CROTON ACADEMY OF ARTS’ “OPEN ARTS FOR UNITY” SHOWCASE
January 16, 2017 – Martin Luther King Day
FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
Jonathan and Lorena are about to present their work-in-progress versions of solos they began months earlier and are now preparing and presenting under the RDT/Second Story umbrella. These works are the choreographers’ debut pieces, both as parents and as Second Story Dance Project members.
Jonathan and Lorena arrive about an hour before they are scheduled to appear to mentally and physically prepare for the show. Meanwhile, spouses, colleagues and friends assume dual roles of child wrangling and cheerleading Jonathan and Lorena. Sebastian, Parker, Edgar and Eliza are revved up in the studio’s play room with fresh toys, games, and cupcake icing, while the adults tend to feeding, diaper changing, encouraging interactive play, and redirecting the kids to avoid potential meltdowns – all the while sharing our excitement over the upcoming performances.
At show time, Jonathan’s wife Rhonda leads the entire crew into the performance space, jockeying for good seats, choosing laps for the kids, cueing up iPhone cameras, and greeting our Second Story colleagues with rousing cheers.
Jonathan and Lorena confer with Cathy, Jonathan’s sister-in-law and Croton Academy’s owner, regarding musical logistics. Cathy encourages both dancers to preface their solos with extemporaneous remarks addressing themes of unity, camaraderie, acceptance and encouragement – as well as their own stories as professional colleagues creating dance with their children by their side. The dynamics they describe are wonderful examples of the messages and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King.
JONATHAN’S SOLO – EMBERS AND ASH, PART 1
Jonathan created this piece as a way to explore the intense emotional impact of the birth of his daughter Eliza and the passing of his father Ed. Tonight, Jonathan’s movement vocabulary, execution and interpretation communicate these internal experiences in a captivating, moving way. His staccato, unsteady upper body movements suggest a new being coming into the world. The tension in his hands as they curl into claws…flutter furiously…repeatedly turn over, displaying nuanced finger positioning…”struggle” to push their way across an extended arm with imaginary impediments – conveys the character’s confusion, agitation, and uncertainty. Rapid torso contortions cause jerky arm movements, further communicating his distress. The more frenetic phrases are in counterpoint to the slow, drawn-out – even suspended – elements. Jonathan’s entire body is expressive, but his choreographic choices are particularly eloquent as illustrated by the series of long caresses of his face and body. Whether looking down or gazing unseeing into the distance, Jonathan’s eyes are focused inward; he is fully immersed in his internal experiences. Jonathan has described this piece as a “slow burn”. While we don’t have a lot of extraneous movement to attract our attention – and the dance unfolds slowly – Jonathan’s entire being ensures that you can’t take your eyes off of him.
Technical difficulties cause the music to stop after the opening segment. However, Jonathan doesn’t miss a beat, continuing to dance, gracefully pausing when it appears that the problem will be corrected, then seamlessly resuming when the music returns. Now THAT’S a real pro!
LORENA’S SOLO – LULLABY
Lorena used her solo as a vehicle to help her make sense of her experiences of first-time motherhood. In her dance tonight, Lorena draws us in with the gentle swaying rhythm of her hips, rocking of her bent arms, and the graceful, fluid, unhurried movements of her arms and legs. Although her limbs are often in extension, Lorena conveys the dance’s character with a solid, grounded sense of self. The repetition of certain motifs and phrases suggest the ritual of repetitive attempts to soothe a baby at bedtime. We parents recognize Lorena’s depiction of gradually leaving her child’s room, only to return again and again with renewed attempts to lull the infant to sleep. Audience members likely find themselves unconsciously swaying right along with Lorena as she lulls us too with this motion.
FROM THE INSIDE LOOKING OUT
Jonathan tries not to think about the upcoming performance all morning as he helps Rhonda with domestic tasks. Rhonda agrees to watch the kids at 2:00 so Jonathan can go downstairs to warm-up, engage in mental preparation, and finalize certain choreographic elements. He is a little nervous, but excitement is the dominant emotion. In fact, he “feels like a teenager again!” He consciously attempts to capture and retain this wonderful internal experience – and hopes to access this renewed confidence and excitement whenever he second guesses himself artistically.
Since the MLK showcase is quite informal, Jonathan is not as concerned about his preparation as he would be for a regular show. Nevertheless, he begins to worry about logistics right before his performance. Lorena eases his anxiety as she reminds him that if anything goes wrong, he can always make corrections – or even pause and re-start – since the environment is so laid back.
When it is time for him to speak before his dance, Jonathan discards his prepared remarks, choosing instead to talk from the heart about dance as a universal art form and Second Story’s supportive, collaborative environment.
Unexpectedly, everything seems to come together and worries melt away as soon as Jonathan hits his opening pose. In that moment, he is totally grounded in his authentic core, and everything “feels right.” Jonathan later describes this incredible experience: “my heart said ‘you’re home.’” Throughout his performance, he registers his feelings and perceptions in the moment and allows them to inform his interpretation. This is exactly what he hoped for. Then, one of his earlier logistical concerns comes to pass: the music drops out. His initial inclination is to keep dancing in accordance with the professional mantra, “the show must go on.” But he suddenly remembers Lorena’s reminder that he can always stop—so he decides to pause as the staff works on the problem. When the music resumes and he picks up where he left off, Jonathan senses a warm connection with the audience as they laugh and cheer. He feels everyone is with him. The entire experience is affirming and empowering. As he basks in the applause, he knows in his bones: “I’m finally back.” This performance has validated the relevance of his artistic voice.
After his solo, Jonathan discovers that Rhonda was also affected by his performance, particularly his opening pose. She felt totally connected with Jonathan, as if their “souls aligned.” She had tears in her eyes and described her heart as feeling “so full and tingling.” In fact, Rhonda has been so supportive of Jonathan’s work on this piece, understanding – and repeatedly affirming – its importance.
Then, after an already remarkable evening, Jonathan truly feels his “comeback is official” when the Second Story dancers, friends, and family members spontaneously go to dinner together at a local diner to celebrate. This is a wonderful, familiar tradition…just like the old days!
Lorena danced this piece once before, about 6 months ago. She was somewhat nervous about her performance at that time since it was her first time choreographing and dancing since giving birth to her son. However, she is rather relaxed today as it is an informal showcase of a work in progress. She is actually more anxious about the prospect of speaking in front of the audience.
Lorena unintentionally changes some of her movements during her performance, making choreographic choices that feel truly organic. She is totally present emotionally and allows her authentic feelings and inclinations to guide these decisions. She is pleased with the performance and truly enjoys every aspect of the experience – presenting the work, sharing it with an audience, and getting enthusiastic feedback.
After the show, Lorena, too, is tickled to dine and celebrate with her fellow colleagues, friends, and family. She and Jonathan high-five, exclaiming, “We did it! And THIS seals the deal.”
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