During the first week of rehearsals I thought I was making a dance titled “Normal.” By week three, the 15-minute ode to the pink shag became “Theater in the Head.” Here are a few highlights/discoveries during the final week of the residency.
In Bebe’s Making Dances class on Monday, she reminded us to look to the movement and allow the body to tell its story. I applied this notion to rehearsal. I asked the three dancers to do the movement with no “performance” intention other than accomplishing the physical task of each action. As a result, I was able to see what was really there rather than impose my idea of what should be there. For example, instead of telling the dancers to act as if they were “trying but failing,” I asked them to do a nearly impossible task. The high stakes of having to do a simple yet challenging task in public created a real experience of trying, wanting to succeed, and possibly failing. This directive gave the dancers the freedom to discover their version of the experience.
Brainstorms for Breakfast:
I usually brainstorm during rehearsals and often feel that there is not enough time to deepen the brainstorm or put the ideas into action in a thoughtful way. This week, I learned a new process that works great for me.
On Tuesday morning, Diana and I had a 2-3 hour brainstorming session and allowed our imaginations to spin out. Within the last hour we had completely reshaped the work and decided on a specific agenda for the rehearsal. Brainstorming with Diana was useful for many reasons. I’ve worked with her for over a decade, so she knows when I am going to cut an idea before I get too invested in it. What a time saver! We also have a similar sensibility. Her suggestions often lead me to places where I should go but can’t get to alone. The next time I create a work, I will plan on having company brainstorming sessions prior to going into the studio. If I had the luxury of another residency, I would brainstorm for breakfast, marinate for lunch and go to the studio for rehearsal just before dinner. This may seem like an obvious choice to some, but for me it was a fantastic revelation. It is less isolating and allows the dancers to be an inherent part of the process. I truly appreciated the insight, investment, and laughter along the way.
I am very excited by popular culture, particularly music. I like to work with irony and satire in relation to pop music, usually as a form of social commentary or to frame a particular slant on the movement. The lyrics are as equally important as the music.
At this point in this process, with one day until our showing, I felt like a racehorse at the starting gate. I knew I was about to spew the work into place. Instinctively, I sat for many, many hours and played with the piece’s songs in varying orders until I felt them click into place. A puzzle. I listened obsessively to every detail until I lost the ability to concentrate.
After doing so, I knew I had found it. Questions were answered and new ideas emerged. It felt right.
“What is this one in reaction to?”
I was having such a hard time simply stating what this new work is about. I think if you can’t say it simply then the idea, and therefore the work, is not clear. When I told my mom I was making one of the oddest – hopefully funny – and possibly most devastating works yet, she said, “Oh Love, what’s this one in reaction to?” It is a simple question. But when answered truthfully, it became the heart of the work. There were a jumble of emotions stirring in my belly, and when I directed them into the choreography in answer to her question, the dance finally introduced itself to me.
The supportive environment at the Bates Dance Festival encourages experimentation. “Theater in the Head” (new title) is quite odd, it turns out. I did whatever I wanted during these 3-weeks and shoved those nagging voices under the pink shag. During our Friday showing, I ran the sound from upstage and was “forced” to watch the faces in the audience. Not easy. I was surprised. What I thought was devastating made people laugh. (After the showing a few people shared that they had tears in their eyes as they laughed.) Uncanny. I guess you never know how people will react. It would be a lie if I said I did not care. I do, and I care hard. Nevertheless, it is the nature of our business to put our hearts in the hands of friends and strangers. And that is what is at the heart of “Theater in the Head.”
The End (for now) ~Adele