My Photo
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am a dancer with Minneapolis based James Sewell Ballet, a small, contemporary ballet company. I also choreograph independently.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Spring Season

We just finished our spring season here in Minneapolis and as usual after a good run I am empty and full at the same time. I will miss the ballet “Serenade” in particular (refer to previous blog: Serenade and a Solo), the perfect companion piece to “Awedville”, James and Sally’s collaborative, character-based prop-monster of a touching piece.

In “Serenade” I have a solo that settles on my heart a little more with each performance. In dancing it I somehow feel as though I’m conquering hang-ups I’ve long cultivated as a dancer. It’s no secret that I struggle with classical ballet and yet I am fairly adept at double pirouettes, have decent feet and a solid pointe technique. I nevertheless clam up at the thought of me, en pointe, doing anything by myself. It was with this frame of mind that I entered into the creative process with James. He began by having me improvise to different sections of the music, Schoenberg’s Serenade, Op. 24. This was sort of like torture: me feeling like I was doing the same old thing, falling into the same old movement patterns, my feet killing me. But on the day we actually started crafting James had settled on a piece of music and I could open my heart. I loved it from the start and the way the piece begins, me building up to standing on one leg, progressively lengthening and unfolding my limbs and finally turning my head, is musically and choreographically perfect. That opening passage is a movement haiku.

Why do I love it so much? It is quirky without falling into cloying or cuteness. The quirks become character and I feel more creature than human…so that when a human gesture finally arrives, me pushing down my arm and looking straight out into the audience, it is extra potent for the lack of it prior. There are a lot of looks straight out into the audience. This was fun for me to play with, to dare myself to do with frank straightforwardness. The creature image came in handy here; I was looking out not as myself but as this other being.

The solo is long enough, four minutes or so, that when inevitable imperfections occur I can make up for them later; I can redeem myself. This is rare. In a classical context one is given a minute-long variation and if it doesn’t go perfectly the audience and performer are left with a less-than-satisfied taste in their mouths. Not so with this neo-classical solo. James told me to play with it, to explore timing and execution. And so I felt free, nervous, but free. I felt the sort of nervous that is perfect: just enough to get my adrenaline pumping but not enough to debilitate. I looked forward, with butterflies in my stomach, to dancing it. What a gift.

In “Awedville” I play a sad little clown that wants to be a ballerina. I enter in a fat suit, am made fun of and tortured, ending with the revealing of my little yellow tutu with pom-pom balls on it. This could not be cuter or sadder. I love this character. I also love the collective end of the ballet. We have all stripped away our costumes and thus our “character flaws”, and strive together toward a bare neutral where we can feel safe to do nothing but be ourselves, all together. We revise individual movement motifs and then begin to dance in unison as the music swells, tipping our invisible hats to the grand idea that is “Show Business” and all that it represents. We whirl individually, boureeing in circles as we listen to the secrets the universe has to tell, our hands cupped around our ears, raptly listening. One by one we pile onto one another in an image reminiscent of Matisse paintings: flesh bodies against a blue backdrop, intertwined and innocently sensual. The curtain slowly closes as the Bernstein score still, unbelievably, continues.


Post a Comment

<< Home