Day 21 - 22 days until the performance
Another adrenaline day. I begin by setting a dance for Adriana and Frances, which moves quickly because it’s the exact same duet Adriana does with Morgan (material we made on the first day of rehearsal), only danced to the rear of the stage. What I find pleasantly surprising is it happens to be a dance with a very interesting “back” as well as “front”. I then make the final moments of the ballet, which end up being quite simple, a walk, pose, and balancés en tournant off. I add to this a brief postlude with Frances in silence restating just a moment of the beginning, but I have to discuss with Jeff how to make it clear that the ballet isn’t over until that point. I’d rather not annoy the audience at the end by making them feel that they’d been tricked. We run the ballet twice through, once for sequence and to solve small problems. I take out Adriana’s pas couru because she is no longer doing it with Mary. We make an ending for Morgan and Abraham’s pas de deux and we run the ballet a second time to make a notebook video and so Jeff and David can look at it for designs (Matt is in Berlin and will have to make do with the video.)
The ballet is actually completed, and I get to watch it. I’m mildly stunned, but I like it. I was worried about the ballet conceptually, but I can now see its concept. More importantly for the audience, it’s interesting as a dance, and that I hadn’t seen before and it pleases me. We’ll need to do a lot of cleaning and polishing. I’m sure I’ll tinker with parts. But it’s done. They’re all done.
Chuck comes for rehearsal and we start by discussing the mime. He asks, almost sheepishly, but also almost immediately, if we could just put some simple dance steps in instead of acting. “What is this? NYCB’s Swan Lake?” I snap at him, mock-sternly. I’m joking, though I am just a little disappointed, but only on a philosophical level. Another battle lost for mime, alas. But Chuck is right. He doesn’t look comfortable with it, the solo is meant to show him off and I didn’t put the mime in to strengthen a concept, but primarily to give him a rest. What concept I had (a youthful lover) I wasn’t pleased with, and I had been steadily paring all traces of it out. And frankly, the two years at NYCB had made Chuck into a dancer who looked best dancing, not acting. When you buy a lobster at the market, you don’t complain that it’s not filet mignon.
A few gestures are still left in, but the rest of the mime is taken out in favor of arabesques and other steps towards the “balcony.” It’s the same feeling, but in abstraction, and he looks much better in it. Chuck tries to run the ballet through, but collapses in an exhausted heap after three minutes with three and a half still to go. He apologizes, panting. “I know it’s possible. But just not today. Boy, I’m going to be in great shape when we’re done with this.” he says between pants. So the rest of the rehearsals will be about building up the stamina to get through a 6:47 dance, which in ballet is the equivalent of running a marathon. I’m watching for telltale steps, the ones that will show Chuck as being tired. Chuck can turn even after six minutes, it’s grand jétés and other jumps that betray his exhaustion, and as we go on if they are still a problem, I’ll substitute steps that camouflage that.
Tonight, David comes over to show me sketches for Chuck’s solo and Scherzo. He says that Armature has him stumped, so I rummage through the magazines I have at work, and come across a picture of the women in Symphonic Variations. “Oh! Now I know what you mean by ‘classical’” he says happily. With only a cursory glance at the tiny photo, he sketches out how he thinks the Fedorovitch costume was constructed, and we discuss the finer distinctions between “homage” and “ripoff.” But what scares me is that when I ask him what Abraham might wear, he immediately makes a quick sketch and I start to laugh. Without ever having seen it, he’s sketched Michael Somes’ costume from Symphonic Variations right down to the wristlet, except he made it an armband. “You’re channeling Sophie Fedorovitch.” I warn him. I think it shows that classicism has a race memory that runs below the conscious level. There’s an entire maelstrom of influences besides the obvious ones that went into the ballet. There’s always Balanchine. There’s Forsythe in the musical choices, but I think that the episodic structure is not as related in the primordial choreographic soup in my brain to Artifact II as it is to The Disco Project, a dance by Neil Greenberg, a modern choreographer active at present in New York City, whose work I greatly admire. The episodic structure of Armature probably germinated there, and also the insistence upon calling attention to the structure of the work within the work itself. Then running underneath it all, there’s the trip to see the Paris Opera Ballet and the epochal visit of the Kirov. But even that fascination with things classical has a sub-strain; there’s Ashton, but not Ashton as the works actually are, because I haven’t seen enough of it. There’s a fantastic and idealized Ashton in my brain that comes from having only seen pictures of certain works and having to imagine what they might have really been like. And none of this stops Armature from being anyone’s ballet but my own. Something similar will surely have been said before, but one says what one needs to say at the right time to say it.