Our Artist Close-Up series continues with choreographer and dancer Lorena Egan-Alvarado, formerly of The Mark Morris Dance Group, Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre, Buglisi/Forman Dance, her own LorenaEganDance, and now Second Story. Lorena reflects on the growth of our collective over this past year, contemplating how she has experienced this process – and how the presence of the dancers’ children in the studio has affected her work.
Lorena is immediately struck by the realization that Sebastian was 8 months old when she and her Second Story colleagues began working together. With a rueful smile, she admits wishing she could have been more productive while her son was still taking naps in the studio!
Lorena explains that every single rehearsal is a unique experience. It is hard to anticipate how the creating while caregiving dynamics will play out; you never know what you’re going to get. This uncertainty forces her to “fly by the seat of my pants.”
Preparing for rehearsal is quite different today than when she danced professionally in the past. Not only does she gather the food, drinks, and clothing SHE needs for dancing and choreographing, but she must now bring a carload full of food, toys, and diaper paraphernalia for Sebastian. Despite all of her careful preparation, she is never sure if the items she brings will actually satisfy her son’s needs over the course of the 3-hour rehearsal. It was easier when Sebastian was younger because she had less “stuff” to remember to bring. As she drives to rehearsal each week, she wonders: “Do I have enough toys for distraction? Are we [the dancers] going to be able to get anything done? Will I get to move?” God forbid she neglects to bring Sebastian’s favorite toy or snack.
You plan as best you can, but the actual experience in the studio is completely unpredictable. It is one big “unknown” -- unknown with regard to the kids and unknown with regard to the work. What she CAN rely on is changing dirty diapers and holding her son in her arms. The one thing she CAN’T count on is how much dancing she will be able to do. So, she comes into rehearsal with hope; if she is able to accomplish a “little bit,” it will be a good day.
Since every day is so different, it is difficult to track the collective’s progress. In contrast, it is easier to feel the day-to-day process of the growth of your work in a more typical professional rehearsal environment. Consequently, the Second Story process can seem disjointed…2 steps forward, 1 step back. Because consistent weekly practice of any one piece is rare, the dancers often feel as if they are still at the beginning of the developmental process for any given work. Nevertheless, when viewing the process retrospectively, the progress becomes much clearer.
Lorena doesn’t think the content of her work is any different because she is creating in the company of young children. Even though her body has changed a bit since the birth of her son, she still sees the same images in her head when she listens to music -- and still translates the musical impulses into movement in the same way. It just takes a lot longer to produce the work, so at times it may feel as if she hasn’t made much progress. However, her experiences as a new mother did inform one particular work called “Lullaby,” which she created in the months following Sebastian’s birth.
Lorena readily confesses that it is difficult to hear Sebastian cry when she has to dance without holding him. In the moment, the creating-while-caregiving dynamic can make her feel conflicted. On one hand, she needs to spend time with her son, but she also needs to run a piece…choreograph a solo…dance in Jonathan’s work. The decision to delay picking up Sebastian is somewhat easier when Lorena reminds herself that she accomplishes a tremendous amount of creative work in very short bursts of time. Most of all, “I NEED this for ME.”
While the weekly rehearsals enable the dancers to remain active as artists, their children also derive numerous benefits. They watch their parents work, focus, move, and communicate. The kids are exposed to art, music, and dance during a critical period in their development.
Overall, Lorena loves working in this environment. Yes, it is difficult to deal with the trepidation and frustration that arises from working with the kids. But that’s just it -- “we’re working with our kids! I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Coming soon: our final artist close-up featuring Mandy Kirschner Salva!
Sherri Muroff Kalt, founder of Process Portraits, LLC and author of Portrait of an Artistic Journey: The Creative Process in Real Life Context, is a Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate of Duke University with a B.A. in psychology. She began her career in marketing and sales in New York City with L’Oréal, Monet Jewelers, and Givenchy. READ MORE