What makes a dance that dance? I mean, what makes it it and not something else? Yes, I know - a dance is a work of art that explores a subject using a specific set of movement phrases or structures to specific music with specific costumes, or not. But, what I mean is - how much can you remove and a dance still be that dance? We are finalizing the structure for our upcoming Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center show and I am wrestling with including our Falling Section or not. This section was inspired by Rachel Carson's The Edge of the Sea - an interesting, if overly detailed, look at the tidal zone of the Eastern Seaboard. It is a physical section with a strong athleticism to it - not so 'dancey'. But, for our upcoming show it doesn't fit in with the more etherial material of the other sections. I feel conflicted leaving it out since it has been central to the work since its beginning. The other sections that have been in each performance include H2O Trio, Christine's Solo w/ Bulking, Hurricane Solos, and some version of Drench. Additionally there are statistics about water always used as part of the sound score. Now, for this last performance, we aren't using the statistics nor the Hurricane Solos, and (I guess) the Falling Section. It would be interesting to see how much I could remove before My ocean is never blue stops being itself.
Up to this point we have not have had much music in our rehearsals because most of the music for this newest version of My ocean is never blue is being played live or is being recorded specifically for this performance. But in our last rehearsal (Sunday) we had almost all the music - with the exception of alittle that still needs to be recorded. And, predictably, it was amazing. I mean, we had to slosh through a lot of nitty-gritty details of when people play and how transitions will work, but to have 3 afro-cuban percussionists, a classical piano/string quartet and a post-modern guitarist all playing live is pretty great. I think one thing that worried some was how all these styles of music (and dance) would work bumped up against one another and I myself had moments of being worried too - but, after today it clearly is not going to be a problem - it just works. There is something pleasing starting the piece with a recording of Indian music that's meditative and have Jonathan's guitar slide in over that as we transition into the next section. And, there is something pleasing to hear the classical music follow some repetitive pattern on the guitar. The similarities and differences between the Afro-Cuban percussion and Indian percussion is wonderful to hear - at one point the Indian music began and you could see Sam (a Afro-Cuban percussionist) just smilling as he was listening. As I said after last week's rehearsal about the dancers, I think today was important to get the musicians understanding how the piece was working and that each group is not seperate, but we are overlapping, supporting and juxtaposing each other. It certainly was a dense rehearsal, but really a good one.
Today's rehearsal felt like a big deal - like today could make or break this project with these four companies. We started to put our different sections together in bigger "chunks" and, honestly, I wasn't sure it was going to work. I was worried because I wasn't sure how we would connect the different material, and secondly I wasn't sure dancers of the other companies were buying into this project. I am asking people to step out of their comfort zone in a number of ways and have felt some resistance to the process. But the other company directors and I had a good meeting this week and I think they talked with their dancers to get everyone focused - and I think it worked. I kind of took charge of today and we put together about 40 minutes of material - that was good. Some sections are individual companies, some a mix of companies and the transitions between sections. I am trying to make transitions fairly straight forward, simple and not a big deal. In college (undergraduate) my teacher and mentor, Viola Farber would say that "there are no such things as transitions", which I love - either it is something or not. So, I'm trying to make keep transitions moving - not making them a big deal. After the rehearsal a number of dancers from the other companies expressed how impressed they were with how material was weaving together, which made me happy - mainly because that means they will be more engaged as they become more interested. It was a good day - though exhausting. Of course, next Sunday we have the all the musicians coming and they have to start getting along...
Despite my desire to report on our week at James Madison University I only spent time on the essentials - rehearsing, planning, teaching, some sleeping and too much driving. In one week student and community dancers learned and performed "My ocean is never blue" with the company, and I created a 15-minute work for the Virginia Repertory Dance Company. Aot of time, organization and creative umph was needed to get through the week. The dancers in "ocean" did a great job with the material - which ranged from simple walking structures to improv scores and athletic choreographed phrases. We spent time talking about the content of the work, each section's origin, how its evolved and fitting the pieces into the whole. It has taken us - the company – time to develop and clarify all this and getting new dancers on the same page was a challenge. But, as I said, they did great and both our performances were really wonderful. I, and the whole company, felt that they were some of the most satisfying performances of the work.
The work I created for the Rep Company was an outgrowth of the works I created this summer. I combined this previous material with new material, created a new sound score and came up with a dance for 9 dancers. This work is an exploration of 'home' and 'leaving home' and are the first bits of a larger project that explores human migration and immigration. As I started researching this larger project I wanted to clarify this idea of home for myself – both as a place we leave and as a place we create or arrive. Right now the work is pretty abstract, but as the project evolves I plan on bringing more concreteness to these topics/issues. I, again, was really satisfied with the students attention, creativity, commitment and dancing.