Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Rubio Slager’s newest work Butterfly shares a tragic but beautiful story of hope inspired by the children of WWII Terezin. In this round of interviews, we asked some of the dancers to share insight on their character and the process of preparing for the role.
Company Artist Jessica Lohr
Q. What is your character in Butterfly?
A. I am dancing the part of present day Helga Hoskova-Weissova, an artist and living survivor of the Holocaust. Butterfly follows Helga as she looks back on her story of enduring the horrors of the Terezin ghetto and finding glimmers of hope through art and friendship.
Q. What is something that you learned about your character through your research on the role that stood out or stuck with you?
A. In all the research I have done I have been utterly struck by Helga's strength, courage, and beauty of spirit. There are so many examples of this throughout her life. Throughout Helga's captivity in Terezin she created artwork that portrayed the reality of the concentration camp. Terezin was used as propaganda for the Nazis and was promoted as a "spa town" for the Jewish people when in reality it was a place of death, cruelty, and forced labor. The fact that Helga created art that reflected the truth of a place so saturated by lies and evil displays her strength. After World War II, Helga studied at the Academy of Fine Arts - an amazing testament to her will in not allowing evil to steal her future. In one of my favorite interviews by Helga, Helga recalls seeing a butterfly land on a flower as she arrived to her final concentration camp. She decided at that moment that she wanted to live and now sees butterflies as a symbol of freedom.
Q. How do you get into your role and maintain the character onstage? What tools help you with this?
A. Before the ballet begins I imagine myself as Helga simply sitting in her living room. I like to imagine that the stage is my home and the audience members are my guests who I am choosing to share my story with. Once I am in this head space and the music begins it all feels very natural. In moments that I am not dancing during the ballet I try to stay very engaged with what is going on on stage. Watching the beautiful emotions portrayed by my fellow dancers helps me stay in character, especially since in the ballet they are portraying my memories.
Q. How do you transition back out of your character after a performance?
A. Because of the intensity of this ballet, I have found it very important to be able to transition back out of character after performances and even rehearsals. Following a run of this ballet, it helps me to read or watch something that has nothing to do with the ballet. Often times this can mean something as small as watching a quick funny YouTube video! It is extremely helpful for me to take time to process each performance by journaling about my experience and verbally processing with other dancers.
Q. Why see Butterfly?
A. Butterfly tells a story in history that must never be forgotten - one that, though marked by irreversible evil and suffering, is a story that cries out that true hope can never be stolen. My life has been touched by the story of Butterfly and I believe that audience members will leave reminded of the power of hope and the great value of life.