Day 14 – 31 days until performance
From my scratch pad:
“Space - the same thing moved in space
silence - music, different music.”
We start to build an armature. I take the first few steps of the phrase I initially made on Frances and divide them in half. First Frances states the first part (about five steps). Morgan then does it in reverse. Mary then does it, but will be half concealed by the wings of the stage. Frances then does the second part (a port de bras, three steps and a pose). Abraham and Adriana meet to enter and pose to each other. Frances and Morgan do the same “greeting”, but not facing each other. Mary walks to center doing the second part of Frances’ phrase and everyone walks to a diagonal line, to repeat Frances’ phrase. I plan for each of the above actions to be separated by blackouts, to render them distinct. Frances is left alone when the lights come up to do her phrase in its entirety. The beginning is dry as a bone, but I like it because it focuses attention on each movement as a component of a dance. It’s a residue of my Cunningham immersion from a few years ago. Every year, something fascinates me and becomes grist for the intellectual mill. If there is something that ballet can take seamlessly from other dance, it’s a concern for process and structure that some of the best modern choreographers have. Ballet once had its experimental wing too (not just Balanchine, but Nijinska for instance) but that seems to have been supplanted. I think we take all the wrong cues from modern dance when we try and incorporate its vocabulary into ballet. What we should borrow from it (or merely reclaim as ours as well!) is its intellectual curiosity and its concern for the structure and geography of a dance.
I feel like I know what I’m doing at this point and we proceed chronologically. Once Frances has done her entire phrase, I ask her to do it again, but this time, I find a section of the solo violin partita that I think matches the tempo and mood and play it as she dances it. Hallelujah, it fits. I ask Morgan and Adriana to also do the phrase we learned the first day immediately after. It also fits. This is all partially serendipity, I haven’t been making the phrases with the music in mind, but I have been keeping my eyes and ears open for any possible congruence. I fade the music out, and make an entirely new duet on Mary and Abraham. Poor Mary. Since this is her first day with the new material, she’s now undergoing the initial agony the others have mostly managed to get through by this point. When their duet is finished, I begin the music again, this time at the beginning, with the intention of playing it through in its entirety (although possibly with sections “erased” after the choreography has been made and thoroughly learned.) I ask Adriana to do the jumping phrase I made for her on Friday to begin. I change it slightly to eliminate one or two unflattering arm positions on her, and she phrases certain parts slightly differently than she would have done in silence. It looks better bit by bit. What I have to do is figure out how to encourage a different carriage in her neck and shoulder area, something with more breath in it. The first step in the right direction is to make sure that most of her head positions aren’t presentations to the audience. I think the dancers equate being classical with being very presentational to the audience, and in very artificial ways. They peer out from under their arms, they tilt their heads to forced angles. I ask Adriana to keep her head moving in the direction she is going, so in an arabesque, the arm looks out over the hand, not to the audience. It helps to make her less self-conscious. I’m a little surprised that she’s wearing pink tights today, and I can’t help but notice how nicely formed her legs are.
I give Morgan a solo to do based on a phrase I made for her on Friday, and we are at the same musical point where Frances initially did her phrase. I ask Abraham to do the exact same thing that Frances did, and ask Frances to do it with him so he can learn her phrase. When I watch her do it with him, they look so nice together that I leave it as a duet. From there, I ask Mary to learn the short pas de deux I made for Morgan and Abraham on Friday and stitch it in. Morgan will also do it with Abraham, but later in the dance (and perhaps facing a different direction?). We’ve put together about 3-4 minutes of the dance and are on our way.