Bergmann Brings Vulnerability, Humor to New SCD Series



Sarasota Contemporary Dance kicks off its new In Studio Series this evening with the first of two special performances from guest choreographer and dancer Elizabeth Weil Bergmann. A Julliard School-trained performer and retired dance director from Harvard University, Bergmann has, in addition to her own international career, instructed the likes of Madonna, Natalie Portman and the acclaimed dancer Christine Dakin. This weekend, Bergmann breaks new ground in her accomplished career with the first production of Coming to Myself, a deeply personal performance interweaving Bergmann’s talent for dance with her passion for poetry.

“It’s about becoming my authentic person,” says Bergmann, calling the performance something akin to a “journey of discovery,” as she discards all those things that serve only to obscure the genuine article, like pretense and fear. Both poetry and dance come into play in this operation, as Bergmann alternates between the two, starting the night with a poem before transitioning to dance, and continuing from there, back and forth, revealing more and more with each step. “It’s working towards just being me,” she says. “For some people that’s easy; for me, it’s never been easy. But I think I’m there.”

A project seemingly years in the making, the seed was first planted with the 2003 production of “Shedding,” a dance explicitly about unburdening the self, and choreography Bergmann revives as one of the five dances in Coming to Myself.  But from there, her poetry surprisingly became a key aspect in the artist fully being vulnerable and open in her exploration. Because although Bergmann is no stranger to poetry, and the poems performed come from various periods throughout Bergmann’s life, as she’s used the form to explore everything from the nature of the self to the nature of love, this will be the first time sharing these private meditations in such a public fashion. And that’s the scary part. But scary often makes good art, as vulnerability and honesty go hand-in-hand on any mission of self-discovery, and Bergmann knows both of these things. “How else could I do it?” she asks.

Always looking to grow, Coming to Myself also sees Bergmann challenging herself as she incorporates both slide imagery and musical accompaniment into the production—all under her direct control throughout. Because Coming to Myself doesn’t end with Saturday’s performance, and Bergmann hopes to take it on the road. This means creating a multimedia show compact enough to travel and streamlined enough that she can perform it near anywhere without assistance. She already has plans to take the show as far as Trinidad and Tobago in the coming months.

But for now, Bergmann looks to the present and the experience she wants to create with Sarasota audiences. “I hope that I move them,” she says. “Like any artist, you want them to relate—that some part of who they are, they will see in your work.”

Coming to Myself is slated for two productions at Sarasota Contemporary Dance Home Studio: tonight at 8pm and again tomorrow, Saturday, May 19, at 8pm.

Pictured: Elizabeth Weil Bergman rehearses "Coming to Myself." Photo by Bob Thill.

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