*written by Hannah Chanatry
Since joining Urbanity Dance’s professional company in January, Jacob Regan has been quite the multi-tasker. Not only does he perform with the company, but he is now also the lead choreographer for Urbanity’s fall show, Neruda’s Book of Questions: An Exploration Through Music and Dance.
“Betsi [Urbanity’s Director] had seen a lot of my work and my processes, and she really liked them, so we had a number of conversations,” said Jacob on how he came to take the lead for the show. “Choreography is what I want to be doing, and she gave me the chance.”
Drawing inspiration from the structure of Pablo Neruda’s collection, Jacob embraced the “choose your own adventure” style of The Book of Questions, crafting the performance to work in a similar manner.
“You can open this book and go to anywhere in the collections, read it in any order you want, and it makes your own story,” said Jacob about the poems. “I think that’s really fascinating, so I wanted to try that with dance.”
To achieve this adventure idea, the site specific performance was designed as multiple smaller pieces that come together as a collection, and – as with Neruda’s work – do not have a specific order. While there is a set opening and finale, the audience can craft their own story by choosing their own direction through the performance.
Each individual piece explores one of various theme found in Neruda’s poems. For his own choreography, Jacob was particularly drawn to the themes of Nonsense and Fairness.
“I was inspired by what it is to make sense of something, that moment where you don’t quite understand, but you think something’s there,” explained Jacob about his work on Nonsense. “It jumps around to a bunch of different ideas, so you don’t quite understand what’s going on, and once you kind of get the gist of something, everything changes.”
It is no easy task to organize a production of this magnitude, and there have certainly been significant challenges. However for Jacob, his excitement trumps any nervousness.
“I’m excited to see over the course of the show, the performances, watching it adapt with each run,” said Jacob. “I’m really excited to see what happens. It’s been a radical process.”