November 9, 2016
Back in the studio --- Finally! --- But with a sobering dose of reality
Excitement at being back in the studio is tempered by sadness and anxiety around the election results, Jonathan’s mother’s declining health, and the death of Lorena’s dear friend. The group uses the initial period of time to process feelings about these circumstances.
Since the last 5 weeks have been devoted to administrative and fundraising work, the dancers are easing back in to the greater physical demands of rehearsing. Instinctively, Jonathan responds with a slower-paced warm up. He incorporates some material he’s been using with his Purchase modern dance classes.
Foreshadowing her resistance to separating from her dad, Eliza peels Jonathan’s fingers off the floor during a “downward dog” stretch, indicating that she wants to be held. Funny – sort of. In his arms is where she will remain for the majority of the session.
Meanwhile, Sebastian crawls/walks around the studio, playing with a variety of objects. He appears to be pretty content, occasionally “checking in” with his mom. This situation enables Lorena to participate in the warm up to a greater extent than usual.
Once Sebastian decides he wants what Eliza has – being held by his dancing parent, Lorena and Jonathan figure out how to do across-the-floor movements while strategically placing the kids on different body parts as counter-balancing “weights.” Necessity is definitely the mother of invention here!
As agreed in last week’s meeting, Lorena choreographs her piece for the balance of today’s session.
Lorena tries to distract and console Eliza so Jonathan has a few precious minutes to review Lorena’s choreography for his duet with Mandy. When he can no longer bear Eliza’s distress, Jonathan assumes a supporting role for the rest of the rehearsal.
Lorena then reviews her solo for Mandy. She puts Sebastian down and – Hallelujah! – he becomes preoccupied with water bottles. Consequently, Lorena can actually dance with Mandy, clarifying specific arm and leg positioning and demonstrating subtleties of execution. Mandy then practices these changes as Lorena adjusts details. As usual, Lorena repeatedly listens to the music and works out the rhythms in her body. The choreography features a lot of weight shifts, changes of direction, and athleticism. As Lorena notes, Mandy’s feet don’t stop as she is stepping on every beat of the music.
When Sebastian decides he wants to take up residence in mom’s arms again, Lorena must focus on figuring out/refining leg movements with Mandy.
Eventually, Lorena hands Sebastian to Jonathan. Fortunately, the baby allows Jonathan to feed him, freeing up Lorena to broaden her focus to include choreographic experiments with all body parts!
Satisfied with today’s progress on Mandy’s solo, Lorena wants to review the duet she is choreographing for Jonathan and Mandy. However, after Sebastian finishes his bottle, he and Eliza find bliss playing together – as long as Jonathan doesn’t move an inch. Good news/bad news: Jonathan can’t dance his part in the duet today – but Lorena substitutes for him so she and Mandy can work together. It’s the best everyone can do, under the circumstances.
At the end of today’s rehearsal, the conversation centers on the health issues affecting Jonathan’s mother, exacerbated by repeated and prolonged periods of time in the hospital and rehab facility. Uncertainty about her prognosis and lack of control over the administration of her medical care evoke anxiety and a sense of helplessness. Jonathan wonders, “How do I set my expectations? What should I be doing?” It is particularly difficult for Jonathan to watch his mother’s decline following on the heels of his father’s “prolonged and ugly” decline last year. Lorena, Mandy, and Sherri empathize with Jonathan as he navigates these difficult circumstances.
Following the 11th rehearsal
Throughout the rehearsal, Sherri senses that Jonathan seems sad and stressed. She questions him about this perception as they walk to their cars. Jonathan confirms that he is indeed struggling with uncomfortable feelings arising from the realities of his current context – and asks Sherri to process these emotions with him. Since he is a full-time parent, Jonathan has very little time to devote to his intellectual pursuits and creative outlets. So, he squeezes them into his schedule whenever he can. After factoring in all of his responsibilities, he can only allocate short periods of time to each endeavor. Consequently, he feels like a “crazy person doing 10 things at once. I can’t devote enough quality time to any single area.” It’s tantalizing to have the opportunity to engage in the activities that “feed” him, but ultimately frustrating; he can only have a “taste”…can only “scratch the surface.” He can’t delve deep enough into any one area to feel satisfied. Moreover, he doesn’t have time to think about or prepare for these endeavors; it feels like he’s constantly reacting.
Although Jonathan and Sherri have been focused on understanding, documenting, and staying grounded in “process,” Jonathan is finding it difficult to engage in process without working toward a “finished product.” On one hand, he experiences a sense of freedom and lack of pressure when he doesn’t have to maintain a specific timetable and produce a particular result. On the other hand, he feels highly motivated when he is working toward a specific performance, for example – a process with a beginning, middle, and end.
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