Sonia Plumb's 'Dance of Da Vinci' Inspired By The Artist's Notebooks

Sonia Plumb thinks big and works hard to make her big thoughts happen. So it’s not surprising that her latest work — “The Dance of da Vinci” — was inspired by one of the biggest thinkers in history.

Based on the notebooks of visionary Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, the project involves eight dancers, an intricate lighting design, projections, a lute player and, not incidentally, 26 a cappella vocalists from the City Singers of Hartford ensemble.

When she decided a few years ago to restart her Sonia Plumb Dance Company (after taking a decadelong hiatus to raise her child), Plumb chose to operate at a level of professionalism that few companies can attain. She pays her dancers for performances and for rehearsals. The company performs at one of the most prestigious theaters in the state, The Bushnell.

“I always had these big concepts. Now I can push to get funding and ideas to make them bigger, ” Plumb says during a recent phone interview.

“The Dance of da Vinci” came to her “two or three years ago, when I took my first trip to Italy” to see some of da Vinci’s works. But the program is also fueled by some contemporary observations, such as how people look in a CrossFit training class.

“I could see so many possibilities,” Plumb says. She wants to deliver a modern perspective on da Vinci’s works, and show how smoothly his artistic instincts and his prophetic scientific ideas flowed together. She has structured the show as four separate parts, each based on different sections of da Vinci’s notebooks.

“Rituals, Reverence and Confessions” covers religion and architecture; “Clock Gears” is devoted to the inventive spirit; “Storks” is based on da Vinci’s studies of humans and animals, from birds to elephants and dragons; “Vitruvian Quartet” is described as “a methodological study of movement that quickly becomes a fast-paced dance for four.”

Individual dances can involve as few as two dancers and as many as the full troupe of eight.

One of Plumb’s inspirations is the maverick choreographer and director Mark Morris, with whom she studied in several intensive workshops.

As the lighting designer for “The Dance da Vinci,” Plumb has enlisted Michael Chybowski, who has worked with Morris’ company and numerous dance and opera companies.

“He’s taking me to other levels,” she says, raving. Chybowski’s work is regularly seen at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre; he’s an associate professor in the University of Connecticut’s Dramatic Arts department.

The more than two dozen vocalists enlisted from City Singers (with the help of the ensemble’s leader Suzanne Gates) will perform original music by the Utah-based composer Michael Wall.

Sonia Plumb Dance Company’s previous show at The Bushnell, “Fire or Ice” in 2016 “went very well,” the choreographer says, reaching “diverse audiences, including those who hadn’t seen modern dance before.

“There is a real revival of dance in Connecticut, a new community. While I’m steadily rebuilding my company, I want to give consistent work to dancers in the Hartford area.”

THE DANCE OF DA VINCI has two performances at 8 p.m. on April 21 and 4 p.m. on April 22 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Tickets are $25 to $38. 860-987-5900 and bushnell.org.

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