I am amazed at how Ruthie, Amanda, Michael, and their other collaborators have been able to reconstruct “Party Mix.” Thankfully there are multiple videos, each one providing a different detail for the work. The Hunter College video is a clear close up image, however the speed is incorrect and there is no music. The video from Lake Placid provides the movement to the music (mostly) and larger spatial patterns. While I watch these videos I do my best to track the individual dancers, to keep up with who is doing what, but once we get past the portion we know, I have no idea who is doing what. I’m sure once I spend more time with the videos I will have an easier time distinguishing among the dancers. I have already noticed that I have a better understanding of the decisions Paul Taylor made for “Party Mix” after seeing the Taylor Company perform last week in Fairfield, CT. We were fortunate to be able to see them perform, and two of the works we saw were Taylor’s choreography from the 80s and 90s. So while these works were significantly later than “Party Mix,” there were at least a few common themes that I noticed. So far in “Party Mix” and what I have seen in the rest of the video, Taylor will have one dancer or a group of dancers holding positions in the space, whereas a couple or one dancer will utilize the rest of the stage and engage in movement in relation to those groups. I saw this in both pieces we saw during the show, but particularly “Roses.” While not a feature of choreography unique to Paul Taylor, it was fascinating to see how he chose to use the additional dancer to create a scene for the more active dancers to inhabit. I am thinking of “Roses” in particular as the second part of the piece began, the dancers that started the piece moved towards the back of the stage and remained with their backs facing us while a duet was performed in the foreground. Seeing the low line of dancers in the back, totally changed my perception of the dancers’ lines in the downstage portion. In “Party Mix,” Taylor uses the other dancers as backdrops to help move the audience’s eye around the space and remember that the piece is about a party scene. I am thinking of particular when a group travels from stage left to stage right, while Carolyn and Paul are performing large jumps in the middle of the stage. The group travels behind Carolyn and Paul as their jumps travel them towards stage right. The group provides and interesting change of pace and draws a contrast to the height of the jumps with their low hip swivels and shifts. I suppose then in both pieces the dancers upstage of those in the foreground are providing a contrasting level to highlight/enhance the shapes and lines that Taylor has created with the downstage dancers. I am interested to learn more “Party Mix” to see additional themes that are present in Taylor choreography and style of movement.
To be honest, the first thing I think of when someone says ‘transcription’ I think of RNA being created in the cell. At first I tried to get myself to stop thinking about that, to focus on the prompt we were given and not worry about the RNA polymerase moving down a strand of DNA. I was listening to Jay-Z trying to stop when he did and continue when he decided not to take a breath. No matter how many times I listened to that song, even after learning the words, I still felt like I couldn’t capture the texture of his voice. However, when I allowed myself to think and behave like an RNA polymerase with the voice of Jay-Z or Coltrane’s horn as the DNA, I was better able to see my role in the transcription.
My job was to generate movement that was mapped out by the specific part of the song, but I didn’t have to replicate it – not exactly anyway. I was to use the song as a template, creating a complement to the section I was focusing. When generating a complement, I am following the path presented by Buju Banton, stoping when I encounter a pause (or for the RNA polymerase – a break in the strand waiting for it to be fixed before continuing) or falling off when I reach the end. A key component though is that I am not producing an exact copy of the strand; I am incorporating my own bases/movement suggested by the template. From my transcription, the phrase that I create can be used to recreate the original template. This is exactly what Amanda and Courtney have been trying to get us to understand/do. They have asked us to perform and observe phrases to “Giant Steps” without the music being played to see if we can hear the horn in the movement of the dancers alone. Our movement should produce the timing and texture of Coltrane’s horn, while staying true to our personal movement style. Each time we have worked on this, I have seen and felt improvement from everyone and can hear Coltrane’s horn as we move together. I look forward to our continued work on transpiration and seeing how we capture the essence of RNA polymerases.
Saar loves to tell us to ‘be cool,’ but before that happens I’m going to need somebody to teach me how to do that. I have firmly accepted the fact that I am not ‘cool’ nor ever will be ‘cool’ in the calm and collected sense (or any sense really but that is not being asked of me in this instance). How am I supposed to be calm, cool and collected when my hands are dripping with sweat as I roll less feet away from a work of art that 3 people warned my of its fragility? The part I most related to is in ‘cows’ when we trip over ourselves and then look behind us to see what we tripped over (a daily occurrence for me). I tear up in my classes when I become overwhelmed with joy, fascination, and awe as we discuss a major discovery in the field of discussion; I definitely do not possess a calm response mechanism. All I can do in between now and our performance is watch Saar and my fellow dancers in order to get as many tips on how to ‘be cool.’ From what I have observed it’s a matter of remaining loose and receptive. Whenever I am in the midst of a very ‘uncool’ moment like when I ended up horizontal on the corner of York and Elm, my body tenses up. While I laid on that sidewalk, I could barely respond to Holly as she attempted to pick me up off the sidewalk, due to laughter and full body contraction. So maybe in this example if I were ‘being cool’ I one probably wouldn’t have fallen, but two could have responded to Holly and the fellow observers. So maybe ‘cool’ is more a state of peak availability. It is the mode in which we can do the most research and receive the most information. This definition of cool is not as alienating for me and seems more along the lines of what Saar intends. However, I still need to work on being cool if that is the definition and will continue to observe the other members of YDT. If any one has any tips on how to be cool, in either the availability or calm and collected sense, please let me know.
Yvonne Rainer after watching a portion of our rehearsal was fascinated with the clump section, specifically a group of people doing movement in synchronization. I tend to avoid synchronization when I choreograph dances because I don’t want to accidentally fall in the trap of it occurring at all times, and I don’t find my movement/arrangement of dancers to make those moments interesting. However reflecting on this section and ‘cows’ I find that synchronization provides the dancer, or at least me as a dancer, with a substantial amount of power. Nothing feels better to me than nailing a group unison section, the energy that I am able to pull from those moments can help carry me through the rest of a piece. During the clump section I feel a buzzing energy of anticipation and preparedness as each dancer waits for the cue for the next movement sequence. I feel a strong sense of community and collective energy during unison moments. I am now beginning to have a fascination with unison and it’s impact on the dancer and what aspect of that the audience is able/should feel.
It’s taken me a long time to find the words that could describe my thoughts on this project, and I still don’t think I’ve found them, not all of them anyway, but I’ll try. It is common knowledge, at least after our wrap up session, that I am a nervous talker. I begin speaking in public and I just won’t stop because I think I can fix the tragedy that is occurring, but I never can. I have little to no confidence in my speaking ability and find that my articulation is usually subpar, thus I dance. Movement has allowed me to express my thoughts without having to utter or write a word. Then Matthew Rushing walked into my life. I was asked to write, something personal about beauty, identity, inheritance. Could I submit a movement video instead? After weeks and weeks of avoidance I wrote a little piece and sent it in. It felt good, I accomplished something outside of my comfort zone. But then I was asked to speak in the performance. I was given the most articulate, powerful, beautiful poem and I was supposed to share those words with the audience. Movement was no longer my only tool of communication and I was terrified.
My voice was quiet, robotic, and unable to communicate the spirit of the poem while we were rehearsing on the stage. I feared that I would be unable to share Karlanna’s messgae hours before the first performance. Renee took me in her arms and repeated in my ear “I know this is vulnerable.” It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that the vulnerability was holding me back. I needed to just tell the story to one person as Renee said and not try and perform it, I needed to open myself up. Karlanna’s words did not need any flourishing or additives because of their power, but in order for them to be presented in a just manner I needed to let them pour into me until they began to overflow into space. I felt like a little bit of a cheater because I wasn’t having to read my own thoughts and message, it wasn’t as if I were Hannah, Luna, Natalie, or Holly reading my words, my personal story. Their graceful vulnerability was such a joy to observe because of the ease they seemed to possess. But I was afraid of disappointing Karlanna, afraid that I would misrepresent her message and butcher her original intent. So I attempted to remove myself from the poem, to a degree, to try and keep Karlanna’s message the focus. Thus I had to try again and again to remove that wall and let myself fully embrace the message and become vulnerable with Renee’s and the dancers’ support. However the real support came from knowing Matthew trusted me with this poem, and if he believed in me that I could do this well, then I believed I could as well. So thank you to Matthew for giving me the confidence to overcome my fear of speaking on stage and thank you to Renee for helping me begin to overcome my fear of vulnerability.
Matthew Rushing’s presence has sparked conversations of beauty, pain, suffering, and community. For the first semester of rehearsals there was not one Saturday I did not tear up. The studio, bodies, voices, and energy of the dancers and creators around me was so overwhelming because of the beauty that surrounded me. Beauty to me, after our conversations, is when a void in your heart, mind, and/or spirit is filled.
Each rehearsal was beautiful; a void in my spirit was filled that I didn’t even know needed filling. At the first rehearsal Matthew Rushing told us he was honored to be working with us and then fellow dancers began to sing with their gorgeous sound bouncing off the walls of the studio. Suddenly the tears came, and I couldn’t hold them back. It seemed as if my entire dance career thus far had all been building up to this moment, something I did not realize until cheeks were wet. With more rehearsals came more tears; the songs, movement, seeing my fellow dancers’ tremendous performances were all creating a large ball of energy that sustained me throughout the week until our next rehearsal.
Now we have returned from the long break, the phrases we have learned are about to be formed into a dance. Renee has been preparing our bodies to be able to harness the energy of the room and project it out to the audience. Matthew and Renee have been beautiful for me. They have filled my spirit with sustaining energy. Their intentions and instructions have made me a better dancer, but more importantly a more aware human being. I am conscious of my body in the space in relation to those around me and of the energy I am releasing into my surroundings that is ultimately picked up by my peers. I imagine BRL is radiating such an intense energy during our rehearsals that the city, for at least two hours, is also able to feel a similar type of beauty that I am able to witness. I’m looking forward to seeing what an incredible and powerful piece will be produced in April, and what energy we as performers will be able to send out to the audience.