartment on the lower east side of Manhattan, and cross the street to my gym. The manager has been gracious enough to let Tamar and I use their downstairs studio space on Monday and Friday mornings free of charge. As I get up stairs I greet Josh, the morning shift worker, who grabs the keys to the downstairs studio and leads me out the door and around the corner. We chit-chat about our weekends, make small talk, etc. Once inside, Josh disables the alarm, hands me the keys and then goes back upstairs to the gym. It’s 8:32am. Tamar is late. I untie my shoes, slip off my socks and stash them in a cubby. I don’t want to be here. It’s early. I haven’t had my coffee. I stand in the middle of the mirrored studio surrounded by reflections of myself from every possible angle and scan through my body, starting with my toes and working my way up to the crown of my head. Are my toes gripping the floor? Why are my hip flexors so tight today? Am I jutting out my ribs and puffing out my chest? Breathe. Remember to breathe. I walk around the studio hoping to wake myself up by degrees. My steps are slow and lumbering. I’m dragging my left foot a little. I can feel my knees wanting to turn in. I stop. Adjust. I take a few deep breaths. I imagine my feet at my hip sockets. I envision having a left-rightness to my pelvis. I take a step. Then another. The difference in sensation from these slight few adjustments is beyond description. Six months ago I didn’t think any of this was possible. I hear the door slam upstairs and footsteps on the stairs. Tamar is here. It’s 8:47am. I keep walking. Tamar puts her belongings in a cubby next to mine and goes to the bathroom. When she enters the studio I know the real work will begin. I just don’t know what surprises she has in store for me today. Neither does she. In my experience these sessions can go one of two ways: Either the work is small, supple and intricate as we focus on a particular point in the body or a specific muscle/joint relationship, or we make some “monumental” break through which results in me discovering a way of moving that has been unavailable to me for the past thirty years. Whatever we do, it’s always intense and never boring. Somewhere between eleven o’clock and eleven thirty, we tidy the place up and head back upstairs. Tamar leads the way looking back at me and giving me directions about how to walk up stairs with measured, open steps. I lock the door and walk out onto the street. I can feel Tamar’s eyes on me even though I’m turned away from her. This is one of her least favorite parts of the day. We’ve just spent over two hours correcting and adjusting my alignment. All that work almost disappears as I reach the doorway and step out onto Delancey Street. She practically screams, “Threshold! Threshold!” I feel her hands on me immediately; one on my sternum the other just above my waist pressing on my lower back. We’ve discovered I have a habitual pattern out in public that reinforces my old way of walking. I arch my back and puff out my chest bracing myself from the onslaught of stimuli that is New York City. Tamar’s hands are there to remind my body that it doesn’t need to be in a constant defensive stance masquerading as openness and approachability. Walking slowly in near perfect alignment is a suitable alternative to my usual lurch. Not to mention it feels a whole lot better.


We talk almost incessantly on the walk back to Tamar’s apartment. I ask questions about the body. Tamar answers. We ask each other about our weekends. I've recently started dating again after my divorce, and Tamar inquires about any sexual exploits I might have engaged in. If I have, she wants details- as they relate to our work. Could I feel my pelvis? Was my sacrum engaged? I speak with surprising candor and she continues to inquire and offer advice and suggestions about things I should be asking my partner to maximize my alignment and body’s full potential during sexual intercourse. We walk through Thompkins Square Park. People stare at us. Who is that strange man in a t-shirt and camouflage pants ambling along under the trees? Was he injured in war? Who is that woman beside him? Is she his mother? Are they lovers? Who knows what they think. I’m too busy focusing on my body to notice. The only person Tamar and I might be interested in running into is the man who saw us walking through the park a few months ago. A tall African American man with a white schnauzer who said, “Oh, he’s getting better! He used to walk like this…” and then did his best to imitate my old gait. These are moments we wish we had a video camera. We haven’t seen him since. When we get back to her apartment we realize we’re famished and in desperate need of food. Having a choreographer who also happens to be a Jewish grandmother certainly has its benefits. There’s no chance of me starving during this rehearsal process I can guarantee that. As we eat, we continue to talk about the body. I bombard Tamar with questions about the process, dance, life, the universe and everything. We try to record ourselves as much as possible with an audio recorder, and more recently a camcorder. Hopefully someone out there will find this interesting. After a few hours I get ready to leave. Tamar gives my body one last once-over with her eyes before I walk out the door and usually has one last tip or piece of homework for me regarding the unevenness in my shoulders or the slight collapse on my left side. I tell her I’ll work on it and give her a hug. I walk down the hallway to the elevator slowly and with as much focus as I can muster. Somehow I just know Tamar has her ear to the door listening to every footfall I make until the elevator arrives, the doors close and I descend to the lobby of her building. Out on the street I’m talking to myself constantly. I'm trying to remember all the lessons from that day and integrate them with the hundreds of things I’ve learned about my body over the past few months. I start making deals with myself. If I can make it from Avenue C to Avenue B without my feet dragging once I can spend five minutes looking at the pooches in the dog park or stretch out on the grass. If I can make it from 7th Street to 3rd Street thinking, “my feet in my hips,” the entire time I’ll treat myself to a coffee. If I can stop my lower back from tightening up for the rest of the way home...I’ll talk to the brunette with the tattoos on her legs that lives in the building next door. It’s July and I still don’t know her name.

TUESDAY: There’s a mosquito in my room. It just buzzed my head and my eyes open wide as my hands frantically swat the air. I missed it. I can’t hear it anymore. I don’t know where it went. All I know is that I want it dead. I sit up in bed. I must have been sleeping on my left side for some time because I can feel welts from my ankle to my thumb along the right side of my body. “My wife,” the affectionate nickname for the dark blue body pillow that Tamar has given me to put between my legs to keep my feet and knees from turning in as I sleep, has come loose at some point during the night and is now smooshed up against the wall looking hurt and rejected. “I’m sorry, baby,” I say and pull her close to me. I check my phone. Great. I’m wide awake and itchy and it’s not even 6:00am. I really need more sleep. One of the major problems with receiving so much information and listening to my body more over these past few months is that my body doesn’t know when to shut up. It has been keeping me up well past 2:00am most nights recently. I have rehearsal today. I can’t be tired. I slip my wife between my legs and try to go back to bed. For the next two hours I toss and turn swatting at imaginary mosquitoes out for my blood. Just after 8:00am I decide to get into the shower. Even in the few steps between my bedroom and the bathroom I’m thinking about how I’m walking. I shower. No shaving for the next couple of months. The costume designer needs to see how well I can grow a beard. As I brush my teeth I notice that my legs are a mess. One is splayed all wompsided in front of the other, my knees are falling in, I’m favoring my right side- it’s not pretty down there. I step away from the sink and parallel my feet before continuing to brush my teeth. As I do, I imagine two spiders crawling out of my anus and spinning golden threads in spiral formations down my legs from my buttocks to my pinkie toes.


I walk out my door around 9:30am and make my way to class, which Tamar has been teaching on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the last twenty-six years. A few members of the class have been coming that long, which is a testament to how good Tamar is at what she does and the effect she can have on people. We usually meet at LaMamma, ETC’s rehearsal space on Great Jones Street, but they’ve closed for the Summer. We’re currently in the basement at Theatre For A New Audience on 9th street and 1st Avenue. We refer to this as, “the dungeon.” The class is an hour and a half and serves as a great warm up for the rehearsal that will follow. This is not a traditional dance class. I would describe it as, “experiential anatomy.” Tamar never comes in with any set plan on what to work on that day, but it usually correlates with what we’ve been working on in the studio- the lower back, the shoulders, the hip flexors, etc. After class, we gather our things and head onto the street. The deli across the street is having a special on Balance Bars- two for the price of one. Score! We stock up and Tamar shoves half a dozen in her purse. For whatever reason, we started getting these as snacks in between class and rehearsal when we first started working and the tradition has stuck. Ha! Balance Bars? I just got it. We walk west to 2nd Avenue and hail a cab. For the month of July we’re rehearsing at the Joyce Soho, a beautiful facility on Mercer Street, which coincidentally was founded by the wife of the artistic director for Theatre Breaking Through Barriers, the Off-Broadway company that did the production of Romeo & Juliet which Tamar saw me in. Small world. Once in the studio Tamar and I begin working on the latest solo she is choreographing for me- the one that will take place in Act III. If I’m allowed to say that this is difficult because I’ve never danced before, then I can only imagine that working with me is challenging every choreographic bone in Tamar’s body. I’m sure no other choreographer/dancer has ever worked like we do. Movement just doesn’t move through my body like other people's. This is of course why Tamar was interested in working with me, but it also presents one of our biggest challenges. Tamar will give me an idea of what she wants to see and sometimes I can hit the movement right off without any difficulty. Other times our rehearsals are an exercise in figuring out how to get my body to make the choreography work for me and vice versa. This takes a lot of patience and requires us to work very slowly. If I’m not careful my frustration with my own body and my inability to find a solution in the moment can throw me into my head and disconnect me from the work. Tamar’s answer to this frustration, which I’ve expressed to her on several occasions is always, “You can get frustrated with choreography that doesn’t exist yet, but I don’t know what good it will do.” I hate it when she’s right. It’s important for me to ask questions and take as much time as I need with a particular section and sometimes this means telling Tamar to leave for five minutes so I can be alone with my own body and find a solution on my own. It turns out the body always holds a solution. That’s what’s so amazing about this. It’s the most purely collaborative relationship I’ve ever had with another artist and myself. It’s extremely rare to have the space and time to be able to work like this. Even with all its difficulties and challenges, I’m constantly reminding myself that, “I love every minute of this.” Ten minutes before the end of rehearsal after having danced for nearly three straight hours, I’m drenched in sweat and exhausted but completely adrenalized. I want to go through the choreography one more time, but Tamar insists that I rest, lie down on the floor and bring my body to a state of calm before reentering the world. I lay down and my body starts shaking almost immediately. This is my body’s response to all the work and its own unique way of releasing the huge amounts of tension it’s amassed over the rehearsal. Tears usually come next. They’re not connected to any specific emotion, just another form of release. It would be easy to think this was my body freaking out and saying something like, “What the hell are you doing to me!” But it doesn’t feel like that at all. It actually feels quite wonderful. It feels like my body’s saying, “Thank you.”

We walk out onto the street. Tamar has an errand to run, so we hug and part ways. “See you tomorrow,” is our familiar refrain. Right before I hit the Bowery there's a thunderclap, the sky opens up and rain starts falling sideways in torrents. Everyone around me is taking cover under awnings and in storefronts but I’m still dancing- all the time thinking, “feet in the hips, feet in the hips.” A little rain never hurt anyone. I need a shower anyway.

WEDNESDAY: I wake up realizing I’ve been dancing in my sleep. Shoulder blade/elbow/forearm/wrist/first knuckles/second knuckles/fingernails. Wednesdays are WILD CARD days. Tamar and I will usually reserve this day for bodywork, but it’s also the day we reserve for, ‘field trips.’ I’ve been to the Hospital For Special Surgery three times, consulted with a doctor of physical therapy, been photographed by a world-class photographer and met with a Para-Olympic body building champion gold medalist with cerebral palsy. Today, however, I’m standing in the middle of Central Park at 7:30am in the morning with thousands of other people hoping to get tickets to that evening’s performance of William Shakespeare’s, Twelfth Night presented by the Pubic Theatre. Tamar shows up around 8:30am. She’s brought blankets and snacks. We’ve got four and a half hours until they start releasing tickets so we might as well do some work. For the next few hours, Tamar has me looking at everyone walking by, asking me to identify problems with their alignment and how I would correct it. She then has me get up and start imitating these different body types. After a few hours of this work and some video recording we get our tickets and part ways, agreeing to meet up later before the show.


Later. I'm in the back of Tamar's car watching the Upper East Side pass me by through the passenger window. Tamar is sitting up front and her husband Dick- the original Faun in Tamar's life- is driving. We get to the theatre, my friend Emily joins us, we have a beer under a tree and then go take our seats. The show is amazing! The acting is incredible, the music by Hem is outstanding. It's one of the finest productions of Twelfth Night I've ever seen. Life is good. Life is good...

THURSDAY: Thursdays start out just like Tuesdays; class from 10:00am to 11:30am and then rehearsal at the Joyce Soho. We have an hour to brush up on all our work to date because all the designers and some other folks are coming today. I do my two solos and then Tamar works with Emily on her solo in Act II. I go to another part of the theatre to continue going over my pieces but I’m watching Emily out of the corner of my eye. It’s unavoidable. She’s an amazing dancer. I know it’s not fair to compare myself to someone who has been dancing for longer than I’ve been alive but I can’t help myself. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone move that well. Seemingly without any effort at all. Tamar is getting ready for people to arrive and talking to our film crew so Emily and I go through our duet. Until this project I had never ‘partnered’ anyone before. In the beginning I was terrified once I realized just how difficult it was. I was falling down, unsteady, and unsure of myself. My frustration with the process and myself were at an all time high. I'm happy to say it’s gotten a lot better and a lot easier. Emily and I can now move through the entire act, which Tamar informs us is a whopping seventeen minutes long, with only minor mistakes typical to this point in our process. It’s been a few weeks since Emily and I have danced the duet, and when we perform it there are more mistakes then I am happy with. We get through it through, and the feedback from everyone there is really positive and encouraging. I leave feeling good about the rehearsal but not as good as I want to. I’m frustrated. Every time we work I can’t help but think that I’m starting from scratch. This is of course totally false. I’m being too hard on myself. I call a friend and ask him if he wants to meet for lunch. He suggests a place on Mott Street which is close by. I say I’ll meet him there. While I’m waiting I’m trying to calm myself down, trying to stop myself from leaving my body and from getting stuck in my head. While I’m waiting for my friend to arrive I decide to call my youngest sister Meredith, who lives in Virginia. Because she’s a first grade teacher, I know she’s not working during the Summer. “Hey honey, what’s up?” She asks in her thick southern drawl. She’s the only one in my family to have picked it up from living in North Carolina and I love it. I tell her about the rehearsal- how I just needed to admit to someone and myself just how hard what I’m trying to do is. She listens, which is all I really need, and then she says the greatest thing, “Don’t worry darlin’,” she says, “You know you’re the best dancer in the family.” If you knew my family this isn’t saying much but it makes me smile and I instantly feel better. My friend arrives. We eat noodles. Good food seems to be the answer to everything.

FRIDAY: See MONDAY. In the afternoons on Fridays I give private acting coaching to a fifteen year old girl with cerebral palsy. I usually work with my friend Pamela, but she has a conflict this week and can't make it. I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out how to fill a ninety minute session with this young woman and then decide to conduct a little experiment. I want to see if the work Tamar and I have been doing will translate to her. I work very slowly and focused as I try to explain the approach and concept behind what we're going to do today to this skeptical, precocious girl. I have her lay down and after ten minutes of working she starts to shake. We work through the whole ninety minutes. At the end she says, "It felt like the opposite of when my I get CP spasms. It felt like a release." Hot-Diggity-Dog!

SATURDAY: I’m stretching out my psoaz muscles on a metal stoop next door to the Joyce Soho which hasn’t opened yet. Weekend mornings are my favorite time in New York City. Everyone’s still asleep and the city is actually peaceful. I’m staring up at the sky. There’s a giant line of cloud drifting above my head that looks like a spine. I seem to be seeing spines everywhere these days. It reminds me to keep my lower back connected to the stoop as I continue to stretch my leg. Emily walks up and we chat and stretch out on the street until we can go inside. Twenty minutes later I’m dancing in my underwear in the biggest dance studio I’ve ever seen. There’s an issue with the original design of my costume and Tamar and the designer need to see what I look like dancing with next to nothing on. This would totally work except for the fact that I’m wearing kneepads. They sort of ruin the entire effect. Funny, sexy and maybe, just a little bit creepy. That's me.

SUNDAY: My day off. Or is it?

Rogoff On Mozgala- The Experiment

photo by Lucie Baker

The following entry is a letter that Tamar wrote to a friend detailing what they refer to as, "The Experiment," the unique year-long process of transforming Gregg into a dancer.

I first saw Gregg Mozgala, an actor with cerebral palsy, playing the part of Romeo in a very well reviewed off Broadway production. I was completely taken with his talent and something unusually strong in his energy and called him to ask if I could choreograph something for him. He thought I was crazy never having danced but said he would meet me and come to the studio to try. His upper body is beautiful by any standard --tattoos –a gun—a cross and a crowing rooster on his hard won at the gym biceps. His lower body was typically cerebral palsy-like with turned in knees and feet and the gait we associate with C.P. He had tight unyielding muscles. I didn’t plan to change anything. This is how I wanted to work with him. I have a long history of choreographing for non dancers as I did with Claire Danes. The problem was that Gregg kept falling down and was locked into a small vocabulary of see-saw movements that helped him keep his balance. He also had a whole comic routine for recovering from a fall.Together we came to the conclusion that some special training was needed especially around balance issues. So we eventually came to find this character of the Faun—We were committed to making a large scale work and to doing body work at first once a week and then everyday. I got my Guggenheim grant and dedicated it to a year in which I would explore the ways Gregg could become a dancer. He quit his temp jobs and I quit some jobs and we worked incessantly. Many psychological issues around disabilities came up. As his heels came down to the ground for the first time in 30 years and his walk changed, his identity was threatened because his old rhythms were gone. We started to notice how crossing a threshold, like a doorway, and going out into the street he became more armored and would revert to dragging his feet. Gregg is a great writer. We wrote emails back and forth during this very confused part of this year about assimilating so much change –physical and mental. He had been told he would be in a wheel chair by age 40 and besides the body work I was and am choreographing him into a leading role, partnering two amazingly well trained dancers and performing extensive solos. We perform “Diagnosis of a Faun” at Lamama Theater in December and at the Kennedy center in June. (funded by VSAarts)

At one point Oliver Sacks came to the studio and called him jokingly the cerebral palsy Nijinsky. ----

What I call the body work is not traditional and is based on my lifetime as a dancer and my interest in alignment issues and calling on my instincts and feedback from Gregg. Much of what we do makes him shake uncontrollably which functions as a release. Shaking is a healing method used by Bushman in Africa, Japan, and is related some think to the Pentecostals release during their church services. But mostly it’s a Herculean task for Gregg’s consciousness to re-route and re-pattern all day long everyday.

We have not found any easy cure but are both dedicated to this experiment as we have seen hard won results. Gregg’s fascination with his body and ever expanding confidence are a long way from his former attitudes. And his dancing is beautiful.