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Day 11 – 36 days until performance

Though it’s the last day I’ll see Chuck for more than a week, we make very little new choreography today, going over the material already made (more than 5 minutes of 6:47) and trying to simplify and pare down parts of it. It’s a very demanding solo, even though I’ve tried to choreograph rests into it. Once Chuck ran through the entire piece, full out, the excess steps stuck out rather obviously for removal. I just looked for the parts where it looked as if he was going to vomit, or trip and fall over, and there were about four or five good instances in there. We did make one new section where we left off, a final burst of virtuosity, and as we did it, we both joked about checking off the laundry list of required steps, rather like the compulsory events in skating. What’s fun is to try and provide the expected steps (a double tour to arabesque, a manège of saut de basques and other turning steps, multiple pirouettes) in an organic fashion, and hopefully the result is slightly unexpected. The majority of the rehearsal was spent with a photographer, then the costume designer. David looked on in approval. “Something lovely.” I suggested, referring to what I wanted Chuck to wear, and received “That’s just what I was thinking.” in reply. This is probably why I’ve worked with David since 1996. At the end of the day, Gia Kourlas came to interview Chuck for Time Out magazine. We managed to make use of each of these “interruptions” as an opportunity to see what the ballet looked like when run. It became obvious that two ten second holes weren’t holes, but necessary rest points, and we needed to put nothing there but mime. A jeté combination repeated three times could only be repeated twice, before Chuck ran out of both time and room. I didn’t realize just how much space he covers when he moves full out. The room we rehearse in is much too small for him. Gia watches the rehearsal and Chuck and I dutifully overact our roles as egotistical star and dictatorial choreographer.

I’m pleased with the solo to this point, if only because it’s flattering on Chuck and because it seems shorter than it is. I was worried about not only the question of endurance – I know I’ve now reached the limit of difficulty of the work, the final minute has got to be much less taxing – but the question of maintaining the audience’s interest in a single dancer for seven minutes, primarily through dance. It’s a deceptively difficult task, and all too easy for the solo to look like nothing more than a bunch of steps strung together. One can’t rely on one of the most important tools for maintaining interest in a dance either, geometry. There are precious few shapes and designs to be made with a single body. I think this dance will be held together by the specificity of the mime. When Chuck “plays” an instrument, is it clear it’s imaginary to him as well as to us? Is it clear exactly what instrument he’s imagining, a guitar, a lute, a mandolin? I tell him to make sure it’s exactly the same size every time. Not a ukulele once, then a double bass. Chuck plays air guitar in response. More importantly, I will probably change some of the mime to “age” it slightly. It could just need further coaching and discussion, but I’ve got a hunch that the sections that feel the least specific are because I’m asking Chuck to do something, like act nervous, that just doesn’t fit his actual age and temperament.