Lar Lubovitch – Eclectic Visions, by Rasta Thomas
Lar Lubovitch is a man of many trades, having choreographed over 100 dances for both American Ballet Theatre and his own New York-based company. Lubovitch’s highly technical moves are celebrated throughout the world. His works range from ballet to ice-skating and has been seen from Broadway to PBS. In 1997, Lubovitch created a ballet from Shakespeare’s Othello for ABT. It has traveled around the world and back again, has been named “a spectacular addition to the international repertory” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Last July, Lubovitch broke away from his LA-based rehearsal to speak with performer Rasta Thomas about what it is like to be a notable choreographer.
Was Othello something that ABT called you for?
No, this was a project I brought to American Ballet Theatre. I had worked with them a number of times and interned with [Kevin] McKenzie [ABT's Artistic Director]. I had an incline to create a freehand story and McKenzie introduced me to the San Francisco Ballet. They shared a whole production with Lubovitch Dance Foundation of Othello.
Is it harder for you to choreograph when it’s commissioned versus in your apartment or house?
It’s a different challenge, difficult in another way. When I work for a director it is my responsibility is to bring his stage to life rather than my own. I have to, to a certain degree”go in his mind and choreograph the way he would choreograph.
Are there any new projects or upcoming commissions you can discuss?
Next year is the 40th anniversary of my own company, so I will be trying to prepare some work and going on tour for several years. I did tour for 33 or 34 years, then took several years off to focus on being in the studio and working creatively. Now I feel like it’s time to get back on the road.
And something that constantly inspires you, I would imagine, is music?
It is music. But the reason I search for music is also because there is a dancer that I want to see dancing.
You’ve done stuff from theater to film to ice-dancing. How do you move from one medium of choreography to another? Are there different things you try to achieve?
There’s the basic steps of movement that are called “movement steps appropriateness” and “logic.” There’s a kind of frame of logic that goes through responding to music. There has to be a balance, a kind of synergy over time. The difference is vocabulary and sometimes the depth of what is being called upon because of the music.
When did you realize you were a choreographer?
I always choreographed but didn’t know it was something that anyone actually did other than as an intuitive hobby. I happened to be in a movie theater watching a musical and there was choreography. I didn’t know what the word meant. I asked my parents and they said a choreographer made up the steps. I realized that was me.
How important is technique in your choreography?
Irreplaceable. I count on people who have a formidable talent. The only reason I can make a dance is because of the dancers that are in front of me. I need to see those beautiful people dancing and I love to utilize their gifts. Sometimes I’ll make a dance in order to see a great dancer dancing.
Beautiful. And the one quality you look for in a dancer that you would want to work with?
One quality: I don’t know if I can give it a single attribute. There are many attributes and one of them is exceptional movement imagination. That means when this dancer is given a series of steps, they intuitively create much more out of it.
What percentage of what you create or see in your head is lost in translation on someone’s body? Is that ever frustrating?
I almost never go into the studio and am able to do what I am seeing in my head.
How would you describe your choreography?
It’s a response to music. It’s a way of playing the music with my body and seeing the music with dancers’ bodies.
What’s been the major change in your style?
I’d like to think that I’ve gone further each time I do a dance. My ability to make clear what it is I’m seeing has enhanced. I’d like to think I am telling it better each time I go out. It often is a case that I don’t believe I have, and must go on to a new one.
Is there an accomplishment you are most proud of?
To have survived this long? [Choreography is] a very useless talent and somehow the world has made room for this fairly useless and bizarre ability. I have managed to keep doing it for 45 years or so.
One thing you haven’t done on stage that you want to do?
I think that I’ve probably kept absent that question. In recent years I’ve been valuing the present much more than the past and future. I try to be as much as possible in the moment. The really impossible task is that there is no such thing as the present. The present is what is between the past and future, and barely exists at all. Being in the moment is the only thing I can really focus on.
I love it, I love that! Do you have a favorite quote or motto?
I have something that Picasso said many years ago. I actually laminated it and keep it in my wallet. He said, ˜Some line and color have tried to say what is mostly truthful and therefore most beautiful.” I think all artists are fascinated by beauty. With their own understanding, beauty is completely personal.
Interview by Rasta Thomas
First published in movmnt magazine #5 – “Got Fame?” Issue – Fall 2007