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Work Song: Shift on the Fly 

Turns out I won’t be able to use GM after all. I think I’m going to reset for three dancers, even though it means shaking up the dynamics of the piece. 

I originally conceived it as a piece for like 8 male dancers (8 female or neutrois or whatever would work, too), then reset for two men and two women. The basic idea was to avoid traditional male-female partnering, because there’s too much cultural freight attached to it. I guess I hadn’t yet stepped away from the idea of working in even numbers, though 😛

Using two girls and one boy will make it more challenging to shake off that baggage—but, on the other hand, as an artist, I can use that.

All this is good. It’s forcing me to get out of my own head and take risks I might not otherwise have taken. I’m not always great at rolling with the changes, but, honestly that’s part of working in dance. 

I’m also trying hard not to cling to my own ideas about how audiences are likely to understand things.  If anything, though, I can use those expectations; if I reset the opening to work within them, then use the part to step out of them, that would work, too.

I need to remember that part of art is going where you’re led, even when you don’t want to.

Truth be told, it’s a little funny that I’ve gotten so hung up in this. The long ballet I’m working on, Simon Crane, is arranged in such a way that both the principal roles (Simon Crane and The Naturalist) could conceivably be played by dancers of whatever gender you’ve got on hand. 

On the other hand, Simon Crane is a love story (albeit a strange and complicated one, but is there any other kind in ballet?) whereas “Work Song” is basically the antithesis of that: it’s not about any kind of romantic entanglement, period.

I’ll work with AM and AS on communicating the intent of the piece as clearly as I can. In the long run, one of the best (and most dangerous) things about art is that as soon as you put it out into the world, you no longer get to control what it means. 

The audience that watches this piece, ultimately, will take away whatever meaning they see, and that’s okay. 

I’m beginning to realize that that’s one of the hardest things for me, as an artist. Once I create a thing and it’s out in the world, I can no longer control what happens to it. That feels scary, but I’m glad that I’ve figured out that’s what I’m feeling. 

Honestly, though, more than anything I’m immensely excited about being given this chance to show my work to the world both as a choreographer and as a dancer.

Also, the fewer people in the cast, the easier scheduling becomes 😀  

So there’s that. 

Work Song: Adjustments 

So, I’m writing this at 3 AM, but scheduling it for Actual Morning. 

We’ve had a late casting change for Work Song. My other boy wound up with a bounty of work projects, and he’s swamped. I’m fine with that; in the gig economy that feeds so many artists, you have to strike while the iron is hot. I love his work, so I’m excited about seeing more of it down the line, even though it means losing him for this piece. 

Last night I asked GM, a fellow aerialist, if he’d like to try jumping in. His formal training in dance is pretty minimal, but he’s a very good mover. I think he’ll be able to roll with it. AM, AS, and I will be able to coach him on technique.

Interestingly, bringing in a less-experienced dancer has helped me to streamline my choreography a bit. I had about five different ideas for the third phrase, and only one of them is something I’d feel confident handing to someone with limited dance vocabulary.

It’s good to work with limitations. They make decision-making easier and help to shape the finished work. Just as the stone tells the sculptor what figure lies within, sometimes the dancers shape the vision of the choreographer. 

We should be able to start rehearsing next week or the first week of January.

 Ultimately, this piece is only about 3.5 minutes long. The rehearsal process will be less about learning the choreography, which shouldn’t be too hard, and more about making it really sing. There’s a lot of partnering in this piece, though it’s largely not of the classical-ballet bent. GM takes acro with me, so I suspect he can handle it. Timing and musicality are the open questions, one everyone learns the choreography. 

I guess, really, this is my first professional project as a choreographer-director. I’m learning on the fly how to cast dancers, schedule rehearsals, teach choreography to four busy performers with very different backgrounds, make costuming decisions, and so on and so forth.

Having done it once,  I feel like doing it again won’t be so difficult. The biggest ongoing challenge will be finding rehearsal spaces on a budget of $Zip.ZilchNada. The nice part in this case  is that rehearsal space is built in. I teach with AS, and this performance is part of the Instructors’ Showcase, so we will be rehearsing at the studio.

Finding dancers isn’t incredibly difficult. I’ve managed to connect with a decent handful of adult ballet students who want to perform, including a fairly advanced core group. My aerials family is made up mostly of very game performers, a few of whom have reasonable dance training.

I might have to learn how to do fundraising stuff. The internets should make that easier.

I’m pretty excited about all of this. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is the cat-herding involved in scheduling rehearsals 😛 

That might not be as bad as it could be, though, because we’re all attached to the aerials studio, and we all spend a lot of time there. 

More to come. It’s weird how far 2016 (the Year of the Dumpster Fire) has taken me as a dancer. No matter what I’ve said, one year ago I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be staging a piece (for four dancers!) with so much confidence.

Gives me something to look forward to in 2017 (which, hilariously, is the Year of the Cock).

Finally, A Thing 

So DanceTeam is going well (though I am still convinced that at any moment our dancers are going to realize that I have no idea what I’m doing and revolt/go rogue/possibly eat me). 

Ballet and modern were less than awesome last week, but the Pilobolus workshop made up for a lot of that, especially the part when one of the instructors tracked me down afterwards and told me I was a beautiful mover with a lot of presence. Definitely one of those “I can die happy now”  moments.

Likewise, today’s Open Fly, during which I started formally building a dance to Hozier’s “Work Song” that’s actually going to happen (Finally!), felt like a leap forward.
Including myself, I have four dancers lined up. Aerial A, who went to the Pilobolus workshop with me, is also in, as are my DanceTeam partner-in-crime and a fellow I know from acro (upon whose very high shoulders I have literally stood). We’ve got a tentative performance date early next year (the performance is a definite; it’s just the date that’s undecided). Aerial A happened along while I was working on choreography this afternoon and we stepped through the first 41 seconds of the dance — at least, as much as we could, since there’s some partnering stuff that requires our compatriots.

Aerial A likes what I’ve got, and I think it’s going to really work.

Needless to say, the explosion of dance stuff in my life is both exciting and a bit overwhelming. I’m still in that phase during which you just kind of white-knuckle it whilst you adjust to your new schedule. Hence less posting. I’m somehow managing to scrape paint off the trim in the midst of all this, also, because miracles evidently do occur. 

This week, we’ve got a dance event on Monday evening (a sort of “live interview” with Wendy Whelan), then I think a “normal” schedule again — wait, no, DanceTeam performs on Friday! 

Anyway, here’s hoping that in class this week I won’t do dumb things like choosing too shallow a line in a bidirectional combination and almost colliding with someone in the next group.

Intensive plans for next summer are also in the works. Aerial A and I are hoping to hit at least one of Pilobolus’ week-long workshops. In addition, I’ll probably go to Cinci and Lexington again. There’s a remote chance of doing Sun King if our finances are okay, but in the current economic climate it’s really hard to predict.

No worries there, though. If I don’t get to go til 2018, I’ll be even better prepared than I will next year.

There are also a few audition-y things on the radar, but let’s file those under, “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent.” At least for now.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Still percolating other choreo projects, especially Simon Crane — but one of them is finally taking off. 

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