May 6, 2017
IT’S SHOW(ING) TIME!
It seems like long ago, it seems like yesterday…we can’t believe our “Creating While Caregiving” experiment one year ago has blossomed into a full-fledged, groundbreaking collective! It is so exciting to have developed to the point where we can share our work – and our process - with our families and colleagues! Although we’ve been documenting our work, sharing it with the creative community in real time through our blog and Facebook page, we’re now ready to bring our patrons into our process in person!
It should come as no surprise, though, that we have to deal with a variety of child-related challenges leading into – and right through – the showing. Why should this day be different from any other rehearsal? We’ll just modify our tag line to read, “Performing While Caregiving.”
Eliza has been sick all this week, requiring continual, through-the-night care. Of course, Jonathan gets sick too, operating in a sleep-deprived haze. How he manages to rehearse and perform a physically demanding piece – one that was already pushing him to the limits of his stamina – is beyond me.
With her husband out of town, Mandy must prepare and perform while tending to the needs of both of her sons. The boys are emotionally spent, missing their father, and exhausted from spending hours in the studio. It is particularly difficult for her youngest son to separate from Mandy.
Lorena has to come to the showing directly from work, so she has little time to mentally and physically prepare.
The dancers’ kids join other children in running around the studio as the team warms up and tackles the logistical details: setting up the music, chairs, and refreshments, pulling photos off the wall, and hanging Second Story flyers throughout the building to direct our patrons to the studio. Since several events are simultaneously taking place within our building and in the neighboring County Center, most of our patrons struggle to find parking and arrive late. Nothing like a little extra anxiety to spice up the moments before the show begins!
Fortunately, we recruited family members as child wranglers and set-up crew members, so the showing is actually manageable. A huge thank you to Jonathan’s wife Rhonda, Lorena’s husband José, Mandy’s husband Tony’s aunt, Sherri’s husband Kenny, and Sherri’s daughter Samantha! In particular, Tony’s aunt is a great help in soothing the boys and keeping them seated, José entertains Sebastian outside the studio, and Samantha helps keep Eliza occupied.
Jonathan introduces Second Story to the audience, speaking about our origins, unique working environment, and commitment to maintaining the dual roles of parent and artist. He refers to our continual, real-time documentation of our process, and our delight in sharing our work with the people who mean so much to us. He introduces the 4 works and invites the audience members to join both group and individual discussions about our creative process after the performances.
Next, Sherri introduces Lorena’s first work featuring Mandy as a soloist. She briefly outlines for the audience the context for the development of this piece, as well as Lorena’s creative influences, interests, and approaches.
Mandy’s adrenaline-fueled performance of this dance is filled with sharp, staccato, angular movements executed at a rapid pace. The complex choreography showcases her technical abilities in this high-energy work.
Lorena’s next solo, “Prelude,” is part of a larger work that will eventually contain 4 solos. Sherri discusses the full work’s themes, emotional content, and conceptual structure. She also draws the audience’s attention to the stylistic elements that are reminiscent of the Graham technique.
Lorena then dances her solo with economy of movement, great control, and emotional power. While the piece exudes the aura of Martha Graham, it is imbued with Lorena’s unique style and poignant beauty.
Sherri then describes Jonathan’s solo “Embers and Ash,” dissecting it on metaphorical, psychological and physical levels. She also outlines the painful, wrenching life events that inspired this piece.
Jonathan begins his solo, drawing us in with his expressive hands, distinctive arm movements, gradual increase in intensity, and compelling emotionality. Several patrons later report watching with tears in their eyes; knowing about the real struggles, losses, and profound changes explored in this work serves to heighten its impact.
Sadness, anxiety and despair permeate Jonathan’s final piece, a duet for Mandy and Lorena. Sherri interprets the imagery that communicates these emotions. She reveals that Jonathan is trying to process and make meaning of these feelings through this work.
Jonathan’s innovative movement vocabulary in the duet radiates pain and anguish. Mandy and Lorena completely inhabit their characters, clearly portray a conversation of gestures, execute intricate partnering movements, and draw us deeply into their world.
As the children run to embrace their parents after the final performance, Sherri invites audience members to ask questions and share observations about the dancers’ creative inspiration and the process of creating work with children in the studio. The group conversation morphs into individual discussions while everyone enjoys refreshments.
What an enlightening exploration of process! The dynamics highlighted include:
A diverse group of dance and theater arts teachers, professional dancers, friends, colleagues, and family members, the audience is fully engaged in process exploration. We could really use more time!
As the event comes to a close, the dancers are still reeling from the exhilaration and exertion of the performances. Even while interacting with friends, family and colleagues, the performers remain in a bit of a daze. Muscles are sore, and there’s really no time to process the experience. Mandy has to leave as the boys have reached their limit. After cleaning up the studio, Jonathan, Lorena, Sherri and their families maintain the post-show tradition of celebrating at a nearby diner.
The feedback from our patrons is deeply gratifying. They loved hearing about the backstory of each piece, then watching these dynamics played out in each performance. Many audience members identified with the emotions permeating the dances. In fact, they often found themselves moved to tears. Some parents report that their young children were inspired by the dancing. Others loved being in a building that incubates various genres of the arts and enjoyed watching a live dance show in such close proximity to the performers.
The intersection of context, process, artistic creation and performance proves to be a moving and fulfilling experience on both an individual and collective level.
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