The Theremin Vignettes (2023)
Directed and choreographed by Jessi Stegall, The Theremin Vignettes is an evening-length dance-theatre production set to and inspired by the music and life of thereminist Clara Rockmore. This project was developed during Stegall's residency at Boston Center for the Arts 2022-2023, and was made possible with support from Boston Dance Alliance, Boston Center for the Arts, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and Movement Arts Creation Studios.
The only instrument to be played without physical contact, the theremin produces a warbly tone made from thin air, often associated with science fiction films. Despite being credited as the best theremin player to have ever lived, Clara Rockmore remains under-recognized for her immense contributions to electronic music. Her theremin arrangements of classical works elevated the instrument above novelty status, bringing precision and composition to an otherwise seemingly ambiguous instrument. The Theremin Vignettes is, first and foremost, an ode to Clara: a Lithuanian-Jewish woman, virtuosa and pioneer of electronic music. It has been said that Clara aimed to “bestow the non-human soul.” In an age where the relationship between humans and machines is becoming increasingly more intimate, her goal has more meaning now than ever.
Set in the form of choreographic vignettes made up of solos, duets, trios, and quartets with a diverse cast of 11 dancers,the piece explores themes of grief, remembrance, and devotion through theatrical interpretations of real events from Rockmore’s life. Each vignette is set to a track from Rockmore’s “Lost Theremin Album”: a posthumous record of Clara and her sister, pianist Nadia Reisenberg, playing classical scores re-interpreted for theremin and piano. The movement style is contemporary-based, including theatrical gesture, spoken word, and idiosyncratic pantomime. The movement vocabulary for the project heavily incorporates fingering patterns from theremin technique.
Directed & Choreographed by Jessi Stegall
Music by Clara Rockmore & Nadia Resisenberg
Dramaturgy by Ilya Vidrin
Costumes by Penney Pinette
Performed by Elizabeth Epsen, Cassie Wang, Hannah Ranco, Raxel Kempenaar, Heather Easley, Dara Capley, Hannah Franz, Aliza Franz, Andra Muniz, Haley Andrews, Henry Winslow