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 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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Back to the Grind

Originally, I told the dancers we would resume our twice-weekly rehearsals on August 22 (when the academic year started back and we had use of our usual space at Cardinal Gibbons High School). However, looking at the calendar we have so much to prepare for in the first few weeks of the season, so I called everyone back early to rehearse on August 11. We made a plan to meet at a basketball court in the apartment complex of one of our dancers… little did any of us know (even though we asked ahead of time if we could use the space) that they would close the court for refinishing the night prior.

Problem solving time! We thought about moving into a grassy field at the same complex, but there was some thought as to how many residents walk their dogs through that same field… (you know what we’re getting at). So moving to a nice, flat surface – a community tennis court near my house. Concrete is naturally not the ideal surface for modern dance, but we took it easy on the jumping and falling – and honestly, it is nothing I have not done before. I can remember when I worked summers at Walt Disney World and would go give myself ballet class on the tennis court at Vista Way apartments – pointe shoes and all! (It is not something we hope to make a regular occurrence, but we made it work for one day.)

tennis court rehearsal photo

So what are we rehearsing for? Let’s take a look at the list:

Julep for the NC Dance Festival tour (first performance Sept 7)
sections of Indulge at SPARKcon (Sept 13)
Finding Place (with fewer cast members) at SPARKcon (Sept 14)
maybe something for the outdoor main stage at SPARKcon (Sept 15)
more Julep tour dates, with different dancers (Oct 26, Nov 2)
sections of Fashion Briefs for a show at Dance Place in Washington, D.C. (Dec 8 & 9)

A busy fall season up ahead – thus the early return to rehearsals! We will also begin work on new material soon for our own show next spring – stay tuned for details. In the meantime, come see us around Raleigh in the coming weeks.

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

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