Why did you decide to write your own scenario?
I saw video of a performance that was done in London. I was like: Oh god, I don’t want to do this piece. They followed it note for note and had a dancing stove. It was really cutesy.
I tried to invent some new characters. It’s very much a mash-up of different fairy tales. These are archetypal stories and allegories of how we interact with life, told through the eyes of a child.
What kinds of new characters?
There’s a troll, which I was developing right when the Harvey Weinstein episode came out. So the choreography came out of standing up to this creature. There’s a giant, and a witch, who is also the queen of darkness. They’re in cahoots, and they own the world. They aren’t toys because they are more the spirits of evil. What is evil today? Not toys; toys are just cute.
To what degree is all this guided by the music?
My choreography is actually a direct response to the music. There’s no way you can dance against this. It’s really evocative. I am not a note-for-note choreographer. However, my interpretation comes from the feel of the music. It doesn’t take you on one journey; it takes you on many. It’s luscious and sparse and dynamic and scary and bombastic. It’s like when you have a dream full of non sequiturs.
Does this match what you learned about the history of “Zaubernacht”?
I was picturing Weill writing this piece for young people traumatized by World War I, and how they had to deal with life in the rubble and being in a situation where there were enemies about. And in Germany it was this time that was so fertile for art. I got the feeling that he wanted to entertain and delight and engage young minds. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a kiddie show, and I didn’t. I wanted to make a strong female protagonist who learns about life and continues to learn. It’s sort of like Dorothy going down the Yellow Brick Road. Except you go off the path sometimes. The landscape changes, political situations change. I hope I’m doing that.