Through all my schooling I somehow managed to miss reading Salinger’s famous The Catcher in the Rye. It seems impossible – EVERYONE reads it during high school. I didn’t though, so I decided to right that wrong and I am certainly glad that I did. I loved every minute reading it. Holden is such a fantastic, well articulated character. He was frustrating; he was endearing. He was naive and wise beyond his years at the same time; you couldn’t help but love him even when he was beyond irritating.
But, that’s not what I want to talk about right now. Because, halfway through the book I had a revelation. If The Catcher in the Rye was a dance it would be choreographed by the amazing choreographer Barak Marshall.
Of course I immediately wanted to share this idea with everyone. Unfortunately, I know very few people who know enough about literature and dance to fully appreciate how wonderful such a pairing would be.
I continued meditating on this dilemma, pondering how to describe what makes Barak Marshall’s choreography so fitting for The Catcher in the Rye. Through this I came up with three defining factors of Marshall’s choreography that mirror Salinger’s writing.
Articulate. Melodramatic. Humorous.
This first defining characteristic is beautifully summed up by Marshall himself. In a talk that he gave on “The Politics of Israeli Dance”. In this talk – which covers a multitude of political and cultural topics – he also briefly discusses the particular language and story creation that Israeli choreographers (like himself) utilize in their dance. He says, “So for me, dance, and I think this is true of all Israeli dance which is what makes it so powerful, it has to be – it’s story based. And Israeli’s tell stories . . . Israeli’s had to be very resourceful in creating new languages [of dance].” Essentially, he describes that choreographers from his heritage have gone (and had to go) out of their way to create stories and languages for their dances.
And Marshall is no different. When you view his choreography (Harry is a favorite of mine) you see movements that are extraordinarily articulate. Intricate hand gestures and expressive body language renders movement into a language. Additionally, his each piece within his larger works is episodic and progresses a storyline. It is not enough to merely perform the dance, instead each dancer infuses meaning into their every gesture to create a story.
It is a riot watching Marshall’s works. There is plenty of humor – both light and dark – all of which creates a very theatrical and melodramatic mood through the pieces. I remember watching “And at Midnight, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square” and being delighted by the short vignettes where couples would step out and describe their marriages by describing cooking and food.
His works are intentionally over the top, using metaphor in the most explicit way possible, yet it works brilliantly.
I know I have already touched upon the humor in his work – because much of it is a direct result from the melodrama he infuses into his work. But it needs to be reiterated because the humor is unusual.
He uses dark humor – light humor – slapstick comedy – innuendos and dirty jokes – and everything in between. All of which aid the language and storytelling creation of his works.
So, now that you have a beginning grasp on the sort of choreography Barak Marshall does, you might have the first inkling as to why he would create such a fantastic dance piece based off of Catcher in the Rye.
But I will explain a little farther.
Articulate. Melodramatic. Humorous.
Don’t those words also spectacularly describe Salinger’s writing in The Catcher in the Rye?
Holden is articulate. He talks constantly, he notices everything, he creates and recreates opinions all the time. What better way to portray the mood and style of Holden’s thoughts in dance than through a highly articulate movement style? Where every tiny gesture has layers of meaning.
Holden is also melodramatic. The whole story is episodic and largely theatrical. And Holden himself is very opinionated and prone to exaggeration and extremity. Any choreography that attempts to portray his story has to be equally exaggerated and theatrical.
Finally, Holden is funny. Holden is humorous, his odd opinions and observations make you laugh when you read about them. His humor is also varied – slightly dirty, sometimes slapstick, often dark. Any choreographer who created this dance would need to know how to employ humor in their performance.
I believe Barak Marshall would be a unique choreographer that would do justice to the story and expertly translate The Catcher in the Rye from literature to dance.