Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

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.

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

above: a portion of the Ocean duets in rehearsal

Creative Work, Finding Place, Travel

Back to work in the new year!

We are a few days into 2013 now, and rest assured, the company is busy once again after a break from rehearsals for two weeks. Yesterday afternoon Christina, Gerren, and I met to record our stories from Finding Place. (Thank you Chris White for your help with the recording!) While my story has already been choreographed, we have just barely started working on material for Gerren’s (and haven’t started Christina’s at all). Click here to listen to just a short portion of Gerren’s contribution to the text of the piece. As you can probably imagine, the images of those clowns are too irresistible not to work into the piece! Luckily, we’ve already found some volunteers to join our Finding Place cast:

a couple creepy clowns...

a couple creepy clowns…

So, the choreography is coming along with new dances and new stories, and good thing because we are only a month away from our First Friday perform at Artspace! We will be showing a short portion of Finding Place in Artspace’s downstairs education room on February 1 – a special preview performance ahead of the big premiere later that month in Durham. Shows will last approximately 10-15 minutes each and will take place at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm that evening. *Don’t worry, we’ll remind you again as we get closer!

Speaking of performances, we are even closer to our next tour performance of Julep; the company will be in Wilmington, NC, next Sunday, January 13 for a 3pm show in the Cultural Arts Building on the UNC-Wilmington campus. See for more info or to buy tickets in advance. If you haven’t had the chance to see this work yet, please come out! We only have one tour stop left after Wilmington (January 25 in Charlotte). Feel free to view again the video clips of Julep online to get excited for the performance. Did you know there is also a 6-person version of Julep (in addition to the trio the company performs)? I expanded the cast last year to set the work on the NCSU Dance Company, and honestly, I don’t know which version I tend to enjoy watching more! Check them both out on my personal YouTube channel and the Code f.a.d. channel.

I know this post feels a bit disjointed – must just be the craziness that is the new year – and double show prep… Our regular rehearsal schedule starts back up tomorrow morning, so you can look forward to some video clips of our new choreography up next week!

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

Creative Work, Dance, El Anatsui, Film, Finding Place, Guest Dancers, Travel

On Vacation in NYC

After a very successful premiere of Finding Place at the NC Museum of Art, it is time for a break! So the dancers and myself take from mid-July to mid-August off from regular rehearsals. A few of us actually take real vacations, while the rest find the time to catch up in their “regular” lives of 9-5 jobs, laundry, taking care of kids, going to school, etc.

I take advantage of the small bits of free time to attend the National Dance Association’s annual pedagogy conference in Norfolk, Virginia, and then go to visit a good friend (and fellow dancer) Monica in New York. (I’ll write more about the NDA conference on my personal website soon:

Most modern dancers I know love to take pilgrimages to NYC as often as we can. We take classes, see shows, and generally just enjoy feeling like New Yorkers without having the sky-high rent and being able to know when we go back home we’ll have washers and dryers in our homes. My trip was no different; I took several modern dance classes (at The Ailey School and Dance New Amsterdam), some anti-gravity yoga classes, and went to see Zarkana at Radio City (thank you Living Social deal) and (a definite highlight) Sleep No More! This was also a bit of a “work trip” in that I worked with Monica on a new film section of Finding Place, which we shot in Central Park.

Monica in Finding Place

Before I got to the city Monica sent me her story to be included in Finding Place, a bit of it is below:

The city where I grew up as a little girl was very hot and humid. We only have two seasons there: hot and rainy and hot and not so rainy. … One night when it was bedtime, we lost power. It had been a very hot and humid day and thankfully it started to rain after we lost power. My dad had a brilliant idea; he opened our apartment door so we could get some of the refreshing rainy air into the apartment, and he grabbed a mattress for my mom, my younger sister, him, and myself to lay on while the power came back. When it did, I didn’t want to go back to bed in my room, it had been very fun to lay all together, hearing the rain fall.

Obviously, it would have worked out quite well if it had been raining the day we needed to shoot our footage, but no such luck. No worries, we definitely captured the “hot and humid” feeling, and some rain noise will be added in to the video later. A tiny bit of our Central Park footage is captured below; look for the completed film to debut with the evening-length Finding Place in February 2013. (I left in the New York city noise for now. Monica’s story and some rain will overlap the movement in the final version.)

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

Creative Work, Dance, El Anatsui, Finding Place, Guest Dancers

Final Preparations & NCMA Performance

If you’ve been following the count, you know that our final rehearsal before the NCMA performance of Finding Place is also rehearsal #9. That is VERY fast to make a 15 minute work, particularly one with this many dancers (12), but nonetheless we are upon the show! This final rehearsal was spent reviewing the entire work, making sure dancers had the details correct, and practicing what the performance will be like in this informal lobby space. The audience may walk through your pathway, and there is no “offstage” I remind the dancers; even if you are not the “performer” in a particular part, people will be watching you. You cannot relax or break character. Embody our theme, mood, and community. I utilize every minute of our 3-hour rehearsal, but as we finish at 9pm on July 5, I know when we gather again in two days for the show, we will be prepared. The dancers and I are ready and confident in the art we will present.

Then, the day arrives.

The museum security guards are the first to welcome us with “you must be the dancers.” We carry in our wooden trough, half a dozen trash bags full of wine corks, and my great-grandmother’s trunk containing the coke bottles, make-shift caramel pie, and moon pies. The first item of business is to decide exactly where the trough should be in our space. The dancers mark through some movement so we can be sure how much space they will need, while making sure we leave enough space for the video projector and audience. A few minutes later we have the trunk and trough in place and full of corks; the dancers are free to finish getting into costume while I look for our technical assistant to set up audio and video. Naturally, being a museum, the installation of these two large items did not seem too out of place, and we had many patrons come over to get closer looks at the pair of cork containers. This provided more opportunity for me to talk about the company/the work and to gather audience for the shows; I was very pleased to see many of these same folks stick around the our first show (about an hour after set-up).

For such a short amount of time in process, Finding Place premiered even better than I might have hoped. We had wonderful audiences for both shows, full of dance and art-lovers of all ages (from about 5 to 80+ yrs old by my estimates). We will surely continue work on expanding this piece, with plans to show an evening-length version in late February. (Keep watch of this blog and our website for the details!) In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy show videos clips from the performance at the NC Museum of Art.

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)