Choreography strives to capture the intensity, conflict and resolve of the sainted French teenager

Composer Mark Dancigers and choreographer Leymis Bolanos Wilmott started out with an abstract idea — “Levels” — before shifting to the real-life story of a remarkable figure from history.

Joan of Arc.

Jeanne d’Arc.

“Jehanne,” in the medieval spelling Wilmott prefers for her dance.

She was a teen-age girl in 15th century France whose religious visions inspired the military victories that made her a heroine and saint.

“If the story weren’t true, it would be unbelievable,” says Dancigers, who plays electric guitar and leads the NOW Ensemble. “Yet we know for a fact that she left her small village and went on to lead a French army as this inspirational figure. She felt called to do something that only she could do. I find that sort of unbelievably inspiring.”

Wilmott, too, was intrigued by Joan of Arc — “She’s a badass” — but worried that the subject was too big for a 20-minute dance.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, god, are you kidding me?’” says the artistic director of Sarasota Contemporary Dance. “She’s such an iconic figure. How can we even try to do this?”

What they ended up doing was work on the score and choreography at the same time.

“He would send me three minutes of music, and I would send him seven minutes of dance,” she says. “Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.”

The final work will debut Thursday as part of “SCD + NOW Ensemble” in the Cook Theater at the Asolo/FSU Performing Arts Center. It is the opening production for SCD’s new season.

Dancigers thinks Wilmott captures Joan of Arc’s intensity and conflict. He enjoys watching Claudia Rightmire in the lead role.

“When you see the dance, she’s amazing,” he says. “She’s completely inhabiting the character.”

Wilmott, meanwhile, looks forward to seeing her company react and respond to the pulsing sound of the NOW Ensemble. Live music makes a difference. Dance comes to life.

“It’s magical,” she says. “Music and movement are like a marriage. For the dancers, it forces them to be at a level of heightened awareness. They have to be more sensitive to the subtleties of the moment.”

‘Dreamfall,’ too

The Sarasota Contemporary Dance company includes Charlotte Johnson, Melissa Rummel, Benjamin Howe, Rachel Lambright and Zoe Austin.

Performances next week will open with “Dreamfall,” another collaboration with Dancigers’ music. The choreography is by Wilmott and his wife, Xiao-Xuan Yang Dancigers.

The piece was first performed in 2013 at a New Music New College performance. The dance explores the subconscious terrain between sleeping and waking. Xuan began working with dancers before Wilmott came in with an outsider’s perspective.

“I started playing with the idea of what is dream, what is fall?” Wilmott says. “We talk about breath and air in the piece. People who’ve seen it think Xuan is so angelic, she’s so gorgeous, and there’s this luscious movement.”

In between dances at the Cook Theater, the NOW Ensemble will play a Ravel piano concerto.

“Jehanne” will feature more sharp, military gestures and steps. Dancers open-mouthed in silent screams. A central figure crossing herself, leading a column and facing her destiny.

Wilmott enjoys the contrast between the two dances. That’s part of the programming. The stories are different, but have something in common.

“Both pieces show one figure being supported by a group,” she says. “That’s what’s interesting, the similarities in that, and the night-and-day perspective.”

Then and NOW

Dancigers, an assistant professor of digital media and music at New College of Florida, will perform with the NOW Ensemble, which also features Aaron Wunsch on piano, Erin Lesser on flute, Nicholas Gallas on clarinet and John Miller on bass.

The composer has worked on the scores for such documentaries as “The Measure of All Things” and “The Dog.” He also has collaborated on dances with choreographers from Ballet Collective and the New York City Ballet.

For the story of Joan of Arc, Dancigers wanted to focus on her remarkable life, rather than her dramatic death. She was captured, tried as a heretic, then burned at the stake.

“I thought, let’s not do that,” he says. “Let’s do the opposite of that.”

His music celebrates the revolutionary drive and spirit of “Jehanne.” In Wilmott’s dance, she dons armor, rides a horse and declares her resolve.

“I’m not afraid; I was born to do this,” she repeats. “I’m not afraid; I was born to do this.”