It was a magical weekend full of dance and rain clouds as I returned to Seattle this last weekend. I did a master class, went to an audition, and went to two shows.
Facebook told me about CHOP SHOP, a festival held by the Seattle’s Stone Dance Collective at the Maydenbauer Center in Bellevue. It was a gorgeous facility with a huge stage. My friend and I took a master class from Laura Edson of LED, a Boise company created after the Trey Macintyre Project disbanded last year. Edson herself is a Julliard graduate and a former Hubbard dancer.
We took class on the stage, which was large and gorgeous and really hot because the stage lights were on. There were a lot of young-ish dancers there, maybe around 13-17, who seemed to go to one of those serious dance schools I never went to, as well as some people my age and some of Edson’s people. The stage was entirely full and I know that the class was at its registration limit. I kept Tracy Durbin’s push the front advice in the back of my mind. I was up there because I wanted to see – I have no idea how the people in the back saw anything – but I was quite self conscious of the fact that I was always standing up front. My bright shirt and hair are very distinguishable, and maybe I should have given some of the younger girls a chance to see? But everyone really shrank upstage, and I had driven six hours. So I stayed up front.
Edson was chipper and eager and started us off on the floor in an improvisational warm up. We moved around before doing the standard walking/running through the empty spaces, and then she grouped us up into a circle. We walked around in the circle and were able to go into the center at various levels and exit when we felt like it.
She taught a few quick warm up phrases that focused on the weight of the pelvis and arms, and her final combination had a similar feel. It was all very modern-contemporary. You wanted to wear socks so you could do six or seven spins, but you also had to have the control to come out of them. She seemed to be very interested in clear cut gestures as well as athleticism, which I very much appreciated. She did the toes-around move that I always use and that Belle likes to use. My friend and I were the only ones who could really execute it. Everyone else was getting suck and landing in the wrong direction and just generally didn’t look smooth with it. So I also felt vindicated there.
Edson tried out a few different pieces of music with some of the warm up and then with the final phrase. She wanted to experiment a bit, and I myself do this routinely. She also said that she didn’t count, and I felt vindicated.
I’m not going to lie – I was sort of hoping – I WAS hoping that she would use the same phrase for the audition, because I can really use any advantage that I can get. She didn’t, but I had a good time with the new, very long audition phrase.
The audition was similar to the master class. It was held at the PNB Bellevue school, which was also very nice and large and easy to find. There were only about ten people auditioning, and a few of Edson’s people seemed to be there to take class.
It did feel more like a class than an audition, so I had a good time and was pretty comfortable. I felt like I actually learned more in the audition than in the master class, but it doesn’t hurt that there were about 40 people fewer.
We started warming up in a circle with some guided improv. We could again go through the center of the circle, and people tended to go for contact. I think some of them knew each other, but I was all right with giving some elbow and rib feedback as I passed people. Edson recorded us going across the floor, first going from low to high energy and then doing a pass while creating circles with our bodies. All of the improvisational prompts were identical to ones I’d been given at UI.
The Seattle-Dancer fashion caught my attention as I watched the other dancers. It was very similar to Portland. There were a few leotards, but they were always under yoga pants. A lot of people wore a shirt or a flannel around their waist, which remained tied there for the duration of the audition. Everyone had athletic clothing as opposed to ballet fashion, too, so lots of high collared jackets and socks pulled up over leggings. I was thinking about how at the Vegas audition, everyone was wearing nothing, and how they really wanted to see your body. I feel like it’s impossible to hide a superfluous twenty pounds with a flannel tied around the waist, but I also thought that people should have taken off the extra layers eventually. It was hot as hell in there, and I worked for my muscles so I was going to show them off.
We spent over an hour on the final phrase. It was again a mix of modern and contemporary that was in some ways similar to what I was used to in Portland. Socks were a necessity, but you had to know how to use them. I had some real trouble doing a barrel turn with my socks on, but I think I wasn’t bending my knees enough in my preparation.
I’m not really expecting a call from LED, but I know that I didn’t embarrass myself. I was very comfortable with the material and with the people who I was dancing next to. We went in groups of twos and then threes, and I was just fine standing up there with nobody to really follow.
There were a lot of moments in which I surprised myself in what I could do. There was a barrel turn-multiple coupe turn-stop and catch the foot in a heel stretch devant that I was really shocked I managed to pull off not just once but repeatedly. I was able to turn two or three times each time and still maintain control. There was also a stall that I surprised myself in.
The movement was pelvis driven and weighted, but there were many moments of isolation to contrast the multiple turns and extensions. The movement was crazy and full of momentum as well as stops. It was satisfying to learn and also to perform. Edson was generous with her corrections. It was all the type of information you would normally receive at a rehearsal as opposed to an audition or class; she seemed to have a very specific vision for the type of phrasing and energetic flow that she wanted. While I am usually hungry for corrections, at an audition, the intensity of them made me a bit nervous. I felt like I was trying to avoid correction rather than really dancing with full unabashed intensity.
Edson asked us to manipulate the phrase after we had done it normally a few times in front of her. I forgot my little combination halfway through and was grateful for my education in improv, because I never stopped the flow and brought it to what felt like a fine finish.
Overall, I had a lovely time in class and at the audition. I met some other Idaho dancers, one from Idaho Dance Theater. It really is a small world out there. Hopefully I can get down to Boise to take some classes from Edson before I move out to Seattle permanently.