Wednesday, January 3, 2018
WE’RE BACK AND RARING TO GO
Leading into today’s session
We all took a break from our regular Wednesday rehearsal for 2 weeks to celebrate the holidays. However, during this time, Jonathan decided to jump into a studio at Purchase College alone to revisit his solo. It’s been a while since he’s devoted substantial mental and physical energy to the further development of this piece. Although he was initially excited to tackle this dance again, he quickly acknowledged the difficulty of returning to a work after a long lay-off: not knowing how the dance will feel in your body under present-day conditions…uncertainty about the psychological and emotional impact of returning to material in your current context.
As he began to dance the piece, he soon discovered “holes” – choreography that he didn’t quite remember or no longer felt right. In fact, he found that “nothing felt right or good,” engendering a persistent state of doubt. He reviewed the entire solo mentally, but felt truly disheartened.
Jonathan had prepared himself to “get back on the horse” – but didn’t realize “how far away from the horse” he was! Since he became dispirited so quickly, working on the piece felt like “pulling it out of the mud.”
Nevertheless, Jonathan talked himself through it “like a pro.” He reminded himself that the body feels different every day, so the way choreography feels in the body can change accordingly. Such is the life of a dancer. When so much time has elapsed since you last worked on a piece, you try to rely on muscle memory to recall the movements. However, if your muscle memory is impaired by the current state of your body, the process of resurrecting the material becomes “painful” on every level. We are reminded once again that context is everything.
Jonathan’s awareness of these dynamics kept him from abandoning his solo session in frustration.
At the very least, he got a good stretch in.
Everyone is happy to reunite today and excited by the news that Jonathan arranged child care coverage to enable him to stay for the entire rehearsal! There is a chance that this arrangement (in which he trades off child care with another parent) may become permanent. Jonathan and his colleagues would be able to work far more productively and effectively if they could be together for the whole 3-hour session each week.
Knowing we have a full session today, the dancers are ready to dive right into intensive work on Jonathan’s duet.
The dancers enjoy their warm-up, although Lorena toggles back and forth between exercises and Sebastian. Here’s Sebastian dumping his stash of trucks next to mom on the dance floor…there he is pulling on Lorena’s finger to come play with him…there he goes, pushing a big dump truck through and around the dancers’ legs. The ongoing parent-child negotiations today can be summed up as: later vs. now.
Lorena lays out several food choices for Sebastian, and Sherri encourages him to draw his mother in motion. These interventions buy some time for Lorena to join her colleagues in across-the-floor choreography. Before long, though, Sebastian wants in on the action; he shows off his original movements alongside the dancers as they move back and forth across the studio.
It's now time to tackle Jonathan’s duet for Lorena and Mandy. The dancers choose to begin by marking the piece through without music since they haven’t rehearsed in a few weeks. They discover the phrases that need review and gestures that need clarification.
Sebastian brings his food to the middle of the floor, intending to stay there for a while. Lorena convinces him to sit next to Jonathan, who is watching the dancers and taking notes. This intervention is intermittently effective since Sebastian keeps returning to mom, interrupting her dancing.
Sherri and Jonathan take turns engaging Sebastian in truck games so Lorena and Mandy can help each other recall the choreography.
The dancers now run through the piece with music. They work hard to remember intricate gestural details. Jonathan coaches them about spacing and timing adjustments and describes the movement and emotional qualities he is seeking.
After Sebastian lays on Lorena during a phrase on the floor and takes up residence in mom’s arms while she tries to dance (the entwined segment, no less!), Lorena sets him up with a video and a snack -- success!
Next, Lorena and Mandy teach each other their parts from the beginning of the piece. This will enable them to reverse roles when the initial phrases are reprised at the end of the dance. It is very challenging to dance your original part so your partner can learn it -- while SIMULTANEOUSLY watching your partner dancer HER original part so YOU can learn it. It’s even hard to say!
Meanwhile, Jonathan settles upon the choreography for the final phrases of the dance. He then reviews the movements with Mandy and Lorena, noting the diminuendo of energy as the music slows to a close.
Describing the arc of this piece, Jonathan uses an oil and water image; the two substances/dancers are initially separate, then come together at the climax of the piece, then ultimately separate again.
The choreography for the entire duet is now complete! Jonathan acknowledges that there are “lots of spaces to clean,” but he is delighted to have reached this milestone.
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