It was two weeks after post-baccalaureate fellow Zach Paluch ’13 was found unconscious with severe head trauma that junior Juan Irizarry began to process what had happened to his friend. When he did, he began choreographing his dance “Stream of Consciousness” almost immediately.
Set to the song “This Place Was a Shelter” by Olafur Arnalds, Irizarry is now working with five dancers to prepare it for Terpsichore’s winter term main stage show.
“This piece is [Paluch’s] recovery process,” he said. Inspired by Paluch, it is Irizarry’s interpretation of the movement of brain receptors interacting before, during and after a head injury.
He chose his cast based on technical ability for what he described as an intense contemporary piece. But the movements and mechanics aren’t the only challenging thing about “Stream.”
For Irizarry, the piece hit close to home.
“Zach is my fraternity big brother in TKE. He’s like my mentor. So the most challenging part of this [piece] has been the concept. A few friends of mine who knew Zach as well wanted to do this piece, but they couldn’t emotionally so they decided not to audition,” he said.
The challenges are made easier by memories and improvements in Paluch’s condition, however.
Irizarry recalled the time he tried to teach Paluch to dance, explaining how he and some other TKE brothers attended one of Irizarry’s first hip-hop classes for Terpsichore. He was teaching them how to body roll, but Paluch could not figure out how to isolate his movement. However, by the time Irizarry returned to the TKE house that night, his big had mastered it.
“He was practicing from the time I left him till late at night how to body roll and he got it down pat,” Irizarry said.
“I know he always supported me no matter what I did so I thought this [piece] would be a good idea for him,” he explained. “This is in dedication to him and his recovery process. And he is recovering. It’s a slow process but his eyes are open. If you ask him questions he can respond by moving his foot up and down for yes and no, he can turn his head, he’s breathing on his own.”
When Irizarry went to visit him in the hospital on New Year’s Day, Paluch’s eyes lit up immediately when shown pictures of his TKE brothers and of Irizzary’s trip to Ghana.
Still, the event remains raw for Irizarry and others, which motivated him to create “Stream.”
“People mourn differently. I’m doing this for myself because this is part of my process … not to say that he’s gone, but it’s a traumatic experience and this is just a way to express it. I’m not choreographing for the audience; I’m choreographing for myself and for Zach,” he said.
But Irizarry also hopes the piece will help those still reeling from the trauma.
Correction: This piece originally and incorrectly stated that Paluch was assaulted. It has now been revised to reflect that Paluch was found unconscious and injured.