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Ohio State alumnus gives ‘Claudel’ new life

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Actress Christina Kirk acts out her role as Old Claudel in "Claudel," set to be performed Friday and Saturday at Columbus Dance Theatre. Credit: Courtesy of John Ray

Actress Christina Kirk acts out her role as Old Claudel in “Claudel,” set to be performed Friday and Saturday at Columbus Dance Theatre.
Credit: Courtesy of John Ray

It all began about 25 years ago in Paris when Tim Veach visited the museum of August Rodin, and saw a sculpture of two lovers embracing called “Sakountala” by Rodin’s lover, Camille Claudel.

Veach immediately bought a print of it, rolled it up, and brought it back to the U.S.

Inspired by Claudel’s ability to infuse the illusion of motion into a static sculpture, Veach, an Ohio State alumnus and founder and artistic director of Columbus Dance Theatre, choreographed a ballet in honor of Claudel in 2014.

“Claudel” is one of many things Veach has done because of the university fellowship he received from OSU.

“It’s a testament to Ohio State that I was offered that (the fellowship) and came here and was so supported by the university which I really appreciate. I could not have done that work without support from the university,” Veach said.

After its sold-out run last year, Veach decided to revamp “Claudel” in 2015 with new multi-modal version that intertwines the ballet with music, poetry and visual art.

Veach said the reason behind the re-creation was because he wanted to fully illustrate the life of Claudel.

Claudel was a sculptor who started her artistic career by working in Rodin’s workshop in 1885. The two began a love affair, despite Rodin being a married man and her mother expressing disapproval of her romantic and professional engagements.

Camille started secluding herself in 1893 to focus on her own art rather than Rodin’s, though her art was frequently censored by the state and press for being overly sensual. In 1913, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and she stayed in asylum until her death in 1943.

“Claudel” will have an original music score, Veach said, composed by Korine Fujiwara. Fujiwara is a founding member of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, a chamber ensemble that will also be performing the music of “Claudel”.

Two dancers, Kerri Riccardi and Erika Junod, will both be playing roles of young Claudel. Christina Kirk, who plays old Claudel, will recite poetry.

Riccardi said she cannot wait for the audience to hear the quartet because it brings a whole other energy to the performance.

The poetry in “Claudel” will come from author Kathleen Kirk, said Veach.

“I spoke to Kathleen Kirk … and asked her to write poetry inspired by the sculptures,” he said. “I chose the poems that I was interested in and then created a story board of how I saw the cycle of those poems moving through the … life of Camille Claudel.”

Veach said he also partnered with photographer Wes Kroniger to create visuals that will be projected during the performance. Kroniger combined photos of Claudel’s sculptures’ bodies and photos of the dancer’s busts together for the visuals.

He described one image of the sculpture where you see the face of Junod but then the rest of the body is that of the sculpture.

Returning “Claudel” actress Christina Kirk will portray the role of old Claudel as she reflects on her younger self through reciting poetry.

Even though Kirk portrayed the same role last year, she said it feels completely different because of all the different art forms Veach has brought together.

“Claudel” is set to show Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. at Columbus Dance Theatre (592 E. Main St.). Admission is $30 for adults, $25 for seniors and $15 for students.

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