Birthday Poem for My Grandmother – An Interpretation Through Dance

What happens when literature is interpreted kinesthetically through dance; visually through videography, editing, and costume design; and aurally through sound design? A successful collaboration such as this produces a multi-layered, interpretive response to the language, emotion, and imagery of the original writing. We selected Sharon Olds’s poem “Birthday Poem for my Grandmother” as the impetus for our interpretation, and were able to create a kinesthetic response to the ideas of memory, life and death, and ascension and descension. The use of video coupled with dance (choreographed for film) allowed us the creative freedom, through editing, to produce a piece that could not be physically accomplished through live performance alone. Using this medium also gave us the ability to emphasize or de-emphasize kinesthetic elements and sequences to communicate the overall concept and emotive qualities of the original literary work. It further gave us the ability to harness the innate visual qualities of the location—the imagery of the frozen lake; the rustling dead leaves; the posture of the dancer reflecting the rhythm of a stand of tree branches or entangled in exposed, normally subterranean roots; and the wind moving clouds like slow, distant recollections and later lifting and blowing sand from the dunes in a portrayal of fleeting and shifting memories. The final work is a multifaceted amalgam of movement, sound, vision and temporal responses to a classic work of literature.




Jan Erkert & Sara Hook


Sara Hook

Video + Editing

Daniel Goscha

Music + Sound Design

Richard Woodbury

Dress Design

Susan Becker & Rose Morefield

Special Thanks

Joseph Squier, Nan Goggin, Jennifer Gunji, Jodee Stanley, Laura Bandy, Bernt Lewy