Image credits: Lo Kuehmeier; Ilya Vidrin.

Jessi Stegall

2022-2023 Boston Dancemakers Resident

Artist Statement

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Jessi Stegall is a dance-theatre artist, applied ethicist, and arts educator based in Boston, Massachusetts. Jessi currently approaches performance as an act of ode: expressing curiosity and homage toward worlds built by others. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Harvard ArtLab, National Parks Service, Windhover Performing Arts Center, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and was recently featured as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” (2022) alongside her close collaborator, Ilya Vidrin. Her choreographic work has been featured at the Dance Complex, Motion State Dance Film Festival, Cambridge Art Association, and Boston Arts Consortium for Health. As a dancer, Jessi has performed works by Jill Johnson, Ilya Vidrin, Ali Kenner Brodsky, LROD, and Jamila Glass. In addition to her work in dance, Jessi holds an M.S. in Bioethics from Harvard University, a B.S. in Expressive Art Therapy from Lesley University, and is an alumna of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Project Description

The Theremin Vignettes is an evening-length dance production made up of a series of choreographic vignettes within the musical world of thereminist Clara Rockmore. Despite being credited as the best theremin player to have ever lived, Rockmore remains under-recognized and overlooked for her immense contributions initiating the relationship between electronic interface and classical music. The Theremin Vignettes is, first and foremost, an ode to Clara: a Jewish woman, virtuosa and pioneer of electronic music, strong-willed and charismatic yet barely 5 feet tall.

More broadly, this piece will pay homage to what is simultaneously so human in spirit, yet not human in form: the musical theremin. The only instrument to be played without physical contact, the theremin produces a warbly and eerie tone made from thin air, often associated with science fiction films. Rockmore’s theremin arrangements of classical works elevated the instrument above novelty status, bringing precision and composition to an otherwise seemingly random and crude instrument. It has been said that Clara aimed to “bestow the non-human [theremin] a soul.” In an age where the relationship between humans and machines is becoming increasingly more intimate, her goal has more meaning now than ever. By choreographically illuminating Rockmore’s unique use of  the theremin, The Theremin Vignettes aims to choreographically highlight the music’s soulful charm through idiosyncratic narratives of departure, grief, and remembrance.