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Day 10 - 37 days until performance

I continue work on the solo with Chuck. The solo has a working title, Aubade, and I feel clear about the danced characterization, which I discuss with Chuck. Reductively, it’s the balcony scene, if Romeo were doing it with Rosaline instead of Juliet. The young man in this dance is not very experienced, but what little fooling around with the chambermaid he’s managed has given him an appetite for more. An entire world of love is awaiting him and he’s not yet been hurt. He does most of the dance to an offstage balcony downstage left. It seems unseen characters are to be a theme of the evening. I’m either going to have to include x-ray spectacles with the program or buy some inflatable dummies.

There are several different facets to making a solo like this, commercial and artistic motives are inextricably mixed. Much as I enjoy working with Chuck (he’s awfully fun to work with and a very good dancer), my goals in hiring him were commercial, and in my head at least, his pay as a dancer isn’t filed under “professional fees” but “advertising”, and he’s already started to pay for himself. So if one is having a “guest artist”, what are the artistic concerns? What’s the checklist? I think that most solos and pas de deux, if performed in isolation, become partly about the choreography and the story if there is one, partly about the performers themselves. My job here is to show Chuck (and myself) off. I also plan the solo, practically, to be portable and repeatable for Chuck. It’s to my benefit for him to have a solo to perform for guest appearances, so it requires minimal production elements.

In the context of the entire evening, I regard the solo like an entremets in a meal. It will be placed in the middle of the evening and should clear and refresh the palate, whetting the appetite for larger things. We start by reviewing yesterday’s material, and correcting the overwritten sections from the previous day. The work moves along in a rush, but no longer looks harassed. As yesterday, it still has the quality of a florid signature, and I find that attribute to be integral to the dance.

We pick up where we left off. I keep the new choreography simpler and less dense. The dance is 6:47, as well as artistic and commercial concerns; there is the simple and practical one of making a dance that doesn’t overrun Chuck’s endurance. We also include a few sections of mime towards the “balcony”, both to provide a narrative thread to the dance, and to give Chuck time to breathe. The middle section also shows off Chuck’s line more than the opening. He has long, well-formed legs, and they’ve been the primary beneficiaries of his tenure at NYCB. I add several arabesques and attitudes here so that people can see them. As we near the end of rehearsal I begin to raise the technical difficulty of the dance a level, he’s had a good rest, told a little story, and now I need to make sure I include the multiple pirouettes and jumps that identify him as a dancer of national caliber. I’ve seen Chuck do seven pirouettes on stage, I find a place in the choreography for him to be able to crank up and go, but interestingly, it’s on quiet music, so again, the pirouettes are more like a rush and whirl than a cyclone. It fits what the rest of the dance is doing.

The mime is actually far more complex to deal with than the dance steps. The music is my instinct for the characterization, it’s youthful and excited, and while watching Chuck in rehearsal, I told him to make sure to mime tenor, not baritone. In fact, that’s my principal regret about the solo as it forms, which is that the solo is extremely youthful, and Chuck will grow out of it, rather than into it as time passes, but that’s something that can’t be predicted, so I choose to concentrate on the dance as it looks now.