Thursday July 12, 2012

LENOX -- When it comes to finding dancers for her latest production of "Dibbledance" -- performing at Shakespeare & Company's newly renamed Tina Packer Playhouse tomorrow night at 7:30 -- choreographer Susan Dibble finds inspiration from the actors and company members around her, sometimes with surprising results.

Performing alongside Dibble are dancers she has known and worked with, some for almost 40 years, spanning an age range from 20s to 60s. So are her son, Reilly Hadden, and non-dancer company members such as photographer Kevin Sprague and set designer and prop master Patrick Brennan.

Dibble has a long history with Shakespeare & Company. In the late 1970s, the company's foun ders held meetings to establish the troupe in the kitchen of the Manhattan loft she and then husband, John Hadden, had sublet from acclaimed vocal teacher Kristin Linklater. While teaching at SUNY Purchase, Linklater had noticed Hadden had tools in his trunk, Dibble recalled in a recent interview, and told him, "I need someone to sublet my loft who can fix things."

When Shakespeare & Com pany moved to the Berkshires, Dibble said, she "was actually one of the girlfriends coming on the bus to visit."

On those visits she met the late movement choreographer John Broome and underwent the Intensive Training Shakespeare & Company is known for, where she "fell in love with everything to do with movement and dance."

With a background in ballet and modern dance, she soon shared company choreographic duties with Broome, and she has re turned almost annually to design the movement in Shake speare & Company's plays.

"I love working with actors who can move," she said. "I love teaching actors to dance."

As chair of the Brandeis University theater department, she has observed that it's much more common now for actors to be able to dance well.

She first created her signature "Dibbledance" in 1985 and most recently performed it at Springlawn in 2005.

This summer's "Dibbledance" reflects on her more than three decades with Shakespeare & Company in a two-part performance, with music ranging from classical and world rhythms to Peggy Lee.

In "Act One: Here, There and Everywhere," Dibble portrays a character she has developed over many years -- "a ghost with big black shoes" -- in a narrative story created for the 35th anniversary season that looks back at the company's time spent at the Mount.

In "Act Two: Seven Polished Hearts," she pays tribute to six women actors and dancers, all close friends and collaborators she has worked with over the past 40 years.

She developed the piece over a period of three years based on each of them in terms of their personalities -- "their quirks, their depths and their souls" -- and her relationship with them over the years, she said.

"I have a lot of characters in my dances," she explained. "My steps are simple enough for everybody to do them -- I'm not interested in having it be difficult. I find a good medium between very technical dancing and simple movements."

Sometimes Dibbledance performers appear from unexpected quarters. Lucy Simotes, wife of Shakespeare & Company's artistic director, Tony Simotes, has an extensive background in dance. She joined a dance studio at 27 and spent the next decade studying every form of dance available.

"At almost 40 years old I got on pointe shoes for the first time," she recalled.

She had never seen a performance of Dibbledance, but when she heard Dibble was going to choreograph a new one, she wrote Dibble asking if she could join in.

"I haven't danced in nine years," Simotes said. "This is my first foray back in."

"She has a great spirit," Dibble said. "I love having people who are part of the show who can really just be free and alive."

Actor Enrico Spada worked with Dibble two years ago as Dance Captain on Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale."

"I'm not a dancer, but Susan saw something in me," he said. "I was counting a lot and correcting people."

Some of the Dibbledance choreography is open-ended, said Spada, letting the performers add their own coloring and interpretation.

"He approaches the choreography as an actor, and I really love that," Dibble said.

Dibbledance -- which was named by company founder Tina Packer -- is a real community event, said Dibble.

"The 35th anniversary was a perfect time to bring it back," she said.



What: Dibbledance

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Tina Packer Playhouse (formerly Founders' Theatre) at Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox.

Admission: $30.

What: Dibble will share memories of John Broome's life and work in a Founders' Talk

When: Before the performance, at 5 p.m.

Where: Shakespeare & Company

Admission: $15 for adults, or $5 for students.

Information: (413) 637-3353, www.shakespeare.org