Frances had to leave early the day before, so is trying to learn the phrases she missed, and it’s frustrating her. If one is self-producing, all types of ancillary management skills become as essential to survival as artistic talent. Managing and adapting to schedules, and dealing with the dancer’s needs, complaints and insecurities are daily events, and there’s more than small satisfaction in handling them with successfully and with grace. I choreograph a transitional phrase for Frances with jumps in it, and she’s trying so hard to show me she can do it accurately that the musicality of it eludes her. She seems convinced this is a black mark on her, I just tell her to go away and work on it, and that it will be fine later on. The musical cue where to do the phrase eludes her for the rest of the day. It was a treacherous cue, I choreographed a phrase isolated from the music and then told her that a jump in the middle of the dance phrase had to be at a certain note at the beginning of the musical phrase, and she’d have to work backwards to figure out where to start. At that moment, I bet she fiercely wished she were dealing with a choreographer who worked with counts. I count music so eccentrically that I refuse to count in rehearsal, not wishing to waste time on having the dancers decipher my counts. I’ll do the phrase in front, with one of the dancers counting behind me. We then set the phrase to those counts. It may also vary slightly in translation, but I enjoy that part of the process. If something is lost in the transition from my head to their bodies, I’ll let them know. Often, their miscomprehension of what I requested is an improvement upon it.
Another transition is set for Adriana and Morgan, made from sections of the phrase Frances just danced. Then a section for Mary. I smile at her as she listens to the music to which she is about to dance. “You’ve given me the dinky phrase again!” she laughs. Mary is a tiny redhead, and the day before I had set a step for her that she decided she had to do on “the dinky phrase,” laughing that small dancers always dance to the dinky phrase. Hearing the next phrase that comes up in the music, an eccentric little waltz in a high register, I know she has to dance it, as a private joke between us. The phrase, a balloné followed by a pas de bourree and a chassé en tournant is interesting as the timing mutates slightly as we do it, on the first few attempts, the chassé begins the phrase, as I demonstrate it again, the balloné more naturally accents the opening of the phrase. It’s almost like watching an oddly shaped piece of a puzzle rotate and wiggle into the correct spot.
Mary was laughingly chided by another director “You’re not a dancer, you’re an actress masquerading as a dancer.” Mary is actually a rather nice dancer, and thoroughly ballet trained, but unlike many ballet dancers, she needs to approach repertory theatrically rather than technically. The advantage to this for me is that it helps me to clarify what I’m thinking and what the dance is doing, because she needs and wants to know. I ask the dancers to show me what we’ve done up to this point, so I can see what it is. As they do it, the dance’s qualities become more fully formed, like shapes emerging out of a mist. “You’re not dancing with each other. You’re each dancing with an imaginary partner.” I instruct them. I had made a phrase with an imaginary partner in June, and that had been the original impetus of the dance. I had such trouble with the men I had worked with last year that I decided to do a piece without men, that the partners would be imaginary. Even with that conceit, I hadn’t realized that it would be the controlling impetus of the atmosphere of the piece, a sort of tenuous connection with reality and the fantastic. When watching the first five minutes of the work, I knew that that idea would be brought to the fore and others discarded. We have just less than six minutes completed when we break for the weekend.