Day 19 - 24 days until performance
Armature starts to be put together today. I feel very unsure, very like I felt at the same stage in Scherzo, because the work is at a point where it is complete enough that chance needs to take a back seat to an editorial stance. It’s said that Michaelangelo felt that one did not decide what to sculpt, one released the sculpture implicit in a block of marble. In a less cerebral vein, there’s a joke:
Q: How do you sculpt an elephant?
A: Take a big block of marble and chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.
Both statements are applicable here. For me, an important part of choreography is just throwing ideas out on to the floor, guiding them only on an instinctive level, and then scrutinizing it as it takes shape to see what it is in fact that I’ve done. Then, once you’ve decided it’s an elephant, you chip away everything that doesn’t look like elephant. That can be more difficult than it sounds. An example: As I’m running the ballet today, I see at the beginning that I have Mary doing the first steps half concealed by the wing. It’s an interesting idea that I inserted at the commencement of the rehearsal process, but I haven’t developed it at all in the following days, even though it would be appropriate to the ballet. Do I remove that idea, do I bolster it by changing existing sections or do I add new material to strengthen it? The uncertainty lies in places like that. It’s a sense of proportion and balance, like salting a dish. It’s unnervingly easy to wreck a dish in the final moments of cooking.
The entire concert is also at this strange stage of uncertain momentum. Publicity has been set in motion, and now there is little to do but hope. The new ballets are more than halfway complete. The designers are all at varying stages of creating designs, some much farther along, some preliminary. Time is sufficient, but at a premium and I can see what needs to be done, and what might not get accomplished. One also realizes, looking at the dancers, that not all of what I see in them will make it to the stage. Some of them have problems with retention, some of them with nerves. Some of them have body and technical limitations. I can look at my concept through their bodies with a sort of x-ray vision, now comes a time when I must actually look at the dancers dancing the dance and see what an audience member would see.
I do most of the choreography on Morgan today, essentially putting her into the ballet. Serendipity played an immense part in her role in this work, anywhere I left a hole in the choreography, I patch with a section for her. I begin by making a solo for her that comes directly after Frances’ and makes use of her flexibility and jumps. Mary, then Abraham join into it. Two duets for Morgan and Frances are then made, both in silence, but one is then set to music for Mary and Morgan. I work with Abraham on refining a small section for him in the finale and making it more fluid. For the second time, as a joke when I rebuke him, he calls me “Dad.” He’s 22. I’m 35, and four years older than my father was when I was born. When I look at the pictures taken of me with Chuck, I’m pleased with them, but I’m not looking at a young man any longer. Certainly not an old one, but Abraham is 22, and I was once 22, but I’m 35 now. I don’t see any point in complaining about the passage of time, but it catches one unaware. I smile at Abraham, and grimace a bit inwardly.
New ideas get put in sparingly (Morgan does an unsupported arabesque penchée, but I now realize there are two supported ones that it relates to.) and I remind myself constantly as I watch the dance which ideas to re-use. I think the strange feeling I get at this stage of the work is also because I’m instinctively associative, I’ll find that I’ve created closed and interrelated systems even when I think I’m working randomly. The questions will become even more crucial tomorrow and Wednesday. The work deals with the contrasts of movement and silence, and with different bodies doing the same movement. Do we add or delete the idea of the same movement in different spatial relationships?