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Day 9 - Rehearsal

Chuck is waiting for me at the studio, we start work as soon as he changes, I begin by telling him basically the last five lines of the scratch pad, and then I just move directly into steps, the “excited pas de chats” from my notes. I begin there primarily because it’s just steps, and it seemed like a good place for each of us to learn how the other works. One funny thing I notice is that Chuck is a physical type that flits in and out of my work (and life), the tall, lanky blonde. He reminds me both of David Pittenger (a dancer on whom I choreographed eight works) and my brother.

The rehearsal process with Chuck is even more stop and start than with the women, there’s only one person, I give more than one break an hour. It’s very relaxed, just me and him, and the gossip and jokes fly thick and heavy. I try the pas de chat phrase beginning with a pas de chat landing on two legs with the leg brushing à la seconde, and then into a grande pirouette in attitude. Because this is the first thing we do, everything gets adjusted step by step as I try to make it look right for him. The first thing is the grand pirouette in attitude. I first ask for two en dedans turns in passé, followed by an attitude turn, then I try reversing the idea, having the en dedans turns pull into passé. Neither is quite right. It’s remembering how David danced that helps me figure out the problem, which is that Chuck, like David and other tall, thin men, looks interesting in turns that keep close to his axis. Between the two of us we come up with an en dedans turn in passe where the leg “corkscrews” down to a fifth position and the other immediately steps over into passé. Now for the first step, the pas de chat into the leg shooting into à la seconde. It would be dandy if it didn’t look just like Hot Chocolate or any one of a number of Pas Espagnoles out there. We change the brush to a contretemps.

Now that we’ve had a chance to nitpick over a single phrase, we seem a bit more comfortable with each other. Chuck’s interested and eager, he just doesn’t know what to expect, and neither do I. I go back to the beginning and proceed to work chronologically. Work proceeds smoothly. I’m impressed what the two years at NYCB have done for Chuck, his legs never looked like this when he was at ABT and he never looked this energized, but I have to ask him to watch for a few instinctive NYCB-isms he’s acquired since he arrived there. He tends to hit a pose at the height of a dance phrase and also to accent transition steps so quickly they almost disappear. I ask him to hit any pose at the height only to move out of it, not to show me a shape. This reminds me of watching the students at SAB doing Valse Fantaisie as Suki Schorer coached it, where the height of any movement was only held for the briefest gulp of air. Presently, phrases are shaped much more deliberately in the company. Also, I often give pas de bourrée with a gentle rocking motion, almost as if it were a “grapevine” step in a hora or a Fred and Ginger movie. This throws him a bit, he’s now used to doing pas de bourrées up, up, up into fifth position and mine often sink softly into the floor.

I build the dance a few steps at a time, adding the steps on, marking the whole dance to this point with the music, repeating the process with a few new steps. The dance phrases also loop around and braid into themselves, making it hard for him to remember the sequence at times. By the end of rehearsal we get to the point where the pas de chats are and add them into the dance. The dance, as it builds, has an excited rushing quality to it, like a florid signature or a sentence said in a single breath, but a few phrases are overchoreographed. I start to identify them, and remove steps, but the remaining steps are less crowded, they are also no longer quite musical. The final adjusting of the phrase will wait until tomorrow. As I watch Chuck speeding through the work a final time, I remind myself that I’m just shy of 5’10” and he’s 6’4”. I want to make the work on his body, not mine.