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The last week/ Helen Simoneau

Wednesday August 4th:

At this point in the festival I can already feel the end nearing and am desperately trying to make the most of the time I have left. I continue to make my way to the studio for daily class and rehearsals. The work is progressing and I finally have a clear idea of how I want it to take shape. With 2 videos projected on two different walls as well and three music tracks and four dancers framing the space, I realize that I cannot do this alone. I cannot dance it, run sound and projection myself. It is a humbling experience to realize that, yes, I need help. Luckily, here at Bates everyone is eager to participate and lend a hand. I have had to let go of my desire to keep things simple and have decided to make the dance that I want to make.

Last night, we performed in “Moving in the Moment,” a dance performance constructed entirely of structured improvisation. Led by Angie (Hauser) and Chris (Aiken), most of the faculty and guest artists danced together for over an hour to the amazing sound of the Bates Dance Festival musicians. To say that it was fun would be an understatement. I had a blast in performance but also in the rehearsals leading up to the show. What a wonderful way to get to know people! Moving together allowed us to meet on many different levels, which created an ease and a sense of community that transferred over to every other place in which we found ourselves together. I have never participated in anything like this and at first was a little apprehensive due to my lack of experience with improvisation. The generosity of the group, however, kept me feeling welcome and I knew that even though I may not know what I’m doing, they certainly do and I can thrust that.

Sunday August 8th:

A day after the end of the festival and I am still transitioning. It flew by so quickly. In the last week, I also performed in the “Different Voices Concert” where many artists at the festival shared the evening. I showed a solo called “the gentleness was in her hands” which I created in 2009 and have performed quite a bit this past year, nationally and internationally. It was satisfying to return to this familiar piece in the midst of creating a new one.

The process for creating my new solo, which I think I will call “Flock,” was filled with exchange and discussion. In the last week, I was able to have Doug (Varone) come to my rehearsal and talk through the piece with me. He gave me some much needed perspective on the work and asked questions that will help me go deeper in my understanding of what I am making. It was amazing how much he was able to perceive in only one viewing. He asked questions about the journey of the work, my relation to the other dancers, and the integration of the videos in the context of the larger piece. This has given me much to chew on for the next few weeks/months. I plan on leaving the piece alone for a while and look at it again in a month or so with fresh eyes.

Deborah (Goffe) and I held one final showing on the last day in order to get more feedback and one more filming before we left. Although it was a busy day, enough people attended and participated in the feedback session allowing us to leave with more to think about.

I’m leaving Bates with a full mind, tired body, and a longing to return. My time here has been rich with creation, personal growth, meaningful relationships, and intelligent nourishing conversation. I am grateful that the festival is set up in a way that encourages meaningful mentoring on many levels. The communal housing and dining has resulted in so many valuable unplanned exchanges with the other artists here whether they are faculty, musicians, guest artists, staff, or students of the festival. The sense of generosity and love for the art form is palpable and vibrates through this community. The challenge now for me is to keep this vibration going at a distance. I am so happy to have been a part of this and now connected to these amazing people.