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A Jagged Little Dance

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

This past February, I had the pleasure to witness the original cast performance of Alanis Morissette’s new Broadway musical, Jagged Little Pill. A big fan of Alanis Morissette, I was excited to snag Broadway week tickets to the show, however did not do much research into the show's synopsis prior to attending. As the show was only a couple of months past opening night, I was grateful to go in some-what blind to the storyline. When critics throw out phrases like, “show stopper,” “standing O,” and “it really had it all!” they weren’t kidding. I laughed, I cried, and reminisced on the original music and lyrics that my girl Alanis gifted us so many years ago. My urge to write this post is not to solely state my gratitude to see this show prior to its temporary closing or to honor the beauty in its storyline, based around feminism, women's rights, LGBTQIA+, mental health, and drug addiction, but to discuss the beauty that the ensemble cast brought to the stage, particularly the solo dance motifs. As a musician, dancer, and Registered- Dance/Movement Therapist, the artistic direction was one to remember. Yes, the tears I spoke of earlier were caused by the acting and the struggles those actors portrayed. However, the greatest emotional response I experienced was witnessing the solo dancers move through the emotional and mental monologue of each cast member. One moment in particular was the side by side vocal expression of Mary Jane Healy, played by actress and singer Elizabeth Stanley, and the non-verbal movement expression portraying her internal monologue, performed by Heather Lang. Within the last 30 minutes of the show, I heard Elizabeth Stanley wear her character's heart and whole self on her sleeve, singing “Uninvited”. As I listened to the beauty in her song, I could not peel my eyes off the gorgeous dancer beside her; drenched in pain, internal turmoil, confusion, frustration, and hopelessness. The expression through movement held so much more weight (for me) than the actual music. In one aspect I could hear her pain, but in the other I could feel it.

In my work as a dance/movement therapist, I am often presented with the gift to witness and share space with an individual. Dance/movement therapy brings that second, somewhat deeper level to an emotion. We all can talk about our struggles, and hope both ourselves and the listener can grasp the truth behind our words, but when we physically move, our mind and bodies have a secondary connection. When embodying an emotion we experience that emotion differently. This is both true for the individual, and for their witness. Why I believe this movement motif affected me so strongly was because it was not a simple mirror in movement (think- looking into a mirror and having someone follow your exact patterns) or a mirror in language. The magic with this type of mirrored expression was that the movement mirrored her words. Mary Jane’s verbal expression was transformed into a visual dynamic that offered the audience a much stronger connection to the character's internal monologue. I am grateful and honored to have witnessed this beautiful show, and beyond talented cast (I’m lookin' at you, Lauren Patten). I hope that this show opens our eyes to the many struggles we face daily, and helps everyone to not only feel heard, but to be seen.


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