THE STRUGGLE OF THE MAGICIANS
THE BRIDE OF FIRE DANCE TROUPE / ELIZA SWANN
The philosopher G.I. Gurdijieff designed a philosophy ballet entitled
The Struggle of the Magicians
at the turn of the century in which dancers’ bodies mimic the movements of the celestial bodies as a means to remind both dancers and observers of divine law and to invoke ancient wisdom in the body. I became obsessed with this idea and designed a performance for the Bride of Fire Dance Troupe based on the principles of planetary gravity and human weight. Occupy Wall Street was heavily on my mind, and the idea that people can create change with just the mass of their bodies led me deeper into notions of performance as communal transgression-how can bodies push the Earth in a new direction? How can the Artists/Magicians use their bodies to Struggle toward a desired end-to inflict change with the gravity of their very physical-ness and intentions and nothing more? This Julian Beck excerpt about the aims of the Living Theater led me to design this ballet for their venue and in their spirit: “to undo the knots / that lead to misery, / to spread ourselves / across the public’s table / like platters at a banquet / to set ourselves in motion / like a vortex that pulls the / spectator into action / to fire the body’s secret engines / to pass through the prism / and come out a rainbow.”
“The Struggle of the Magicians” is an improvisational ritual play where one dancer heaves their body against the other-testing their own mass, grace, limits, restraints, and desire to “win.” Armed with colored powders, the dancers attacked one another and fought to the “death” in their struggle for dominance. The winner was not decided upon before the dancers took the stage. Ultimately, both Magicians ended up side by side looking destroyed but at peace.