Hello Texture friends, family, and dancers! Two weeks of rehearsal down, and lots of laughter, excitement, and fierce dancing has been going on in the studios. It’s been hours of sweat, bruises, and tears (no blood…yet!!!) and lots of fun! I cannot wait to continue the rehearsal/choreographic process next week!
Week two went out with a bang: an exciting performance for the Americans for the Arts National Convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Friday morning.
Texture dancers and Cello Fury, post-performance at the Convention Center.
What an incredible opportunity for the company to gain some national exposure and collaborate, again, with the wonderful artists of the Pittsburgh-based rocking band, Cello Fury! Americans for the Arts is a non-profit organization that works nationally to advance the arts and arts education. They promote the artistic community as an important and necessary part of American life. What a privilege to perform for a group that values dance and art as much as we do! Check out their website here:
Throughout the last two weeks, we’ve been re-staging and rehearsing two sections from last summer’s ballet, The Pulse of Time, a co-creation of Kelsey and Alan, to be performed for the convention. It’s been quite a rewarding experience to return to a work that we’ve already rehearsed and performed. As a dancer, I’m always shocked to find that my body, in many ways, has a clearer memory than my brain! Put the music on, let it play, and before I know it I’m dancing the steps of the ballet even though two minutes ago I couldn’t tell you what my first movement was supposed to be! Revisiting The Pulse of Time provided all of us dancers a wonderful chance to really dig into the choreography. Since we already knew the steps and the music, we explored new ways to shade the movements. We experimented, finding moments to make super energetic as well as moments to make soft and smooth. It’s sort of like coloring in a coloring book. The choreography is the blank picture, simple outlines of shapes. We get to shade and fill in the spaces. The Pulse of Time was the same blank coloring book page that we were given a year ago, but all of us have another year of dance and life experience to use as colors to shade the picture however we wanted! Imagine our excitement, similar to that of a five-year-old given a giant box of Crayola Crayons and a new coloring book!
Friday morning, we dragged our sore, tired bodies into the studios for an 8 am warm up class to prepare us for the performance. Believe me, no matter how much you love ballet, 8 am is an early call for tendus and pliés! We put on some rocking tunes and got ourselves moving before walking over to the Convention Center for spacing rehearsal.
Long distance view of the stage and jumbotron screens.
We performed in a GIANT room, packed with tables and chairs and white china for a luncheon event. Pretty amazing! The stage experience was new for us: a raised platform with just three panels of marley (we usually perform on a stage with wings and about six marley panels. Not to mention, Cello Fury was up there on the stage with us! I think dancers and musicians alike were a bit nervous about being stabbed with a cello bow, or having a long-legged dancer grande jeté right into a beloved cello! But we made it work with rave reviews!
Giant room at the Convention Center for our performance.
Cello Fury is a joy to work with! Such chill, fun musicians! One of my favorite moments last summer came from our first rehearsal with the band playing live in the studio. At the first pluck of the cello string, all of us screamed in excitement! There is NOTHING like live music, right there with you, informing the dance steps and feeding the performance energy. Every time I hear Cello Fury play, I experience that same rush of excited adrenaline from the first time we heard them live!
What an exciting first performance of the summer! A dancer cannot ask for more than to perform to live music for an audience that loves and appreciates the arts, and of course wearing some super cool tutus designed by our costumer-extraordinaire, Erin Heintzinger!
Erin’s incredible tutus for The Pulse of Time (and a pair of my smelly pointe shoes!)
Week three of rehearsals, here we come!!!
Allow me to indulge my imagination for a moment with regards to dance history. I know, I know, history is boring. Just hang in there with me for a moment. I’ll make it quick:
So, imagine a battlefield, Civil War style, with two opposing armies lined up on opposite sides of a field. They march toward one another. On the right, we have The Ballerinas. Elegant and refined, they bourreé forward effortlessly on their pointes, their slim necks holding their heads high with pride. On the left, the Modern Dancers advance, skipping across the battlefield. As a mob of free flowing movement, their jumping and rolling completely contrasts with the linear formations of The Ballerinas.
The Ballerinas came first in dance history and placed ballet on a pedestal of luxury and extravagance. The Modern Dancers intruded on this domination of the art form, rebelling against the order and refinement of ballet. Thus, they must fight to win the power to dominate the future of the art form. The two armies clash in the middle and the battlefield. The dance-off has begun.
Ok, ok. Perhaps that was a bit of a stereotypical and grossly simplified portrayal of the fusion of classical ballet and modern dance. However, I feel it illustrates a point: our art form historically evolved from clearly classified genres of dance that today are muddled and fused in a beautiful, ever-changing way. When ballet and modern clashed on the battlefield of dance history, an amazing thing occurred. Both were preserved as their own, individual genre of dance, but many of these brave soldiers walked away arm in arm, combining their forces to test the boundaries of dance. They formed a new genre of dance can be very vaguely defined as “contemporary” dance.
So what exactly is contemporary dance? Well, this term can be applied to a huge variety of companies and choreographic works. Sometimes contemporary work is danced en pointe, sometimes in flat shoes, sometimes in bare feet, and sometimes in socks. And sometimes, like at Texture, it’s danced in all of the above! However, the footwear isn’t all that relevant. What is important is that “contemporary”, in my opinion, is a label for dance that demonstrates attention to the line of the body while exploring the limitless dynamics and movement possibilities of the human body. And of course, the whole point of this is so that the dance can convey some sort of theme, or story, or perhaps just an overall emotional tone or energy.
I feel like contemporary dance uses the best of both the ballet and modern world. It draws on some technical aspects of classical ballet and also modern dance’s emphasis on movement stemming from emotions and feelings in the body. Here at Texture Contemporary Ballet, we use our ballet class to set up our bodies at the beginning of the day. We find our balance, train our muscles, perfect the clarity of our positions, and basically put the sore and broken pieces of our bodies back in alignment. (I’m kidding, we aren’t all broken, at least not all the time!) After class, we learn and create choreography that goes way beyond the technique we practice. Sometimes we aggressively throw ourselves around like crazy people, only to contrast this with a balance in a perfect arabesque, causing the audience to catch its collective breath in surprise. I love this about Texture. We are encouraged to explore the extremes of our body’s ability to move, and then manipulate these discoveries within what we know about ballet technique. Basically, we get to be like pretty ballerinas and wild, crazy, kamikaze ninja dancers all in a days work!
Contemporary dance allows for an amazing exploration of meaningful and thought-provoking dance. So, in closing, I’d like to propose a question. Who cares? Does it really matter how we categorize contemporary dance? As dancers, audience members, choreographers, and patrons of the arts, we have the important job of defining the future of dance. What is the relevance of labeling what we watch in the theatre as ballet or contemporary or modern? From a dancer’s perspective, do I need to label myself as a contemporary dancer or a modern dancer or a ballerina?
I believe that dance is dance. It is universal because it is human bodies moving in space. It is fleeting moments of motion that disappear and then are subjects to be categorized by our perception and opinion. Paul Taylor, a modern choreographer, says often that he “makes dances”. Not modern dances, not contemporary dances. Just dances. I find this profound. Categorization aside, whatever happens out there on the battlefield of dance history is the making of dances. Perhaps as long as that continues to happen, it does not matter what type of dance we call the product.