We have been in rehearsal for the very fancy Doug Varone piece for about a month now. I intended to write more, but exhaustion and life, as I have discussed, have caught up with me.
The creative process for this piece has not been quite like any process I’ve gone through for other pieces. I feel like the “thing” is there, and my professor is just chipping away at the marble and junk that surrounds us as we move. She keeps trying to chip away at my flailing arms – they just refuse to quiet.
When I start moving, I suddenly feel like I have more than four limbs. There’s only four of them, they shouldn’t be that hard to control. Somehow I fail, though.
My professor really challenged us mentally in this piece. We came up with so much material that it was impossible to keep it straight, not only in the phrasing itself but in the order of the phrasing. We rearranged everything. I can truly call myself a thinking dancer after this.
One of her prompts was to create an “obstacle course” in the studio. She took a chair, a book, a sweater, a foam roller, some water bottles, a human sized hexagon, and some paper and laid them all out on the floor. She went through the pathway with us – it was a big loopityloop, not just a straight line – and told us to interact with the objects in some way as well as travel from one to the other. After we each came up with a set of very-not-dance-like movements that went object to object, our professor modified the movement to make it (non pedestrian) dance. Suddenly we each had an entire phrase’s worth of material to work on and edit.
Much like a story, the phrase changes draft to draft. Qualities and timing changes, extra steps are added or taken away. The material is inserted into other parts of the piece, turned, modified, sometimes to interact with the others. As I’ve said, it’s an amazing thing to be able to take nonsense and turn it into something.
Now that we have a solidified draft of the piece, it’s a little easier mentally. Now we just have the problem spots to worry about. The majority of these are partner related, as none of us are dancing in a vacuum. Everything we do affects someone else, even if we aren’t touching. It’s this sort of problem solving that makes me think I am cut out for company work and choreography in the professional world.
This piece is physically exciting to dance for this reason, though. We all have tasks as we move: get to Ben so he can lift. Get past Christine so she can make her pathway. Run and dive roll through Ben and Christine’s connected hands so that they break apart, then spring up from the floor and kick over Christine’s head. It’s challenging work.
It’s also physically exhausting. I’ve spent all summer working out. I’ve lost like eight pounds. I have been running 5k and lifting heavy weights and walking everywhere. I’ve moved apartments and hauled all of my books by myself (I have a lot of books). I thought I was in shape. And then this piece happened, and I realized that perhaps three quarters of the way through it that I was going to vomit all over both of my partners.
The first few times we ran the piece, I really did have to run out of the room and splash cold water on my forehead. I was thirsty for air, not water. I felt like my bowels needed to evacuate (I hear this happens with distance runners). Dancing this piece is much harder than any workout I’ve ever done. The intensity and ferocity of the movement cannot compare to running or lifting or yoga or hiking or kayaking.
I’ve gotten a lot better, though, so now I only feel like I’m going to die at the end of the piece, not just most of the way through it. I’ve gotten better at pacing myself, and my body has adjusted. My legs still feel tired and full of lactic acid once we’re at the final two parts, though, which makes it hard to get low to and up from the ground. When I look at Ben at the start of the final “act,” he is literally dripping sweat from his cheeks and nose, and I feel quite the same way on the inside. I can only keep going. Perhaps badly, but I do keep going.