Sunday, November 5, 2017

Making Good On/ Chaos

This weekend, I'm proud that I continued to hold myself accountable to my New Year's Intentions of seeing more shows, going to more classes and writing about it all. Making good on my promises to myself.

In the last week, I had the pleasure of seeing the Rebirth Brass Band play the Turf Club on Halloween, seeing Threads Dance Project's "Uncertain Reality" and attending a tap class and a class with a choreographer whose work is seeped in traditions from both France and Burkina Faso. Rebirth allowed me to celebrate many things I hold dear: sharing a space with strangers and friends alike to be in the moment of hearing improvised music and responding with improvised movement. What else do I need?! It was really awesome to hear them live again after having had the pleasure of catching them at their regular Tuesday night haunt in New Orleans, the Maple Leaf Bar. How inspiring it was to see that so many people of so many different backgrounds wanted to spend their Halloween night experiencing live jazz!

As for Thread's "Uncertain Reality," I have to appreciate a dance show that causes me to take interest in a mathematical and scientific concept. I really appreciate Karen's program note detailing that she has "always found artists in science and science in art." She further stated that she's always found choreographic inspiration in her knowledge of computer science and math. I have always found choreographic inspiration in my knowledge of music, and I do enjoy the moments I find myself feeling and seeing the math in the music I choose and the subsequent movement I make. It's all in there.

I do have to admit that I often found the sections with lyrics to be distracting. It's tough for me to admit that some of the compositional advice I gained in college and that has stuck with me is indeed true, as my irreverent parts want to speak out. There was so much beauty and shared element in the music choices across the whole of the piece that lyrics often invaded the mindscape I was creating for myself.

I found the shuffling section and Betsey's solo with the ring of fabric around her waist alongside the rings projected on the floor to be particularly moving. These and most other sections in the show illuminated the beauty in the connections and happenings that can come as a result of the inherent chaos of the world, and the inherent fact that we do not own control over all that happens to us. Putting this into writing gets me thinking about choreography versus improvisation: can a choreographed sequence speak to chaos theory (at least my bleak understanding of it) as well as an improv score might? I suppose it depends on whether or not the purpose of the action is to experience the concept via participation or observation. To a certain extent, whether it is improvised or choreographed is of no concern to an observer, as they'll see the movements they see. To another extent, and a point I tend to argue, the energies of performing choreographed versus improvised material are always different. What an improvised phrase in dance can have in spontaneity it can lack in performative quality, and that's just one example. Just something this show made me ponder.

Regarding McKnight International Choreographer Fellow Salia Sanou piece, I found my race dialogue to be different from what I had expected from the program notes and my assumptions about what the cast would look like. Combining what I took to be a mostly white cast and the use of Mylar safety blankets, I found myself pondering how we choose to insulate ourselves or open our resources to others. That actually really worked for me, though I found the Billy Holiday and Nina Simone music to be somewhat discordant. That said, that discord could be what made me take away what I did - it made me uncomfortable. Both Sanou and Karen's work were performed beautifully by her versatile crew of dancers.

It was very interesting to take his class the next morning, though not in the way I expected: I was expecting to really be investigating parallels to his choreography, and instead was fascinated by how the class was directed by him in conjugation with a translator. I've never been in a dance class with a translator, and one of the program directors actually mentioned how rare it is that a translator in a dance class would also be a dancer/ dancing through it like in this case. There was a simultaneous immediacy and separation in taking in the information from two different sources: physical information primarily from Salia and verbal information primarily from Emily.

As for the movement itself, I really enjoy it, and found myself wondering how much of it was traditional Bobo ritual (as mentioned in Salia's bio of his early training) and how much of it was from his experience training with African ballets and in France. I found it so interesting to feel so much parallel between the footwork, rhythms and isolations/ initiations we did and my jazz experiences. It was actually pretty profound! I feel really grateful that I live somewhere we are fortunate enough to have guests like him come to us. Perhaps Dana and Mary Ellen will be the recipients of two of my gratitude notes this season. I should stock up on blank cards!

Lastly, the tap class. It was in over my head and knew I would be, so I actually really enjoyed it! I didn't expect to be on top of it all, and expectation management turned out to be key. It actually felt really good to be in a dance space where I felt really challenged, taking what I could and leaving what I couldn't. It was empowering to make decisions about what I'd really try for, to manage myself throughout class and to not feel embarrassed about being at the bottom of the ability level in the class. It was rally good for me as an educator to feel what one of my own students in that position might be feeling. I  can encourage them to take it all in stride, to be proud of themselves for the progress they can manage and to know that good folks will support their being their and putting their best effort forth!

What a great week/ end. I'm gonna keep making good on/ embracing the chaos.