Happily, the first day’s random explorations produced decent results. I’ve found that like the Rorschach analogy above, the first day’s work on a piece I am unsure of is also like shooting arrows. I don’t worry about hitting the target on the first arrow. I shoot twenty arrows one after the other, look at the target and see which ones hit. Sitting down and listening to the music in the morning and dividing it into sections makes the task manageable and I can also sense the throughline of the dance. The main waltz theme recurs five times, after the fifth (right near the end) a completely new (and ominous) subject breaks out that the composer gave no hint of previously. It’s part of the strangeness of the music. I realize that in order to make sense out of the end of the music, or more properly, to justify its accompaniment to this dance, the choreography will provide foreshadowing that the score doesn’t. Each of the iterations of the waltz will be slightly more disorienting than the last. I feel much better walking into rehearsal, as I have some idea on what I need to work on.
I now work as I often do when I feel surer, in chronological order. The music begins with an introduction before the main theme enters and I deal with it in a similar fashion, as an atmospheric prologue to the action, setting dancers rushing or slowly walking across the floor. At one point they stop their action in unison and all turn to look back at an object unseen to the audience. “That’s creepy,” Morgan says. I guess I’m getting the effect I wanted.
Morgan is the dancer I’ve worked with the longest in the group, since 1996, and a favorite of mine, just for the natural beauty and singularity with which she moves. She’s not a textbook dancer, but there’s something about the lushness of her movement that makes her compulsively watchable to me. Her back is also extremely flexible, and I realize how much of this dance is going to be based upon a pliant upper body. I warn her not to take all the movements into her lower back full out during rehearsal, because I’m going to be using that exaggeration, and if she does it over and over full out, she’ll be at the chiropractor’s by the end of the month.
In the middle of June, I had done six hours of work in the studio with Morgan and Mary, making isolated phrases to videotape and show to the designers, so they could have an idea of the overall style of the new ballets. One of those phrases gets incorporated, with changes, into the first occurrence of the waltz subject. It’s a particularly lovely passage of music, so I try to use a long, lush phrase here, knowing that at later repeats I’ll need to do something less viscerally satisfying. A transition is choreographed (using material taken and varied from the introduction) and then the second repeat of the waltz is choreographed to a combination of a phrase made in June and the sweeping phrase I made yesterday. We’re about two and a half minutes into the 16 minute piece, and on our way.