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Adele Myers Week 1: Making Normal

(edited by: Jennifer Mueller)

Intro and such…

My name is Adele Myers. I am the Artistic Director of Adele Myers and Dancers, a five-member contemporary dance company based in NYC and CT. The five dancers, Tara Burns, Diana Deaver, Kellie Lynch, Philip Montana, and Rebecca Woods, live in NYC where we usually rehearse. I live in Hamden, CT, where we sometimes rehearse. The work is (usually) a mix of inorganic athleticism and theatricality with a sweet-creepy twist. I launched the company in 2000 as a thesis project while completing an MFA in dance at Florida State University. The company has been presented throughout the United States, most recently at the Dance New Amsterdam Theater in NYC as a 2009 Artist in Residence, and at Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out. As an Emerging Choreographer at the Bates Dance Festival, I will be developing a new work and performing current rep in the Different Voices concert. Check us out:

The new work…

We have open rehearsals everyday from 5:30-6:30 in Muskie on the 2nd floor. Muskie is next to Chase Hall. Please come play with us!

I’m working with three company members: Tara Burns, Diana Deaver, and Kellie Lynch
…and a 4×6 pink shag rug. I tend to shy away from ‘things’ because I think I am bad at using them. We’ll see.

I have given myself the challenge of keeping the trio on the shag, and as I am inclined to work with a mess of full-bodied movements, that should be an interesting challenge. I like what I create when I have a problem to solve. The effort, friction, and inorganic choices that result from guidelines appeal to me. I enjoy watching the ‘work’ of trying.

I’m starting with the idea of dislocation and relocation with a dash of glam.

Day 1: Monday, July 20th

We played Twister. (Diana did not arrive until Thursday so I began with Kellie and Tara.) We added three extra body parts to each of the four sections of the spinner. For example: “Kellie put your right scapula on yellow and Tara place your left pinkie toe on blue.” Spin spin…We did this the entire time and took it off the twister mat to see what happened. I dig it as a starting point. I think I’ll bring the pink shag tomorrow. Curiously, the shag and the twister mat are the same size.

Day 2: Tuesday, July 21

Placing the duet on the pink shag was an interesting feat. I wanted to take the shag away but made myself work slowly and meticulously in confining the duet the 4×6 boundaries. I noticed that as the dancers became more comfortable, their use of space created an illusion of way more space than was actually there. We played with flirting with the edges of the shag and teasing but not quite touching the floor. Instead the dancers were to flay above and hover over the space anywhere else. I’m glad I made myself stick to this task.

Annie came to our open rehearsal. I asked her to make two lists of obscure body parts. Returning to the idea of dislocation and relocation, I paired the words to make a three-dimensional twister of body parts for Kellie and Tara. For example, “Kellie, place the outside of your ankle into Tara’s armpit. Kellie, place your right ear on Tara’s anterior superior iliac spine.” At first it was a series of chunky, awkward moves. As they found the shifts and sharing of weight, the duet grew more fluid. I still like some of the awkwardness, so I pulled them back a bit from getting too gooey with it. I combined the two twister tasks and felt a sense of completion about our initial shag study.

It was really great having people come into our open rehearsal to get immediate responses to choices we were toying with in the moment. I am usually hesitant to have people come into the process so early. The reason I opened rehearsal here at Bates is to get over that. For me, this all needs to be a little less precious. It does not need to be about trying, impressing, succeeding, failing. How about just trying and free-falling?

After this rehearsal, we had about two minutes of material that I decided to put forth for the informal showing. I was pretty nervous about showing it, but I liked the idea of just going for it so early in the process.

Day 3: Wednesday, July 22rd
No rehearsal today. The company is hitting the road for a performance at the Stonington Opera House.

Day 4: Thursday, July 23rd , 2009

Stonington was amaaaaaaazing! It is a beautiful coastal town located on a small island off an island off the coast of Maine about 3 1/2 hours from Lewiston. The NYC peeps drove 10 hours to get there. Ouch! It was worth every mile though. The Opera House is a renovated 1912 vaudeville venue with wooden seats. The performance was a blast, and we received our first standing ovation. The post performance conversation was equally as pleasurable. The Opera House has cultivated a remarkable following over the past ten years. There is so much more to be said about this experience. I am more than happy to share, in person, as it requires facial expressions, a enthusiastic roller-coaster ride-tone of voice, and excited gesticulations of the hand to get the full experience across.

We got back to Lewiston around noonish and ambled our way into rehearsal by 4:00. We all had a post-performance-high crash loaded onto our bodies, so I wondered how we’d fair. To animate rehearsal I brought in costumes and some tunes. Diana came back with us. So now there are three and me.

In Bebe Miller’s Making Dances II class on Monday I hit a zone as she guided us through a meditation on diving into the place just where you think you are going to move onto the next idea. Has your first idea been fully realized or over-explored? Did you really deepen it fully? I hit a zone and literally dove/rolled slowly down, flew up against gravity then rigorously pressed, squeezed, prayed, splayed, dove again, peaked then deflated. This meditation became Diana’s solo. It was one of those “days in comp class where you are SO IN THE ZONE!” I’ll call this meditation a slow-lo.

I am being commissioned to set a new work in the fall at Ball State University in Indiana. They want something a la Gershwin and/or Cole Porter. I’m pretty excited about that because I think I am in the wrong kind of dance anyway. I think I exist in some odd place between ‘modern/contemporary’ or whatever you want to call it…and musical theater. I have been listening to a bunch of Porter/Gershwin lately and found Judy Garland’s version of “I happen to like New York.” I am really drawn to the spectacular devastation of the song, particularly sung by her. I put a blue dress on Diana and asked her to stand at the corner of the shag and ‘do’ the slow-lo. As she danced, I kept hearing Judy singing. And so it was, the birth of act 1: The Demise of Judy.

Day 5: Friday, July 25
Go For What You Know!

The showing went well, whatever that means. Full disclosure: I wanted to hurl on the way over when I saw how many people were walking to Plavin from the dining hall. Alas, it was going to happen. I just hoped it was going to happen in a good way.

It felt good to try it out. Laura set up a great ‘feel the love’ environment and forum for experimentation and feedback. I think people offered particulars in their responses that were useful. What I came away with after the showing and seeing the work of the other choreographers was a reminder of what Jawole Zollar, Artistic director of the Urban Bush Women, often says:
Go for what you know! That’s all you can do…

I felt affirmation after the showing that something was brewing and that I should continue diving. Here is where my discipline needs to come in. At this point I want to work reaaalllly fast and crank it out. Much like being a child and tearing open a present instead of elongating the pleasure of suspense, I want to know what the story is and how it is going to end. And so it was. This morning I woke up with my daughter Isabel (Bella) at 5:15 my portals where wide open and ideas were pouring in…all in varying shades of pink. I saw enormous pink shag covering the entire stage for a later section, one that was almost long and furry, like pink grass. And a pink neon sign flashing That’s Entertainment! above Diana’s slow demise. (Like Madison said after Tania Isaac’s stunning performance of Stuporwoman tonight, Dream Big! Maybe you need the things or maybe not. You will know in the end.) When thinking about the duet, I started hearing Barry Manilow singing “I Can’t Smile Without You.” Yep. It just felt like right.

Most of today’s rehearsal was spent playing with music on top of material we created here and some recycled material from another work. The music gave us a context. In some cases it gave too much information and oversaturated the curious thirst. But from here, I now know how to begin carving and continue diving deep, deep down into the peculiarities of my habits—Thanks for that Bebe!—and a special thanks to Lily, Kate, and Sam for stopping by and playing with us.

Another final thing too… We are tentatively titling the work, Normal. But you have to visualize the word written in block letters with the texture of the bright pink shag on a shiny white surface.

Week 1: In Summary

Our exploration so far has led us to the pink shag as an “extremely” experience of success, comfort, and disappointment, with silver linings of dreams that some day I’ll become…