Kris Cangelosi can’t help thinking of her brother when the camera frames Willem Dafoe’s slow-motion run for his life in Oliver Stone’s 1986 Vietnam War film, “Platoon.”
The scene is ranked among the most iconic in movie history as Tom Berenger’s character leaves Dafoe’s at the mercy of the enemy as Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” overwhelms on the soundtrack in its mix of pain, grief and hope.
“My brother is a veteran of the Iraq War, and that song reminds me of him and the things that he saw over there and still won’t talk about,” said Cangelosi, founder and artistic director of the Cangelosi Dance Project. “It’s emotional on so many levels, and I knew I wanted to choreograph a dance to it.”
Cangelosi calls the dance “Strings.” Her company will perform it at its fundraising “Showcase Performance,” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, in the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s Firehouse Gallery.
All proceeds will be used to offset costs of its upcoming season.
“We don’t want to raise our ticket prices, and we won’t have to if we can raise enough money with this performance,” Cangelosi said.
Along with “Strings,” the company will perform an untitled piece choreographed by Jon Leher during a Cangelosi workshop in August.
“The dance has a lot of African influence,” Cangelosi said.
Its deliberate movements also are a workout for the dancers, a complete contrast from “Strings,” where the they meld with Barber’s music on different levels of emotion.
Barber composed the piece in 1936, though it may be most memorable for its use as a backdrop during the broadcast of events during and after President John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963.
The song also was played during the radio announcement of the deaths of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Princess Diana, at the funerals of Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco, and in Royal Albert Hall to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
And Cangelosi thought of her brother as she created a dance that uplifts the spirit.
“This music is so moving that we connected to it the first time we heard it,” company member Hannah Willson said.
Cangelosi has layered her dancers in “Strings,” with some dancing close to the floor, others at midlevel and the remainder jumping high in the air — all representing different levels of life. At one point, the group falls individually, each prostrate in a circle, representing death and despair.
But the human spirit can’t be broken so easily.
“They come together in a slow walk,” Cangelosi said. “It shows that spiritually we haven’t died.”
This is true not only for soldiers returning from war but for everyday life.
“Not everyone has experienced war, but they’ve experienced life,” added LeBrian Patrick, another company member. “So, there’s something in this song and in this dance that everyone can connect to.”