Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Awakenings and Beginnings (Highlights)

As much as I prefer to give complete reviews for dance shows I attend,  I only have time to share the majority of the highlights.  (So, please don't take offense if I didn't get to your piece this time around!)

The evening of dance was produced by Noelle Andressen and featured pieces from her company Rubans Rouges as well as other companies from LA, Ventura and Santa Barbara county.  The show, appropriately entitled Awakenings and Beginnings, was the very first show produced by Andressen and her company. I was very fortunate to work with Andressen while she attended Moorpark College and must say I am most impressed with her courage, creative focus, and unrelenting persistence as an artist.

The show opened with Gitanas de Jazz choreographed by Roubans Rouge dancer Kirby Harrell. This Spanish and Latin inspired dance was a crowd pleaser with its sexy movement vocabulary and fun rhythmic components.  Harrell playfully incorporated body isolations and polyrhythms in such a way to make this dance tough to categorize as either jazz, folk or social.  What it was, was fun!

Amanda Hart, who is no stranger to the dance scene in LA, performed a charming solo called Fluff.  Her performance was simple, clean and captivating. I have seen her company perform many times, and was so pleased with the chance to her dance. She gave this sweet and playful choreography a mature gravity that was honest and lovely.

Another member of the Moorpark College family, department chair, Robert Salas of Movement Theater CoLab presented a trio of three fiery redheads in Four Steps.  These three women were stunning in both their power and sense of line.  True to Salas' style, this piece included a blend of sensitive gesture and athletic power moves.  This power trio (as I liked to call them) did justice to htis challenging work both physically and emotionally.

Casualties of War was a moving modern dance work choreographed by Heather Smith. Performed by the largest cast of the evening, this tribute to the hardships and loss in a soldiers life was performed by young dancers who generously gave an emotionally convincing account of war's tragedies.  The piece required the dancers to transport themselves to wartime, and the result was positive.

Under the newly formed performance collective, Art Bark (formerly Sonnenblaume), Misa and Stephen Kelly co-choreographed One World is Never Enough.  This piece had it all: charming children at the beginning, a cute Dachshund running across the stage and paper airplanes thrown by the audience!  Set to a complex soundscape (that I can't even begin to recreate in my memory), this piece played like an abstract impressionist painting, offering the audience a series of images and scenarios that hinted at travel and relationships, but left the majority of the meaning to be formed by the observer.  Very Art Barkian!

One of Andressen's works was the solo Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies, in which she danced while seated at the edge of a large mirror on the floor.  This largely gestural piece, played with the concepts of reflection and identity, ending with Andressen pouring colored paint onto the mirror to obscure her image before a fellow dancer entered to remove her head scarf in a final moment of unveiling.  The imagery of this piece reminds me of Andressen's background in film.  Like the lens of a camera, the mirrors were both a window into truth and lies, a representative example of Andresson's strong sense of dance as moving pictures. 

Jenn Logan choreographed a remarkable duet, Coupling, Cycles 1-3 performed by Katrina Amerince and Scot Tupper. This dance was seamless and brilliant.  The dancers and choreographer are all members of Nancy Evans Dance Theater and their intimacy and understanding of each other was evident in the complete ease of the performance.  The partnering was mesmerizing and the chemistry between the performers was honest.  The performance was an example of technical excellence that was a pure pleasure to watch. 

Megill & Company debuted a new piece, called the SeƱorita Dance, choreographed Beth Megill (that's me!).  The audience received this piece with a joyful giggle and enthusiastic applause.  The petite allegro and folklorico inspired rhythms set this piece apart from the rest of the concert with its strong sense of play and joy.  I am so very proud of the performers whose excellent stage presence made this piece such a crown pleaser.

The Most Fascinating Person I Ever Met... Myself  was an emotionally charged modern dance - hip hop hybrid choreographed by another of Moorpark College's faculty Wendi Baity.  (If her name sounds familiar, it is because I recently wrote about her video series the Relentless Chronicles).  In this piece Baity proves again her incredible ability to create movement that is not only physically challenging, but precise and energetically charged.  Baity's movement doesn't just dance to the music, it dances in and around both the message and emotions of the hip hop soundtrack. 

Andressen performed her most powerful piece of the evening with Kirby Harell, entitled Coeur de Verre.  This piece highlighted exactly what Andressen is best at. Her petite frame and incredible core strength allowed her to be easily manipulated by her partner through sequences of lifts and shapes that feature Andressen's sense of design and space.

Alex Floyd was a new name to me going into performance, but her piece Ten was a definite crowd pleaser.  Set to spoken word, this trio of technically strong dancers included a sophisticated blend of contemporary jazz technique and style with more modern phrasing and use of the spoken word soundtrack.  Upon hearing that she recently received her degree from the University of Wyoming, I was even more excited because her style is a fresh addition to the LA dance scene.

Melissa Lynn Block  of Santa Barbara (also performed with Art Bark) choreographed and performed a wonderfully rich and mature solo she titled Powerless. This somatic and release based modern dance work was perhaps the most unpretentious piece of the entire show. Dressed in a simple black dress, Bloch moved through the space with a strength and clarity that is less common in the current LA dance world.  She was grounded and powerful. 

Overall the show was a wonderful success and so well attended that audience members had to be accommodated by floor seating on the side of the performance space. The lighting is a simple on-off, and yet, the intimacy and aesthetic value of the performance was not diminished. The audience was quick to forgive any technical mishaps because the goal of the evening was an unveiling and opening of Andressen's vision and the entire audience seemed willing to honor that.

Did you see the show?  Please feel free to follow this blog and post comments about your observations!  The dance discussion is just beginning. . . Also if you have addition weblinks to share please do!

* I apologize for not having the musical selections for the pieces. The show was so well attended that I wasn't able to get a program!  Now, that is what I call a successful first show.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Does physical pain dictate your life? - Notes on CFR Therapy

My chronic back injury (on and off for my adult life) has played a huge role in my quality of life and the shaping of my choices.  At 32 years old, going on 33, I am sooooo ready to allow my back to NOT be a deciding factor in the way I shape my life.

As a dance instructor, choreographer, dancer, the injuries in their many forms have been hard psychologically as well as physically.  How do I do what I do when I can't move?  Of course, we all live with things.  Some people have addictions, some people fight their weight, some fight anxiety or depression, some are faced with learning disabilities or family obligations.  The point is we all have "stuff" to deal with, and mine has most recently been my back pain.

I had been going to a chiropractor whom I really like and who has been very helpful in relieving my acute symptoms (immediate horrible pain).  But, I wanted to explore something else.  What if the pain never returned? What if my "back issues" became a non-thing?  

Enter CFR. . .

I was referred by my chiropractor to a physical therapist who practices a technique called Cortical Field Re-education or CFR.  It is a method of very, very simple movement explorations as a means of waking up the entire body to its movement potential.  It focuses on the point of initiation and then the sequential paths to an action.  In my case my entire mid and upper torso was frozen and shut down.  My brain had shut off its awareness and sensation of the entire area in order to protect it at some point.  Thus, my low back has been working overtime to compensate. Poor lower back! You were just trying to help me out!

After the first session I had, I felt completely disoriented and had a lot of discomfort and some pain in my low back, but I also noticed my mid back for the first time in years.  I could feel the slightest twisting as I walked.  My brain was waking up to my body.

I went into my second session in acute pain.  I made the personal commitment that I would not trigger my symptoms for the duration of the 1 1/2 hour lesson.  I moved VERY slowly and very small.  But, at the end of the session, I was symptom free.  Meaning I could walk, sit and lie down without symptoms-- if I was careful and didn't follow old patterns of overuse. This is when CFR hooked me.

The third session was a continued exploration of what I could do and how I could move without pain.  I found it so interesting and rewarding to move my body with the single goal of being pain free.  I am so trained from dance to "do the movement right" that I felt great relief in being able to move without performance expectations.

My most recent CFR experience was just on Saturday.  It was a day-long intensive (8 hours). We worked through incredible twists, and shoulder openings and circles of the ribcage and pelvis.  My midback was howling by the end.  It was like I woke a monster that had been locked up for ages.  The pain is not terrible, but the soreness is real and surprisingly deep, not the type you get from doing too many reps at the gym.  It feels like I have wrung out the deepest and most subtle muscles possible.  And, my low back is doing quite well.  So. . .

I'm sticking with it.  Because, I want to know what it is like to make my life decisions without the chatter of my back telling me what I can and can't do. 

If you are interested in more of the scientific and nitty gritty info on CFR you can go to this general website.  But I prefer my practitioner's website which I found very informative and easy to follow.