|Ann Arbor Dance Works||
The final dress rehearsal and performance process was kind of a rollercoaster for me. My back went out during the last run on Monday night. I’ve never had to work through an injury that quickly in order to perform well. So part of what I learned during this process was efficient self-care. Luckily it worked out, and I was able to really enjoy myself! I loved performing – I felt the energy of the audience on Thursday night, in addition to the final product of the music, really helped me perform better. I had had some trouble figuring out how to perform the movement, in terms of acting and everything else, but I really felt I understood the message and the temper of the piece by the time we finished. I also felt there was a good energy between all the dancers in the cast, especially during the Continental Motors section. I felt that our cooperative energy during that section made it easier for me to be an active watcher during the solos. Maybe it was because I was literally out of my own breath, but I really felt in tune with the breath of my fellow cast-mates for the rest of the piece. The music, especially during the pedestal section at the end, really became rich and dynamic. It was much easier to feel connected (and therefore in unison) with the other dancers, as well as with the message. I even felt more connected to the cloth. All in all, the performance process was a huge learning process for me. I'm also so happy to have worked with this cast! I love you guys!
This season (my first!) with AADW has been quite a windy ride! Having two and a half hour rehearsals every day really gave us the chance to explore our ideas without feeling too bound to any one thing. The most obvious example of this was the What is Wind section of the piece; even the day of the second preview we were playing with it. Personally, I have never had the opportunity to work with such talented dancers that are able to remember these kinds of last minute alterations, so it was a treat for me and also a challenge. I believe that as an artist I have been craving this sort of excitement for a long time. I love when everything feels brand new on the stage; I feel like I have something to discover right in front of the audience. My entry is about my experience/mental process throughout the piece.
From the beginning of the piece, I actually have to remember to stay calm. Although it was choreographed to be sort of a windy chaos, I usually had too much excited energy to get onstage and had to channel it by cooling down (If I didn’t, I usually ran into one of those podiums. Or better yet, a person.). Once set into the clump and traveling back into the time of the factory, I really tried to become that worker. My focus was direct and down-to-business. That is, at least until the factory shut down. I was laid off second to last, and my stepped slowed not necessarily because I was out of a job, but because I was leaving behind a part of me that I knew would never be revived. As I took off my uniform for the last time, I memorized the feeling of the material between my fingertips and the slightly grating pull of the zipper. However, it was time to move on now, and a new energy fills me here. I am grounded yet light as air, and a simple exhale is enough to propel me through the space to pick up every other dancer in the room. Into the Wind is all about feeling the rhythms of my own breathing and connecting it to the others in my trio, Maddie and Nola. I also pay attention to the force coming from my partner, Amy. Coming out of this section, I become entranced by Nola and her sometimes quirky breath movements. I allow my own body to empathize with hers until my breath says it’s time to go. Now my solo begins on the journey of the diagonal, my breath usually suspending me into turns and I soon end up downstage. Honestly, I couldn’t really tell you what I am thinking of here. I suppose I’m not. I am seriously led by the air I am taking in and expelling. Usually it wants to do something crazy that is never premeditated. I just allow. What is Wind is a section I am still trying to understand my focus for; I’ll keep exploring and get back to you in August! The tornado makes me feel broken, but I think that needs some more exploration as well. The new “breath duets” section feels like it needs some kind of initial motivation for me that I haven’t quite found yet, but once Nola and I are dancing in a duet I feel like I have a purpose again. I kind of think we ended up aggressively playing instead of attacking? We could work on it, but I actually like the dynamic as is. The rolling of the platforms is interesting because mostly what’s in my mind at that point is “What count am I on?” but I also have to remember to look like I’m physically struggling, which paradoxically is difficult. The last section on top of the pedestals is all about beauty!...and trying not to get tangled in the fabric...or falling off the thing...or messing up the counts (because alas, I got tangled in my fabric...). In performance I actually did a fair job of not messing up, but all these things were in my head whilst I simultaneously tried to convince the audience that I was a “beautiful vertical in the landscape.”
Reflections on the preview performance of Into the Wind
The Ann Arbor preview performances of Into the Wind have come and gone, but in my mind this was only the beginning. It will be exciting to see how the piece evolves once we arrive in Muskegon in August. Even during the final rehearsals for the preview performance, the work continued to change as the final elements came together. In particular, the music collaboration by David Biedenbender and Robert Alexander, with percussion by Chris Sies, pushed me as a performer to raise the level of my performance to match the energy and liveliness of the sound score. One of my favorite moments in the work and one in which I felt I the most connected to the music was the section in which each of us dancers performed a ‘breath solo.’ The impetus for our movement during the breath solos was the wind we created with our inhales and exhales. During my solo I tried to challenge myself to think of the many ways in which other creatures breathe; sometimes I was the rustle in a tree, a newspaper blown by the wind, or the breath of a horse. Once the set music was added, it was at first difficult to be as free with the movement and the breath. With Professor Jessica Fogel’s direction, however, during one of our rehearsals the musicians began to play off of our movement, and as a result we as dancers could respond back and forth with the sounds the musicians produced. For me the music became an important part of the conversation between my breath and my body.
This solo was only one various sections throughout the work. For each section, the focus and character had to be constantly in flux—which made for an exiting internal narrative. Sometimes the wind propelled me, at other times the wind/breath reacted within and through me, and sometimes I created wind that made the other dancers move. By the end of the work, I felt as if we, the whole ensemble of dancers, became the wind itself.
As a performer and artist, this work was an incredible opportunity to see how science, art, music, dance, and environmental stewardship can live in the same space and inform each other. As an MFA dance candidate, environmental art is at the heart of my interests. The performance and audience dialogue brought me back to my earlier questions: What will the audience learn? What feedback will they provide? What will they question? And what will we (the dancers/artists/collaborators) learn from them? In a dance work that seeks to create dialogue for a particular issue (in this case wind energy and manufacturing in Muskegon), now I see the importance of the audience feedback in the preview performance before the full-scale work premieres on site. Some of the audience members, wanted to see more of the controversy behind the wind turbines debate while others saw the celebration of wind as very effective. As a form of education, the dance performance was informative and inspiring. It tells the story of the site, what used to be and what could be. It also explains the incredible natural forces that make wind happen in our planet. Maybe the controversies behind the wind energy debate were not as explicit in the dance some people would have liked, but I think that the dance accomplished what was intended: to initiate a fruitful and informed dialogue about the issue. Maybe the controversial discussions do not need to live so obviously in the dance. Maybe these discussions will happen no matter what the dance is. What matters is that these discussions happen in a way that is intelligent and productive.