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The Rope and the Sea

A haunting story adapted for the stage by choreographer Gabrielle Lamb, composer Jonathan Howard Katz, and Periapsis Music and Dance.


Periapsis Music and Dance is thrilled to commission choreographer Gabrielle Lamb to collaborate with composer-in-residence Jonathan Howard Katz on a 15- to 20-minute work for four dancers, viola, and piano, inspired by on Ben Loory’s short story “The Rope and the Sea.” The work will premiere spring 2021 in New York City, with 3-4 performances.

Choreographer’s statement:

Jonathan’s music creates an intimate atmosphere for dance and is well-suited to the dark drama of “The Rope and the Sea.” His precision complements my intricate movement vocabulary, and his ability to move naturally onstage as a character will be an important asset to our creative process. Until recently, I considered myself to be a choreographer of abstract dances, and rejected proposals for story-based projects. However, a recent commission from Symphony Space required that I work from a short story by Ben Loory. I chose “The Cape,” a straightforward plot with plenty of movement in its language. But I also bookmarked a second Loory story that piqued my curiosity, “The Rope and the Sea.” The story reads like fable with a strong emotional undercurrent, albeit a more complex structure, lending itself well to a music and dance treatment.  Its twisted, Möbius-like plot also appeals to me as a creative puzzle. The choreography, for two pairs of dancers, will be based on looping spatial and choreographic patterns that parallel the story’s sense of déjà vu. I envision movement that, like the story’s structure, takes unpredictable twists and turns, as sweeping gestures alternate with minute isolations. A series of dreamlike, interlocking duets will tell the same story from different perspectives, raising uncertainties about identity and reality, as the dancers are shadowed by the pianist and violist, who may move onstage and interact as a third, shadow couple.

Composer’s statement:

Gabrielle proposed the Loory story as a starting point, and I was instantly struck by how easily it maintains its unsteady atmosphere and achieves its emotional kick. The characters are nameless and somehow both archetypal and modern at the same time, which encourages the reader to maintain a strange balance between distancing from them and identifying with them.

The story seems to be about two people who discover something inside of themselves that terrifies them. Though they’re introduced as a romantic couple, it’s not a love story. Rather, when they find this secret they retreat from it, and from each other. But the fear remains, and they each flail blindly, trying desperately to quash it. In so doing, they become exactly what they were trying to escape.

Approaching this as a composer, it’s the exploration of the shadow, the perilous journey within, that gives me an emotional hook. Additionally, the story evokes strong images and offers some structural surprises to play with. And then, of course, responding to Gabrielle’s movement language and her take on the story is a critical component, and the most fun. I’ve admired her choreography for years, and I’m glad we’ve found this project to explore together within Periapsis.

Project Media

Tensible (excerpt)
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Features: Gabrielle Lamb

Please begin at 0:00.

Pigeonwing Dance (2019)
Choreography: Gabrielle Lamb
Original electronic score: James Budinich

Grounded in the language of contemporary ballet, “Tensible” investigates the intricate interconnections that make up ecosystems and human communities. The score uses a combination of traditional instruments and found objects, and the movement response is a complex dance of interdependent bodies, a mysterious network in which fluctuating loyalties create an unsteady balance of power.

Jonathan Howard Katz: Music for Dance
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This video includes excerpts from several of Jonathan’s works for dance, but we’d like to direct the panel to “Noesis” at 31:01 (and, time permitting, “Encaged” at 37:03).

Noesis (2017)
Choreographer: Hannah Weber

This work traces the evolution of a group of friends over time. It’s also an exploration of visual and physical interaction between dancers and musicians.

Encaged (2018)
Choreographer: Erin Dillon

Solo dancer and solo piano explore the sense of being pulled in multiple directions, balancing tiny details with large movements.

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

Project Created By

Brooklyn, New York
Periapsis Music and Dance believes in the artists of today and the body of work they are creating. The choreographers and composers of our time have the vision, voice, and skill to create extraordinary collaborative works worthy of performance, study, and preservation. Our mission is to cultivate this new repertoire at the intersection of dance…

In Collaboration With

Brooklyn, New York


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