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An Interview with Terese Capucilli

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 5, 2004
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
212.247.0430

About the Author:

An Interview with Terese Capucilli

Artistic Director, Principal Dancer,
Martha Graham Dance Company
(Graham Website)
(See Graham Reviews and Photos)

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 5, 2004

Terese Capucilli has been with the Graham Company for 25 years. Ms. Graham coached and directed her in the works she had once created for herself, such as Medea in Cave of the Heart, as well as Jocasta in Night Journey and The Woman in Errand into the Maze. Special roles were created for Ms. Capucilli, such as The Chosen One in Right of Spring and the lead in Maple Leaf Rag, and Deep Song was reconstructed for her in 1988. Ms. Capucilli has been partnered in Graham classics by Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Twyla Tharp created a role for her, too. Ms. Capucilli is a dancer and one of the founders of Buglisi/Foreman Dance and collaborates in numerous ballets. Ms. Capucilli won the 2001 Dance Magazine Award. (Program Notes). Terese Capucilli is the subject of this inside perspective.

Backstage City Center, prior to the April 21, 2004 performance, with Terese Capucilli in one of the workspaces. We spoke about her role in "Cave of the Heart", her new role as a mother of a young son, and her memories of Martha Graham.

REZ - Tell me about your role in Cave of the Heart. (See April 14, 2004 Review).

TC - Cave of the Heart was choreographed in 1946. It's one of Martha's (Graham) greatest works, based on the Greek myth, delving deeply into the female psyche. She chose four characters to bring to life, each with their own inner life. For the Sorceress, Medea, jealousy and rage govern her actions. Her rage is so deep that she is able to kill her own children. However, Martha chose not to focus on this aspect but to physicalize these very real emotions in the rawest possible way. It's a difficult piece and a difficult character to do well.

After having my child, I did a few performances of Deep Song and Heretic, which were less intense ballets to perform, in order to find that inner core and inner balance to return fully to the stage. Cave is such a large piece. In some way I was able to come out of that nurturing place (recent childbirth experience) and bring myself to where a new experience can enrich an old experience, a new way of seeing inside myself. Martha's repertoire is incredibly rich, and the challenge is finding that inner life of each character, through an intense physical commitment to the work.

To prepare for this role at each performance, it all begins in the dressing room. Medea emerges through the putting on of makeup and hair, which in Martha's theater is all part of the costume. You come onto the stage with the idea of where the character has been and where she is to go. However, the real preparation for Medea or any role starts from the first day of rehearsal in the studio to the moment you step onto the stage.

REZ - Tell me about working with Martha (Graham).

TC — Martha prepared you for the role by demanding that you ask questions, that you are true to the choreography, and that you delve deeply into the moment. Then, everything else will emerge. She despised mediocrity. If she believed you were engaging yourself 150%, then you were fine. She wanted you to be engaged in images that sparked your imagination. She was interested in surrounding herself with individuals, and the work reflects challenges taken by so many great artists through so many generations of dancers.

REZ - I was always fascinated with the Noguchi sets and the Noguchi Museum.

TC - We are working closely with the Noguchi Foundation. We are still using original sets, and they are restoring them.

REZ - Thank you so much.


Terese Capucilli, Backstage, City Center
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

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