About Us, Board

A Day in the Life of a Code f.a.d. Board Member: English Sall

My day begins similarly to most people, luckily right now most of my day doesn’t start until 10:30 so I get to sleep in a bit.

English Sall with her dog.

English Sall with her dog.

9am- Wake up to my dog Dyson licking my face, or trying to push me off the bed.

9:15- Need coffee now.

9:30- Coffee brewing, pop tarts poptarting

10am- shower, get pretty

10:20- This Tuesday especially picking out an outfit was somewhat stressful. It was my first day of Graduate School so I wanted to look it. How does one look relaxed, intellectual, friendly and chic, all with one pair of jeans and a blouse? I changed into dress.

11am- before heading to class I break out the GRE flash cards and attempt to memorize meanings of words like Acclivity and Askance. Using them in a sentence sometimes helps ie: “Studying for the GRE is like climbing the acclivity of Mt. Mitchell” or “When I tell people my name is English many tilt their head and glare with askance”.

12:30- After painstakingly studying flashcards for an hour or so its time for me to head to class.

1pm- After walking from one end of NCSU to another into a non air-conditioned classroom, instead of exuding relaxed intellectual bad-assness my outfit now just exudes sweat and possibly BO. Lovely.

1:20-My professor walks in and as we wait on our last few classmates to join us he begins talking about projects he has done with Wake co. Sheriffs dept. and Lehman brothers. He told the best story about how he was on the phone with someone at Lehman Bros. the day the market crashed. I continue to fall more in love with my chosen PhD program IO Psychology throughout the next 1.5 hours of class.

3:00- We get let out early and I walk home.

3:30- Home at last. Time for a snack of Perogies filled with cheese and mashed potatoes? I think so!

4pm- The rest of the afternoon consists of me returning emails, studying for the GRE and doing homework (which is mostly readings).

7:30- On Tuesdays my husband Will has a really late class at UNC so this is the one night a week I am tasked with making dinner (because anyone who knows us knows that he is the cook in our family and I am not. The oven for me is a place to dry socks and gloves once one comes in from the snow). However, Tuesday is my day to try and make a delicious dinner for the both of us.

7:45- Realizing I should have probably started cooking a little while ago, didn’t realize the process of thawing something takes 985 days.

8:00- Lima beans catch fire; put fire out with a beer. Incidentally discovered a great new ingredient to add to lima beans.

8:30- Hubby is on his way home!

9pm- Dinner of chicken, rice, and beer soaked lima beans is served.

9:45- After dinner walk with the dog.

10pm- My husband and I watch a new episode of The Mentalist, making bets on who Red John really is.

11pm- Ready for bed, laying down with a good book (Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahmenan, I highly recommend it) and dozing off to sleep.

-English

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Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 5

OceanIt is show week! We premiere portions of dances with Dear Nature tonight at Artspace. (We premiere the entire piece on September 18.)

Rehearsal this week was all about the details: see the dancers in their costumes, practice all the choreography and find any details that need “fixing.” A lot of choreographers and dancers talk about “cleaning” a piece prior to performance, and we do want everything to look precisely how it should, but I really do my best to handle this cleaning as we learn material so incorrect placements or motions do not get stuck into the dancers’ “muscle memory.” So there was not a ton of cleaning to do, just reviewing everything – especially those transition points between sections, those were a bit more shaky in everyone’s bodies.

Also this week I needed to decide which portions of the work we would show on Friday. It sounds like a fairly easy decision, though, it comes harder than you might think. Once the entire work is complete, it can be tough to look at only part of it and have that part feel like a complete work. Naturally there are sections I feel are stronger than others; however, so I started looking at those sections to choose what would be best for our short shows this week.

Other factors came into play, too, in this decision. Because we are performing during First Friday, when hundreds of people will be checking out the artwork in Artspace, I know the gallery will be a bit loud, and you may have people just wandering in and out to see part of each show. The opening section of the work, “Ocean,” I believe is very strong and striking, but I also believe you need a captive audience, sitting comfortably in a quiet space to really tune in to this part of the work. Not having those conditions, that piece will have to wait until the full premiere on September 18.

We still have some great portions to be performed this evening, though! Audience members can expect to see two great trios (one to part of Julia Price’s Sun Kiss and one to Proxy’s The War), as well as a dance to one of Jessica Temple’s poems (2508 Circle Drive). Come check out one of the shows: 7pm, 8pm and 9pm in Gallery 2, Artspace, 201 E Davie St, Raleigh. See you tonight!

-Autumn
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

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Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 4

I was so excited to talk about our great company technique class in my last post, I didn’t even mention that we still got some great new work done on dances with Dear Nature in the weekend rehearsal. All the dancers learned the movement material that will accompany another of Jessica Temple’s poems (Gregarious), and the class phrases will be used in a solo for Christina during Sun Kiss. (We also reviewed “Ocean” and “Phrase in 3′s.”

So, on to Week 4! This week was mostly about filling in the missing pieces or details of the work. Once I pieced together Christina’s solo from phrase-work she already knew and gave our Gregarious material its spacing, the dancers knew almost the entire piece. What was missing were all the transitions and having the dancers really understand the flow and scope of the work. They knew all the parts but did not know how they fit together (mostly because I did not know how they fit together until this week as well).

We review all the material as I start to give the dancers the order and deal with the details of getting dancers on and off “stage” – knowing we are working in a space with no wings or “backstage.” The dancers are essentially onstage even when I take them out of the performance space, so that needed to be dealt with, as well. These are somewhat the “boring” details of the dance-making process, but once complete, we are able to see the whole work very close to performance-ready, and that is exciting!

This week I also started the costuming process. While I’ve had ideas about costuming since before even starting rehearsals with the dancers, those original ideas have changed a bit (necessitated by the movement vocabulary), and until this week, I had not tried out any costume ideas of the dancers. So we test out a few dresses, a few skirts, and some crinolines and tutus. What have I decided on? Well, you’ll just have to wait until the premiere next week to see!

-Autumn
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

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 above: rehearsal photos with “stand-in” costumes

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About Us, Creative Work, Dance, Dancers, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 3 (part 2)

Open company technique class, August 24.

Open company technique class, August 24.

I’m adding in a second post for Week 3 (following our weekend rehearsal) mainly because of the wonderful company technique class we had on Saturday. This is the first season we have been able to open some of our company classes to community dancers, and so far the response has been great! We had eight dancers join our company and apprentice dancers on Saturday morning, which is probably the perfect number so our space doesn’t get too crowded yet we have lots of extra dancer-energy jumping around.

I certainly love teaching class, so much that sometimes I wonder if I should keep choreographing? Wouldn’t life be easier if I just concentrated on teaching? The answer is surely yes, but I know I miss creating new art when I’m not. (That hasn’t happened very often lately, but I do still know that!) Besides that, a huge element of being a choreographer is also being a teacher – at least in small companies without rehearsal directors or dance captains, etc. It is my responsibility to teach each dancer to perform the material the way I envision, even if that changes slightly based on the nuances of that individual dancer.

Over the past five seasons with Code f.a.d., I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of the same dancers for all those 5+ years. I’ve had the joy of teaching technique class and teaching my choreography to these dancers for so long that it feels easy now. (Well, relatively easy.) While the dancers have kept their own individual performance styles, we have all merged into a collective vision – a unified style of movement. This is the only reason why it is possible to create dances with Dear Nature over such a short amount of time. These dancers are wonderfully dedicated (in addition to being talented), and have absorbed anything I’ve taught them over the years. (It is also worth mentioning one of our cast members in this work is a much newer company member, only in her 3rd year with Code f.a.d. while the rest are in their 6th. Kristina is learning quickly!)

So, thank you dancers! Thank you company dancers for dancing with me for so long, and thank you company class attendees for bringing your energy into the mix. I look forward to seeing you (and maybe a few new faces) at our next class on September 7.

-Autumn
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

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Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 3 (part 1)

Week 3 (as crazy as it seems) marks the halfway point to our first performance of dances with Dear Nature. What a quick process! We’ve made great progress so far, but I’m also starting to panic a little during this week – wondering how we’ll have time to finish everything before the shows. I am smart enough to realize, though, that panicking will not help my efforts, so nothing to do but get to work.

We begin our mid-week, evening rehearsal with a couple runs of “Ocean,” and I can tell Natalee and Brooks have practiced their roles outside of rehearsal. It is a definite perk that those two are roommates! They able to get together easily to at least think through new material, and you can just tell they know each other well and so make for great duet partners. This section of the dance looks pretty ready for performance already – minus a few “forgotten parts” that we promptly review.

And it is on to new material! Today’s focus is to learn another trio that will fit into the last portion of Julia Price’s Sun Kiss. The “Phrase in 3′s” already had some falling or collapsing into the floor is its movement vocabulary and “Ocean” added to that theme of grounding into the earth with much of its opening material. So, this led me to explore keeping the dancers absorbed in this lower level – in this case by having the dancers laying down for almost the entire section of dance.

Laying Trio 3This is a very pieced-together section, rather than a phrased section. That means instead of teaching everyone a dance phrase to then manipulate into a trio, I’m working with one dancer at a time, giving them their choreography one movement at a time. And nothing is “counted” to the music in this section! Each dancer learns a bit, then I look at all three performing together to tweak timing or orders of movements to insure the dancers are not completely running (well, rolling) into each other. (Remember we are working in a small space; this section takes place on our 6′ x 10′ section of floor.)

Eventually we make it through the trio, but it has taken up most of our rehearsal time this night. We’ll have to save reviewing our other sections for the weekend rehearsal. Until then…

-Autumn
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

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Dear Nature: Week 2

We begin week two of this process with three new dancers! On August 10, the company held auditions for this season, and invited Krystal Lynch, Anna M. Maynard, and MacKenzie Buice to join Code f.a.d. as apprentice dancers. So this means they are coming to all our rehearsals and learning parts in the new piece as it is being created. This is a great learning opportunity for them, of course, but it also means I see the choreography on more dancers, each with their own nuances, which can only help me to really focus in on what the core of the movement is about.

This week we spend our time first refining the “Gesture Phrase” and adding a bit of material to finish off this section of the piece. Then moved on to a new movement section I’m calling “Ocean.” This section is another duet, and I already had in my mind that Natalee and Brooks would be the ideal two dancers to perform this part. (I also have the other dancers learn the roles, though; Krystal and Anna working as one pair and Kristina and MacKenzie as another.)

“Ocean” is a combination of slow, meditative movement to a soundtrack of ocean waves crashing into the shore and more fast-paced material with a slight humorous edge, performed to Jessica Temple’s poem Beach in Winter.

Right away this section feels like the way to open the the entire dance. I tend to enjoy starting off my works slowly, to really encourage the audience to settle in and delve into our world. You won’t see dancers doing huge leaps across the stage at the start of one of my dances (not usually, anyway – but never say never). I feel an emotional attachment to this section of the dance, and I’m definitely hoping the audience will, too.

Maybe it is the sound of the ocean, maybe it is the sentimental value of the beach (particularly in winter) to me and my life. (John and I were, afterall, married in winter at the NC coast, and we continue to return most every New Year’s.) It will take more watching to see if the movement will hold up to those without this same attachment to the setting, but for now, it seems right.

-Autumn
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

above: a portion of the Ocean duets in rehearsal

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Dear Nature: Week 1

The beginnings of a dance are easy, exciting, invigorating, exhausting, and difficult. I know those things may not seem to coexist, but believe me, in creative work, they certainly do. As I begin any new dance work, I am flooded with ideas – about the movement, the stage, the costumes, the props, the film, the music, the dancers – really everything. The tough part is focusing those ideas and really getting to work! It’s fun to sit around and think about what a dance might be, but it is another thing to get to the real business of making everything fit together into a coherent piece of art.

But, it is that time to work. Before heading into my first rehearsal with the dancers several things happened:

Sound:
I connected with a new composer for our company (Julia Price) and selected one of her compositions for use in our dance (Sun Kiss).
I was inspired by several poems by my long-time friend (Jessica Temple) and asked her to record them for us (sound clips coming soon!).

Props/Stage:
I ordered (and received) foam flooring to use in our show – both for color and to protect us from any uneven areas in the Artspace floor.

Costumes:
No sewing has started on the costume-front, but I have colors (yellow, blue, green) and textures (voluminous, fluffy ruffles) in mind at this point.

Movement:
Movement is always the tough part – to start finding your vocabulary for the dance. A few things came right away, but mainly the movement was slowly draw out of my body, through hours spent just moving (improvising) in my small home studio. I did have two solid phrases going into the first rehearsal, which is quite a lot of dance to have so early (but we do not have a lot of time before this show, thus the hurry). I’m calling the first our “16-count Gesture Phrase” and the second our “Phrase in 3′s.” I also had an idea to play around with to have the dancers help generate a bit of movement if we had some extra time in that first rehearsal.

Time for dancers to join the process!

Phrase in #'sThese first few rehearsals are all about throwing the material at the dancers: seeing what works and what doesn’t, seeing who thrives with which phrases, and not worrying too much about the details at this point. I taught the “Gesture Phrase” first, then started putting this phrase into a spatial plan (formations, transitions and levels/dynamic changes). Knowing we only have a short amount of time, as soon as I feel the dancers have this in their bodies, we move on to the “Phrase in 3′s.” This movement is learned all together, then is put into a duet, with timing and spatial changes for the downstage dancer.

I watch Natalee and Kristina perform the duet and am struck by how different they are as dancers. In my mind, I envisioned the duet as two facets of the same personality but what I am seeing is two completely different people having a similar life experience. They are in two different places, having different responses to the same situation. Perhaps this is what the piece is about: seeing how different people live in an environment. When do they approach a problem the same? When do they look completely separate? When do they help each other?

I think these are good questions to ponder as I continue to process.

-Autumn
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

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The Creative Process Begins

After having such a great experience creating Finding Place in response to the artwork of El Anatsui (then seen at the NC Museum of Art), I decided to embark on a similar experience this season of creating dance inspired by visual artwork. This time we will be performing in the gallery with the exhibition, so I’m very excited to be involved in a project where the audience is truly surrounded by the inspiration.

I met with Artspace to discuss the possibilities, and we settled on an early fall exhibition titled Dear Nature, with art from Natalie Abrams, Cynthia Camlin, & Mi-Sook Hur. We will perform at September’s First Friday gallery opening (Sept 6) then another, longer performance with an artist Q&A on September 18. These dates are fast approaching, so that means it is time to get to work!

I actually began processing ideas for this new work a couple months ago, but now as we begin rehearsals with the dancers this week I am opening up my process to you through this blog. This is your inside peek at my choreographic process and how a Code f.a.d. Company show comes together. Twice a week I’ll update you with my ideas for the dance, costumes, music, text, and props, and I’ll let you know what we are up to in rehearsals with photos and video clips. Don’t worry, though, there will still be plenty of surprises for you when you come to see the final product!

As I am sharing my thoughts about this new dance work, I also encourage you to share your thoughts and ask any questions you may have along the way. I love to discuss dance and my creative work, so let’s engage in a discussion. Thank you for joining (or at least following) me in this journey, and I look forward to what this blogging process will add to my process and can only imagine it will allow me to delve even deeper into my creative world.

-Autumn
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

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About Us, Dancers

A Day in the Life of a Code f.a.d. Dancer: Kelley Murphy

Kelley (and Jill) in "Finding Place"

Kelley (and Jill) in “Finding Place”

Editor’s note: Kelley showed up at the very first Code f.a.d. Company audition (back in the summer of 2008), and she’s been dancing with us ever since! See her perform next with the company at NC Dances: Sunday, April 28 at Cary Academy (free show at 7pm).

A day in my life would usually be pretty busy and full of constant activity! First of all, I wake up early to get my 7 year old son ready for 1st grade. Getting him dressed, fed and teeth brushed. Backpack in hand; we walk to the bus stop. Once on the bus, I walk home to get myself ready for my day.

I work during the day as a newborn photographer for a local hospital. We do in-room photo shoots of the artistic/creative type instead of old-school baby mugshots. I put on my work uniform, which consists of all black: pants, shirt, shoes and jacket. Glad to not have to think about what to wear… I grab all of my gear, double checking everything is charged up and ready to go. I am loaded down with my camera bag, flash, extra batteries, battery charger, laptop and cords. Not to mention a bottle of water and breakfast on the go!

the kids on a rare snowy day

the kids on a rare snowy day

I normally photograph around four precious newborn babies a day. After they’ve been photographed and edited, I give the parents a tear-jerking slideshow of their beautiful new baby. From here, I am usually rushing home to make sure I am in time to pick up my son from the bus stop. Once home, I am greeted by my other child, who is 16, and they both inform me that they are dying of starvation. Midday snack time!

After getting them fed and settled, we start on homework. It is already after 4pm and I have to be at my second job at 5. The teenager gets to help with the homework so I can change and get ready to teach dance for the next 3 hours. I teach modern, jazz and hip hop. I arrive home at 8pm, once again to starving kids. I cook dinner, get them showered and ready for bed. Sometimes I have some “me time,” but usually I am too tired to do anything but go to sleep myself. I always look forward to the days I have rehearsal with the company so I can get out by myself and do what I love… dancing!

-Kelley

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Creative Work, Dance, Fashion Briefs, Film, Travel

A look back at Fashion Briefs

While the majority of the company’s time is spent preparing for our next big show, Finding Place, I decided to take a break to think back to our last big show – Fashion Briefs. (Also, I just sometimes need a break from the creative process to remind myself that even though I may feel blocked at the moment, this happens with every new work and eventually the work will get finished and will premiere!) We have recently received some wonderful photos (by Siobhan Hanna Photography) from our Fashion Briefs performance in Washington, D.C., and so I’m taking this FAD Friday to share some of my favorites. *I especially love how some of the McQueen images capture the ghostly images of the late designer in the background!

-Autumn
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

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