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Delving into Polish theater and dance

March 13, 2010 | 10:00 am

Dance For many Jews of Ashkenazi descent, the decision to travel to Poland, with its concentration camp sites and museums dedicated to lost Jewish worlds, generally has something to do with the quest to delve further into their heritage. Rosanna Gamson, however, may be the exception to that rule.

“I wasn’t on that kind of search,” says the choreographer of her two trips to Poland that she took after seeing a Polish theater production presented by UCLA Live in 2005. “I went there to find the theater.”

Gamson’s immersion into the world of avant-garde Polish theater and the legacy of director Jerzy Grotowski plays a significant role in the creation of her latest production “Tov,” which will premiere at REDCAT this Thursday.

After taking a workshop in Los Angeles that the Polish theater company Song of the Goat conducted in conjunction with their UCLA Live performance, Gamson traveled to Poland and soon discovered that Song of the Goat and other avant-garde companies owed a great debt to Grotowski. Famous for his primal, ritualistic approach to the theater, Grotowski would subject actors to grueling physical and vocal training methods to create powerful performances.

“What these companies had in common with each other was the quality of their performances, the commitment to their work and their perception of theater as ritual,” says Gamson.

Gamson felt a particular kinship with the members of the Lodz-based CHOREA Theatre Assn., in part because they seemed to share her sense of humor and willingness to collaborate with artists outside their company. CHOREA wound up creating the vocal score for “Tov” and three of its members joined Gamson’s cast.

“I had been trying to get my dancers to sing and they just couldn’t do it,” says Gamson, who brought the CHOREA members to Los Angeles in January. “Once they came, they taught my dancers to sing in a week.”

To read more about Rosanna Gamson and Tov, click here.

-- Susan Josephs

Photo: Marcus Braggs will appear in "Tov." Credit: Steven A. Gunther