October 4, 2017
COLLABORATING WHILE DISTRACTED
Mandy’s ankle continues to improve, but she is still unable to jump.
The dancers tend to arrive – and leave – at different times due to their children’s different preschool schedules. Since Jonathan must leave early, he tries to begin his warm up as soon as he can. In contrast, Mandy arrives about a half hour later and jumps into an abbreviated warm up. Consequently, some exercises are done individually and others are executed as a group. Not ideal, of course, but the best that can be done since the dancers are all primary caregivers.
Sebastian joins mom for a large portion of the warm up, imitating her dance moves and running through her legs. Lorena then invites Sebastian to join her at the barre to mimic her stretches; this suggestion turns out to be a great idea as it allows Lorena to finish her warm up without her son pulling her away.
As the dancers conclude the warm up, Lorena shows Mandy some rehab-type exercises to help strengthen her ankle. Meanwhile, Sebastian throws water bottles and food cups around the studio, shrieking with laughter.
Lorena experiments with keeping the studio door open so Sebastian can play with the toys in the lounge -- and experience a bit more freedom of movement. Sebastian happily rummages through Steffi Nossen’s great stash of toys, cars and trucks, bringing many objects into the studio. Despite the new opportunities available to him, Sebastian spends most of his time running with his teddy bear and stroller through the dancers’ space.
Mandy notes the different dynamics in rehearsal since Eliza started preschool and Sebastian is the only child in attendance. On one hand, Jonathan can focus more intently on his creative work; he no longer needs to divide his time and attention between choreographing and taking care of his own kids. On the other hand, Lorena becomes Sebastian’s primary playmate since his peers are all in school. Consequently, her time and attention are REPEATEDLY divided between concentrating on choreographing/rehearsing and attending to Sebastian’s physical and emotional needs. In certain respects, having only one kid in the studio now is even more challenging. Everyone pitches in to help soothe, entertain, and distract Sebastian, but, of course, Lorena shoulders the lion’s share of the caretaking responsibility.
Following the warm up, Jonathan, Mandy and Lorena review the video of last week’s changes to the gesture-laden opening phrases of Jonathan’s piece. Jonathan demonstrates precise details of the execution of these gestures, focusing on the positioning of fingers and hands. Mandy tries to reproduce the movements in accordance with Jonathan’s instructions. At the same time, Lorena works on learning the choreography since she and Mandy will be switching roles at a later point in the dance.
The dancers then run the piece from the beginning, incorporating the modifications. They continue until they reach the next series of phrases which Jonathan would like to tweak. Suggestions include: lead movements with the back…position the head back and move the arm as if you are trying to break away from your partner’s grasp. Jonathan works with Mandy and Lorena to adjust the “conversation” between their 2 characters while they are physically connected. This section seems to be asking for a true collaborative effort; movement ideas are continually proposed, tested, and adjusted. The dancers are excited when their choreographic “experiments” instinctively feel right and successfully convey the desired emotions. Jonathan is particularly pleased with the changes in hand and arm placements when Lorena and Mandy are completely entwined. This section is even more visually innovative and arresting than ever!
Throughout much of this collaborative work, Sebastian implores his mother to accompany him so they can eat, play, and explore together. Lorena is continually shifting between the needs of her child and immersing herself in the creative process. This is a truly difficult juggling act.
The dancers run through the phrases they have been working on right before Jonathan has to leave. Everyone is looking forward to adding on the final elements of the dance and watching the entire piece come together.
Following a snack break, Lorena and Mandy work on refining the qualitative details of the middle section of Lorena’s duet. Fortunately, the team remembers the wet paper towel that captivated Sebastian last week. Luckily, he still finds playing with it to be absorbing; consequently,Lorena can concentrate more fully on developing her piece.
Lorena adjusts spacing, demonstrates the undulation of the body she is seeking, and clarifies the timing of the canon phrases. At first, Lorena dances Mandy’s part with her. Eventually, she adds in her own part, ensuring that the canon timing is accurate.
Satisfied with these refinements, Lorena outlines the structure she envisions for the next segment of her piece. She works with Mandy to flesh out her ideas: repetitive partnering sequences in which each dancer rolls on the ground, rises, steps over her partner and into a position with arms and legs extended. The dancers hold hands throughout this entire phrase, creating repeating contrasts of shapes and motion. Lorena would like to show bodies overlapping one another in a downstage progression. Figuring out how to execute this vision is proving to be quite challenging. Mandy and Lorena try many different variations, film their attempts, then evaluate each one. Lorena feels they have the “right idea, but wrong execution.” The dancers finally try a new approach using interconnected arms, a push-pull dynamic, huge tilt of the body, a roll down, then quick rise to a standing position.
With Sebastian tugging at her legs and demanding to be held, Lorena decides it is time to wrap up rehearsal.
Although it was difficult to sustain the focus to work through complex ideas and details today, the dancers managed to engage in a successful collaborative process yielding exciting new choreography.
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