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.