Lewis and Clark: the choreopoem

Photo courtesy of frankxwalker.com

The Department of Theatre and Dance at Northern Kentucky University will present ‘When Winter Come: the choreopoem.’

Based on the book of the same name, the story retells the journeys of famous pioneers Lewis and Clark. But this is not a mere retelling that so many are accustomed to hearing.

‘I found out that what’s learned in school is incomplete,’ said Frank X. Walker, author of ‘When Winter Come,’ ‘Buffalo Dance’ and writer-in-residence at NKU. ‘It’s a misrepresentation. Their looked at like superheroes. But I was surprised to learn how large their party really was and how much help they had.’

Walker came to NKU after being recruited by the late Danny Miller. Two years later, Ken Jones, chair of the Theatre Department, approached Walker about producing something with Walker. What came out of the meeting was a visual retelling, or a choreopoem for short, of ‘When Winter Come.’

‘After meeting Frank, I read his poetry and fell in love with his work,’ Jones said via e-mail. ‘The poems seemed to be perfect for a performance art-dance piece.’

Jones points out that choreopoem is not a new concept.

‘Actually, the earliest forms of theatre were long poems with choreographed movement,’ Jones said. ‘The Greeks kicked it off in 596 B.C.’ Walker agreed that the performances will add another dimension to his works.

‘It makes the poems move and it’s like watching them come alive,’ Walker said. ‘With the choreopoem you can insert more emotion.” The performance is set to original music created by jazz pianist Harry Pickens.

‘The original music and dance only multiplies the power of the story,’ Walker said. ‘The integration of art forms make it more powerful.’

It’s this integration of art forms, that Walker hopes will bring the real story of the explorers in to the limelight.

‘I want to make the invisible visible,’ Walker said. ‘The power of storytelling is that if you get one point of view you only have one part of the story. The more point of views you have the closer to truth you actually get.’

‘When Winter Come: a choreopoem’ is showing at 8 p.m.’ March 5 and 6 at NKU’s Strauss Theatre.