Been working with Tara O’Con and Siobhan Burke on a series of movement patterns. We have a work-in-progress showing on March 1 (7pm) at THROW, presented by The Chocolate Factory and curated by Sarah Maxfield. Come see us!
Carl Riehl is in Chicago doing this show. So for now, we’re left to our own devices for music. Enter metronome.
I have always thought about using one in rehearsal. It brings back early memories of piano practice. Mrs. Crenshaw (whose home-based biz always smelled like pot roast and dust) would test out my rhythmic agility with all these testy practice pieces. Generally, she’d interrupt with a “Uh-ah, go back.” And back I’d go, refining a rhythm sense.
So I often associate an uber-taskiness with the metronome. It corrects; it checks. Yet, beginning the choreographic process with this unrelenting device as the only sound source has not necessarily been about correcting. In this new context, it’s been part sanity, part madness. How, you ask? Well, when Tara and I began to disassemble head movement from our foot patterns, we were tripped out by our bodies’ ability to find fleeting patterns without having any way of describing how we were doing it. We began to talk as our bodies tripped — saying things like “how am I even doing this?” What the hell was happening? (To quote Tara’s answer — “This is your brain on dance.”)
Also, Tara, Siobhan and I once started clip clopping down the street to the ghost of the sound of the metronome’s 130 bpm clicking in our ears. That was awesome.
And the sanity part. It has been in the recognition of time increments passing and the ability of the body step into a rhythm and find gradual change. It’s something I’ve vaguely understood as a listener of the music minimalists – Steve Reich, Terry Reilly, Philip Glass, etc. – but not as a maker of dance.
**Note to self: beware the cliche waters of modern dance or rolling your head over and over and over again.**
So we find ourselves in this territory of emergent patterns (where many have traipsed) – in a rhythmic landscape of simplicity, sameness and change. I am both humbled and fascinated.
Filed under: Literature, Music | Tags: Dar Williams, February, Naomi Shihab Nye, poetry
Poetry is something good for February since the second month of the year is usually a hard one. And poems are good during months that require more patience and kindness. (See Dar Williams’ song “February” – “February was so long that it lasted into March” Yes, you can say that again.)
I remember sitting in a lecture room listening to Naomi Shihab Nye read one of her poems. (a lucky girl!) The way she spoke and the way her poetry carved out a piece of understanding was a Thing. You know, that Thing to behold. But delicate too. A sleight of hand. A disappearing bunny. An untouchable. A flicker of truth that vanishes as quickly as it disappears.
This is why memorizing poems is rather satisfying, I think. It turns a flicker of understanding into a practice of being. The poem gains embodied meaning. Sacred texts have come down to us this way after all.
So I’ve been putting Nye’s “Kindness” to memory, if only to let the words sink down and just be with them. (and with February)
Back in 2005, I was listening to the Diva soundtrack – just one of those CDs I was thumbing through at the library. One of the tracks, “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana,” from the Italian opera hit me immediately. I found it morbidly spectacular but had absolutely no context for it. So I watched the movie (my reaction to Diva is a whole other story) and read about the opera and the Austrian story on which it was based, the 19th century serial novel Vulture-Wally by Wilhelmine von Hillern.
So with all it’s loaded context, I decided to use the aria for a dance parody I was making. This was all a part of my MFA thesis project about the hysterical female body (more loaded subject matter). There were handkerchiefs coming out of bras set against a huge bronzy wall, behind which loose-haired ladies would come and go.
In short, it was a study in melodrama that ultimately failed, but not in that openly embarrassing way. It was just so difficult to make, and when I watched it from the auditorium, it felt simultaneously bloodless and overwrought. I couldn’t talk about the piece in my thesis defense without crying. My professors were flummoxed by my stifled tears. Don’t you like what you make?, they were asking with their eyes. I fumbled for words. I was suppose to be defending my work and here I was, slightly unraveling. I did not realize at the time that trying to articulate my own sense of failure would be the healthy way to move on.
So I decided to put that piece and that song out of mind. In retrospect, I should have realized that impossibility. Denial is never a good option and also, once you study a thing, you tend to run into it everywhere. I cringed slightly when I heard the aria in A Single Man and noticed it was also prominent in Philadelphia, which I very belatedly watched several years back. (In film, this song has become strongly attached to gay men contemplating their deaths… but moving on.)
So I’ve come back to the song, the opera and the Vulture-Wally story about a tragically heroic tomboy fighting the ice gods and the townspeople in the Tyrol region of Austria. I’ve wondered why I’ve needed to return to this material – to accept (un-deny) a little piece of my own history perhaps? And to have new eyes and ears to see and hear it? Yes and yes. Since it began with a song, I’ve now turned to singing. Working with composer Carl Riehl, we’re taking bits and scenes from Vulture-Wally and casting them into an assortment of song motifs from the late 19th century on into the present. So far, we’ve made a Polka (which turns into a Waltz), a smokey little Motown piece, and now we’re working on a Minimalist piece for a dance. Next is Go-Go.
I look forward to sharing them soon, live and recorded.