Sunday, April 28, 2013

Boom! . . . Flat on my back. . .

Well, in my last blog, I was my own personal champion for diving into the creative experience. And, I took the leap. . . and ended flat on my back. Literally.

Just as I was getting excited, ready to do the work!

I spent 3 days in bed with a horrible SI (Low back) injury, that kept me completely immobilized and out of work. Three whole days! I have never (ever in my 10 years of teaching) had to take 3 consecutive days off of work because of illness or injury.  It was a first, and it was hard for me to swallow.

The first day, I was ok. I thought to myself "This is what it feels like to take care of myself. I can totally do this."  The second day I said, "Well one more day won't be too bad, different classes will be missed. And, I just have to." Day three:  "What is wrong with me? Three days?  Oh no! What is everyone going to think?"

In many ways that sense of guilt hurt far more than the level 10 pain in my back.   I worried that people were going to think all sorts of ugly negative things about me.  I tortured myself about it for the entire time I was laying on my back, too injured to even hold up a book.  I was certain that people were going to think that I wasn't trying hard enough to heal.  That I wasn't being responsible and "pushing through" as truly motivated and reliable people do. 

But, this was of course all in my head. The reality was I couldn't stand up or sit without intense pain.  The reality was that no matter what anyone was thinking, I was physically unable to teach for three days.  But, I couldn't let go of it.  I was convinced of my doom and gloom as a professional dance instructor. 

But, by the end of that third day of rest, I was finally able to stand without muscle spasm.  On day four I gingerly went to teach, and everyone smiled, glad to see me, asked how I was feeling, expressed just how worried they were for me. One student even gave me a little Mexican incantation to help me heal.  People weren't upset with me for being injured, they were compassionate. Far more compassionate than I was to myself. 

A week later from the initial grab of injury. I am still healing, my pain has moved from a level 10 at the peaks to more of a constant 4.  It still requires me to lay down and rest my back for long periods of the day, allowing the muscles to undo and the joint to heal.  But now, I don't feel guilty taking that time to rest and heal.  I am comforted by the reminder that people have shown me compassion and support. It is my job to honor them by showing the same gentle nurturing to myself.  It doesn't have to be selfish; it doesn't have to be hurried.  As Soto Zen Buddhist Susuki Roshi said, it is just "Things as it is." 

And, I am worthy of healing just as I am

So are you. 

(PS The incorrect subject verb agreement in Susuki Roshi's quote is intentional. As a Budhhist he saw the multiplicity of the world as just aspects of everything as one. No duality. Hence we see plural, but the nature is singular. . . Pretty cool stuff).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Diving into the Experience

The art of craft of choreography is such an interesting practice of inquiry, trial, error and just plain old problem solving. 

After attending this year's American College Dance Festival Association Conference (ACDFA), I feel clear on the needed work for my choreography.  I need to dive in, to soak not only my feet but my entire self in the process. I need to walk straight into the waves and allow my clothes and self to be permeated by the creative waters. 

I have done this before, but it has been a long time since I have had the luxury of time, space and energy to invest to this degree.  Thinking back, the last time I got really soaked in the creative process was over ten years ago, in college and since then I have been progressively taking steps backward, away from the waves, until I now when find myself with only my feet and legs getting wet. 

Why have I refrained from the total immersion in the creative pool?

A few reasons, and good ones.  Practical ones. That should not just be tossed aside. 

1.  Choreography for art and choreography for teaching:  Part of the reason I continue with my private company Megill & Company (MeCo) is because it is meant to be an outlet for my creative voice that is not affected by my pedagogical goals.  When I choreograph for my students, I create dances that have a strong nugget of an idea, but dances that are geared toward the learning process of the student performers.  In other words, when I choreograph for my students I practice the craft of choreography.  I understand the needs of the dancers and shape the piece around that.  I believe this is a noble goal and one that I feel is needed for maximal student learning. If my creative identity gets involved it becomes too messy.  But as a result, these pieces, while they get me marginally wet, still leave parts of me dry.

2.  Time and energy:  So, if I have a clear vision for the way I choreograph for my students, how then does my work with MeCo differ?  I have creative freedom, I know that intellectually. But, in my experience I find I am not going as deeply as I want.  And, the reason is a lack of time and energy.  The creative work I do for my full time teaching position, still taxes me creatively and energetically.  So, when it comes to Sunday (today) when I gear up for rehearsal with MeCo, I am often totally spent.  I manage to rehearse for 3-4 hours and then am done.  The cup has been emptied and I am dry. 

3.  Fear:  I realize that, if I really wanted to change I could. I could make more time for the gooey, amoebic, creative flow to come out.  But, something is keeping me from doing that. . . good ol' fear.  It is possible that I don't put the time and effort I want to put into the choreographic and rehearsal process, because I am afraid it won't be worth it? Because I am afraid that the piece will not be that good and that I will have failed as a creator despite my efforts?  I know that I can create generally interesting, entertaining and semi-provocative pieces without diving into the ocean, so I often choose to play it safe and do just that.  It is possible I don't put in the requisite time and energy because it gives me an excuse in the end (especially if it doesn't work out).  I'm safe.  But, I am also not living up to my full creative potential. 

At ACDFA, I saw over 80 dances and many of them used similar movement vocabulary, similar music and similar compositional structures.  This is not bad, especially when I look at the experience through the lens of a dance educator. These are needed experiences.  But, I feel a pull to do something else.  To find my voice, refine it and see what it can really sound like.  It might be the song of a nightingale; it might be the hoot of an owl, a caw of the crow, or the call of the morning dove, but it will be better than a fearful mockingbird. 

I need to set fear aside and take the leap, off the top diving board, into the pool.  Then swim like mad and hope I reach the edge before my limbs give out. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rogue Review for ACDFA Informal Concert #3

Imagine: It's the last day of the conference. . . Your mind is fried. Your body achy from siting and watching so many hours in marginally comfortable theater seats.  At this point you have seen nearly 70 dances in three days.  And, there is one more informal concert with 7 pieces.  Can you do it?

Well, I am certainly glad I did because this concert had outstanding choreography (just like the last two informal showings) and was out of "the box" in a way that sent me home from the concert brimming with creative ideas and new insights.

The show opened with a male solo, entitled Zimoy, choreographed and performed by UC Irvine's Andrew Hallenbeck .  The surprise of the piece was not his passion, nor his technique, nor beautiful physique, but the fact that beyond all of that he was wearing pointe shoes.  In the entire festival only 2 people wore pointe shoes, One male. One female.  That is what I call gender equality.  Hallenbeck was raw, connected and fearless. His ability to combine masculine athleticism with the pointe shoe  without it necessarily being a direct statement on sexuality or gender impressed me. Once I got over the initial surprise of his wearing pointes (and wearing them so well), I was drawn into his choices of running on the pointes of the shoes, dropping over the edges of the box in modern falls and his stunning exit with hands bound behind his back as he traipsed off in his animalistic walk on pointe.  This student took a risk. I have certainly seen men in pointe shoes before (Ballet Trockadero blows my mind with it), but men don't typically train in this way at univerities which means he probably had to make the discoveries on his own time, in his own way.  That is what I found so impressive.

University of Oregon charmed me again with a female duet, I'm a Lady, How 'Bout You, choreographed and performed by Linnea Birdwell and Olivia Shaw.  I am so pleased that U of Oregon attended, because they brought a wonderfully fresh perspective and value set to the festival.  This work was another exquisitely crafted, image rich performance, that caught and maintained my attention without the use of flash or virtuosity. These polka dotted dressed women were committed in their staggering "high heeled" walks as well as the simple straightening of their skirts.  It was a simple joy for me. 

Cal Poly Pomona presented another student choreographed solo, Dissension to Hostility, by Chris Dela Cruz.  There is something about this mover that I could watch for hours without boring.  And, while he was "dancing," I call him a mover because there was something beyond the traditional technique, a rawness and honesty that spoke to me beyond the language of dance.  I didn't care about a his execution of classical technique, I was invested in his art choices.  I felt each action was clearly motivated and the concept manifested.  The tattooed cross on his back, was not lost on my interpretation of the work that also included a clasped handed pray like reach to the sky.  The final fall backward, without protection or evident catching of himself literally made me and other members gasp with shock.

Dance Professor, Alicia Guy presented a beautifully performed contemporary jazz piece called Changes.  This quartet was exquisitely performed and is a testament to the strength of Chapman University's training program.  It was also one of the few contemporary jazz pieces in the festival.  Her piece reminded me of the interesting (and seemingly continual) disconnect between college dance and the commercial dance world.  Art dance and commercial dance have so much cross over yet, there were very few truly contemporary jazz pieces presented.  Typically the adjudicators (and I am generalizing here regarding the many adjudicators I have heard over the years) find the use of pop music a weak compositional choice because the words are driving, they have predetermined associations, and are often too short to create a compositional arc that suits the needs of a dance.  But, contemporary jazz (often referred to as contemporary-much to the modern contemporary dancers dismay) is what is in trend right now and there are jobs for contemporary dancers and dance instructors. I was very pleased to see such a strong work both in terms of movement invention, meaning making and compositional integrity to represent this genre. 

CSU Los Angeles presented a duet entitle Icebergs, choreographed by Laurdes Mack (who also performed in the work).  This piece had a clear message of the conflict between music box, ballerina, femininity and the raw, earthy, female energy that reminded me strongly of the Indian goddess Kali (the goddess of destruction).  I loved the Kali character's oozing entrance on the floor.  It established the disparity between the characters instantly.  I did have a few questions regarding the relationship of the characters when they danced in unison.  Because they had been so successfully presented in contrast to each other, the unison didn't quite fit for me.  But, the issue of identity was powerful and looking back at the rest of the concert brought to my attention just how important the theme of identity is for so many choreographers and especially student choreographers who are just discovering their voices in their lives and in their art.  Ultimately this theme of self discovery is what I saw in this piece, and I am excited to see how this student choreographer continues to grow and blossom.

El Camino College (the host of the festival) presented Mychal Harris's Judgement Day, an ensemble piece that was energetic and athletic. I loved the racial diversity within this cast.  Concert dance is still a predominantly "white" art form, in part because of the white European culture and in part because of social economic trends in California.  It was so refreshing to see such a mixed cast of stunning dancers.  The movements were aggressive and powerful.  The most resonant moments for me were those of personal vocabulary rather than traditional concert dance movements.  There was a West African inspired moment that I can still visualize-- or rather feel.  It was in this moment that I felt the dancers owned their performance.  In contrast, the balletic port de bras (movement of the arms) also highlighted the graceful self power of these dancers.  My question lies in the idea of judgement. I wondered who is judging? What is being judged?  This could have been a performance about spiritual salvation or social judgement.  Either offers a provocative inquiry for the viewer.

The final piece!

UC San Diego (if I remember correctly) does not often attend ACDFA, so I was so pleased to see them in the showing.  Kristianne Salcines performed in her trio entitled Paradigm Shift.  And, I want to thank her for the helpful title, because it let me get into the piece, to shift my set of expectations and simply allow the piece to wash over me in waves of imagery, movement and play.  I should note that this was the ONLY piece in the entire festival that was performed entirely to silence.  I felt very much like I was watching the dancers inside a studio, because of the dancers' easy focus and personal investment in the movement, I even felt a little voyeuristic at times.  The fall of the girl onto the stage was perhaps the most exciting entrance of the entire festival.  The rocking motifs were very clear, although their nature was not.  The rocks seemed to lead to each dancers' personal discovery of release in the joints and body over the duration f the piece which seemed logical.  This piece required the audience to reevaluate their value set of dance and performance, and for that I was incredibly grateful.  Plus, I love seeing beautiful people allowing themselves to be awkward or even "ugly."  Salcines has an apparent intellectualism in her work that gave me freedom as an audience member to question, and analyze the nature of her intention.  What I walked away with was a commentary on current dance trends and accepted value sets.  "We're the last piece." A dancer spoke the audience.  And, what a wonderful message to send us home with. 

Did you see the concert? What were your reactions? Share your feedback in the comment box below!

Missed the other rogue reviews for the baja region festival? Check them out as well.
Informal Concert #1
Informal Concert #2

Also, don't forget to sign up and follow this blog for more dance writing and reviews and my musings about life and being an artist.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rogue Review for ACDFA Informal Concert #2

If the first "Informal" concert didn't kick my butt, then this one certainly did!

It is so exciting to see such variety in the informal concerts.  I think the fact that these pieces are not being "adjudicated" allows the choreographers and dancers to put themselves out there with no inhibition. The audience sees that. And, appreciates it deeply.  The concepts are at times risky or nontraditional, but this is exactly what makes it great.  Tomorrow begins the Formal Adjudication process. (Not my underground rogue style), so we shall see just how the two forums compare. 

Anywho. . .  Let's talk Informal #2

Moorpark College performed Something to Say, a piece I choreographed in collaboration with the dancers. . . so I can't really review that because. . . I made it.  So moving on to the second dance. . .

Cal Poly Pomona brought a solo work performed and choreographed by Jennifer Gerry entitled Cultivation of Thought.  The beautiful dancer performed with rich generosity and captivating strength and flow.  Wearing her hair down allowed her to hide and reveal her face as part of the choreography. In a way, I felt like her hair was an idea of itself coming to fruition.  What drew me to her movement was the balance of her impressive kinetic flow and her use of gesture that was light and bound (sort of dabbing through the space in a gentle and easy way).  My one question was why she finished on the floor with her face covered with her hair?  I ask not because I didn't like the ending, but because this was the question that resonated with me as the piece ended, making me wonder did her idea overtake her?

Line Ballet/ Dominican University showed their flirty ballet best in Elisabeth Schiffbauer's Confrontation.  Set to music of Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer this ensemble of women demonstrated the flirty power of feminine allure.  The performers' strength lies in their extension, balance and uplift.  The thumbprint of ballet training. The quirky more grounded movements, charmed the audience in comparison, but underscored the difference between the use of gravity in modern and ballet technique. What didn't read was the nature of the confrontation in the title. Although I am not necessarily one for 'tricks,' the one dancer's triple pirouette into a second triple pirouette (as perfectly timed with the music) was stellar. 

José Costas from Orange Coast College presented his duet called (wait for it. . . ) Duet! This piece was a study in romantic partnering. The dancers were beautiful and embodied the sensibility of this type of piece very well.  The black clad male and white clad female formed a traditional image of yin and yang that draws so many people to dance.  As I was watching I was reminded of the love duets danced in the old Hollywood movies.  I was swept away with visions of Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly.  Simple. Lovely. 

Repercussions was choreographed by Santa Monica College student Glenjamin Rodriguez.  This small ensemble work was reflective of the first heavy romantic break up we have all had to endure.  The piece was for this student what dance is for so many college students, a venue to reflect on life and learning.  Sorting out the trials of discovering our paths as individuals is tough, and dance offers a forum for dancers and choreographers to delve into the meaning behind their lives, the feelings, sensations, unspoken experiences and cellular memories.  I could tell this work was about the choreographers process and personal growth, and in that it was a sure success.

University of Oregon captivated the audience with a Graduate student work, Limbs, by Taylor Theis.  This piece more than any others so far was an example of patience in dance composition. I loved that the choreographer allowed visual space and time for the audience to really listen to the words of the text that opened the piece.  The male-female duet was extremely well balanced, showing the melding of two bodies that seemed made to fit together without one dominating the other.  The play on words of limbs of a tree and limb of the body was delicately carried through the work which included a pallette of contemporary modern dance flavored movements.  I wondered how much this choreographer has worked with Laban's Movement Analysis because this piece would be a excellent study in the variety of dynamics, shapes and effort qualities because each moment was clear and honest in its execution of the movement concept. 

Santa Ana presented Daylight Ends choreographed and performed by Samuel DeAngelo.  This artist was clearly highly skilled and trained in contemporary jazz dance technique, but his work was framed with modern dance sensibilities that balanced the dramatic energy and virtuosic moments.  This piece had a lot of ideas, and most of my favorites were presented once and then left alone. I was curious about this choice of including so many movement ideas in one piece.  I was wondering also what it might be like to grow the gestural movement into the exquisite technical moments so they became one and the same.  The dancer was extremely impressive in his strength, flexibility and performance energy (I was glad to see him come back to the stage for Mad Men later in the concert). 

CSU Long Beach students Heather Glabe and Jeremy Hahn had the audience in stitches over their White Washed Deathscape: Vol 3.  This was one funny number.  A parody on action films and romantic/comedy/actions films, these dancers were clearly well trained in traditional concert dance technique, but they were not afraid to toss it all away for the sake of a good chuckle. And, for that I applaud them.  My favorite part?  When they pull out each others eye balls, put them in their own and continue dancing.  Not just any dance could stand that sort of wild innovation. Before the piece started I leaned into my neighbor and said (not just a little sarcastically) "Oh good, Air on a G String!  No dance festival is complete without it."  I was ready to take this dance seriously, until it totally proved me, right!  And ending in the pieta?... priceless.

Mad Men was an all male piece choreographed by Kari Jensen of Santa Ana College.  I think every male dancer should have a chance to dance in an all male piece.  I mean, all girl pieces are a dime a dozen, but all men pieces are still something to behold. They are a treasure to be enjoyed.  This one as expected played to natural strengths of the male performers including lots of athleticism and power in  the choreography.  I enjoyed the use of the show Mad Men as a launching point but the choreographer's choice to go beyond the show and play with the more universal story of this era.  (This was confirmed in the post show discussion-- and I felt so smart for getting it first! Yeah me!) The challenge of this type of work is the challenge for these young men to play mature adult men.  Although their focused wavered occasionally, I was overall very impressed with their abilities not only to dance like men but speak like men as well. 

The final piece of the evening brought the house down!  Loyola Marymount University showed a piece that I can't BELIEVE was not selected by the school for the formal Adjudication concert, Trigger (or 9 Too Many).  This student choreographed, female duet was sexy, strong and exquisitely performed.  The piece occurred around a folding table and the dancers faced off across it with a vehemence that not many dancers can physically portray.  The simple moments of spinal articulation will perhaps forever resonate in my mind's eye.  The curl of the pelvis through the setting of the scapula.  What I didn't understand from the piece was the reference to gun control that the dancer referred to in the talk back after.  Perhaps this was due to having just seen the action-comedy piece from CSULB. The gun references just seemed to be an appropriate extension of the dancers' anger toward each other.  But, despite my missed mark in terms of meaning, I was satisfied because the commitment and physical performance let me know that whatever they were fighting about was important. 

Well, that's it for today! Whew! Two reviews in one day for me!  That is a new one.  Please share your thoughts as well!  Did you see the concert? What were your reactions? Share your feedback in the comment box below!

Then sign up to follow this blog for more dance writing and reviews and my musings about life and being an artist.

Rogue review for ACDFA Informal Concert 1

Ok! I can't resist! I am compelled to go rogue and be the underground 'adjudicator' for ACDFA's informal concerts. I am writing these reviews because these pieces deserve some more feedback and this way they can share it in a written form with others! Dance writing and reviews have become an endangered species, and this is just my way to give back to the community and support the creative process. Feel free to post your thoughts and questions for the choreographers too!

Let's get the dialogue started!

What a wonderful opening concert for ACDFA Baja Region festival!! The pieces were varied, entertaining, and passionately performed.

San Francisco State University, presented "Tsudoi" which translates as The Gathering. This piece, choreographed by Ayana Yonesaka, gave me visions of raindrops falling and pooling together. I enjoyed the dancers' clear focus, powerful energy and vulnerability. I particularly enjoyed the simplicity of the light blue costumes which presented the dancers line with honesty and simplicity. Beautiful movement that cast a serene spell over me.

California State University, Dominguez Hills presented a witty solo choreographed and performed by Nathan Ortiz, entitled "To be continued..." Nathan's drag costume of black shorts and a playful apron, thick 50's eye liner and "up do" emulated his Amy Winehouse character perfectly. Playfully incorporating a flask, pill bottle and cigarette made it even clearer. I loved the dancer's ability to evoke Winehouse so clearly in his movement. The most memorable movement was the grand plié with shoulder and chest pops. His pearl necklace accidentally broke part way through, but it was a happy accident, creating a most appropriate metaphor for the singer's destructive behavior and eventual demise. The pearls spread across the stage adding an element of disorder and danger that I loved.

Modesto Junior College instructor Lori Bryhni choreographed "Unearthed" a rich and appropriately earthy ensemble piece. This first thing that stood out to me was the beautiful costumes. Long elegant taffeta skirts that draped and swirled beautifully with the movement, catching the light and adding a dimension of visual momentum to the modern dance vocabulary. The dancers performed from the heart. I particularly enjoyed the open hearted release moments in which the ensemble successfully transformed the stage with their unison shapes and unified energy.

Dominguez Hills presented a second work, called "Chasing Clouds", a duet choreographed by Brianna Colon, that was wonderfully endearing. These dancers were so playful in their movements and acting. It really was irresistible. I enjoyed the sweet, human element of the work. And, the use of the star balloons set the tone for the piece and offered a simple metaphor for the audience to enjoy. I could tell that these dancers dance for the love of dance.

Rio Honda College presented a solo choreographed and performed by Tiffany Ramirez, entitled "To Write Love On Her Arms". This solo was a great example of a student choreographer really working through an idea and discovering her voice in movement. I enjoyed the work with gesture and motif, but I also enjoyed her B-boy-like ease on the floor with leg gestures that coordinated with the strong beat in the music. The dancer's commitment and honesty in presenting a piece seemed deeply personal that put me on her side as an audience member rooting for her performance even though I don't know her.

San Jose City College's student Alex Andrews choreographed and performed in this trio set to a poem by Allan Watts. The poem spoke of light and mysticism, and the dancers flowed through the space in their white garments to inhabit the universal energy. The piece was titled, "The Light That Blinds" and may have been served by stronger incorporation of this powerful image. The piece worked to embody the peace and serenity of this mystical energy, and I wonder how the striking image of being blinded by such beauty may have offered contrast to the elegance and beauty in the choreography.

San Jose State University treated the audience with their quirky contemporary jazz style in Dominique Lomuljo's "Miss Shapen Fortune." I hadn't seen the title of this piece before I watched it, but the design of the costumes complemented the design of the movement and attitude for the piece so well that even I considered getting back into a unitard. I loved the jazz elements of this piece that played so seamlessly into the more modern compositional structures. The dancers were appropriately fierce and detached, embodying the aesthetic of the cool that is a thumbprint of jazz dance. My only question was the use of a traditional parallel passé in the turns when so much of the body shaping was charmingly unconventional.

Anyone who attends ACDFA and thinks the informal concerts are not worth their time is sorely mistaken! These pieces were truly fantastic.

What are your thoughts? Did you see the concert? Share your feedback in the comment box below! Then sign up to follow this blog for more dance writing and reviews and my musings about life and being an artist.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad.... So please forgive the typos and grammar errors!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Competition in Dance: Coming to terms with ACDFA

This week I will be headed to the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA) Baja region festival.  This is an annual festival that I have been to about 10 times, beginning as a student at UC Santa Barbara.  It is a four day event of dance classes and performances for college dance programs to share and enjoy the art of dance

ACDFA festivals are amazing, filled with interesting and stimulating activities, performances and people.  But, I would be lying if I didn't also share that these festivals have a tendency to activate me into a state of anxiety. 

But, this is my Year to Live, and the last thing I want to do is have a stressed out ACDFA experience!  So, I started to dig around to figure out what exactly was charging me up and ruffling my feathers.

"Oh! Hello, Ego! Funny meeting you here!"

Not so surprising.  A laundry list of things set my self conscious ego into a tizzy. Here is the short list:
1.  I'm not one of the crazy popular teachers whose class is overflowing. 
2.  I can't remember everyone's name from year to year.  (Badges help-- but still)
3.  My choreography/performance is generally not at the caliber of Research 1 institutions (even though I don't teach at a Research 1 institution-- my ego is that crafty!).
4.  All of the above makes me feel generally dumb and insignificant within my own profession and passion.

Funny, not one issue has to do with the fact that I am there to mentor students or guide them around the festival.  All that is actually rather comforting.  I believe and trust that I am helpful to my students.  I know that I have information and knowledge that is useful to them. I like being there for them and feel rewarded helping them decide on classes, prepare for performances and understand the diversity and detail within the scope of their festival experience.

But, being in a large conference environment makes me question what I am offering the larger dance community.  My silly ego wants something more!  

I am truly embarrassed to even share this, but it is the truth. And in my year to live, I can't waste time lying.  I see the favorite teachers and the favorite choreographers year to year, and I see that I am not one of them. And, that just plain sucks.

The negative hitch to ACDFA is the pseudo-competition element that is involved with the event.  During the festival there are 3-4 Adjudication Concerts in which pieces are performed (anonymously) for a panel of 3 adjudicators (more commonly known as "judges").  No score is given (thank God!), but after they have given verbal feedback for each piece (really these feedback sessions are the best and worst aspect for my ego) they pick a top 10 to perform in a final gala performance.  It truly is an honor to perform in the gala. And the piece that do are usually exquisitely crafted and performed.

Now, of course EVERYONE wants to be in the gala.  And, this is what sits so uneasily with me as a dance educator.  I understand the concept of healthy competition, but I don't think it is healthy for me (and I am guessing other sensitive types too).  Granted, I say all of this, and I don't even have a piece in the adjudicated concerts this year.  This is old muck that has been churned up just at the prospect of attending to watch! 

 I love feedback. I hate competition.  

It is part of the reason I don't watch any dance shows on TV (also. . .I don't have cable).  Trying to measure dance or measure art in order to be given value is counter to everything I believe in.  And, I think most of the faculty members who attend ACDFA festivals would agree with me. Probably most of the ACDFA board members would agree with me.  Hell, I bet many of the "Adjudicators" agree with me too.

And yet. . .

And yet. . .

We crave validation and approval so fiercely that we engage in this way.  That we swallow the poison with the medicine. . . and, hope it doesn't kill our spirit in the meantime.

My stomach upturns just at writing this blog.  And, my eyes well up. 

In moments, like this I feel ashamed for past beliefs and past behavior, and I remember just how much I love the art of dance.  ACDFA is not the villain here, our human frailties are.  We want so much. I want so much.  I wanted so much.

I am learning to want less. To rediscover my self worth in a smile and a plié.  

...just a plié.

Want to read more about my ego?  Try out this recent blog of mine.  Are you vain? 
Or check out this whopper question: Ego vs Artist
Wondering about my Year to Live?  Check out where this all started. A Year To Live- 323 Days Left
Want to imagine me in a totally overwhelming dance class situation?  Then this is for you:  On being "just ok"

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Then. Now. Onward: A Review of the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company

This was my first ever Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company show, so I came in with literally no expectations. What I knew of LACDC, consisted of a trio I saw of artistic director, Kate Hutter's just last Friday at Adam Parson's Commonality Dance benefit concert.  (See review here).

I also, knew a little about Lindsey Lollie's work (one of the guest artists), having seen her at a number of dance festivals in LA this past year.  But, all in all, I was a clean slate, and I was excited to see what LACDC had in store for me.

This spring repertory show was truly enjoyable.  Now, perhaps I have just been holed up in my suburban life (hello tenure process!), but this is the first local, professional contemporary modern dance company I have seen since I moved to the LA area.  I have seen fantastic touring groups come through, and I have seen short form contemporary work in regional festivals.  But, this was the first company with evening length repertory that I can say was not either a college dance show or some permutation of contemporary jazz.

The concert consisted of 4 pieces. Here are a few thoughts on each:

Lindsey Lollie's piece "En Route" was set to a live avant garde score of Peter Gonzales.  What a treat to have a blend of live instrumentation and real time ipad and macbook driven technical manipulation creating a living, breathing, aural landscape for the piece.  Lollie's syrupy movement dripped off the dancers in the signature style I have come to associate with her work.  The movement palette was silky smooth with a kinetic flow that poured into the floor and between bodies with a hypnotic result.  The dancers embodied the style with ease and vibrancy.

Arianne MacBean presented a beautiful and fun large ensemble piece entitled "100 Times is Not Enough."  MacBean's sense of comic timing and wit made this piece extra enjoyable for the audience.  Telling the "story" of a choreographer in the creative process, the piece featured LACDC's Kate Hutter as the "choreographer," who has to confront herself and her misgivings about creating dance again and again, but eventually finds solace in simple movements that weave together into a visual tapestry that is rich and satisfying.  What can I say? I love humor. And, Hutter's comic timing and ability to connect to the audience was excellent.  But, humor aside, the craftsmanship of the composition was what made this piece so victorious in the end!  It gave the audience a chance to see the piece come to life, and gave the audience a reason to cheer for the success of the piece. It was a choreographic victory happening before our eyes! "99!"

Returning from intermission, "Unravel" choreographed by Kate Hutter and performed by Hutter and Charlie Hodges, had the audience in rapture.  I think the power of this piece lies in the human connection.  This piece, more than any other in the evening, highlighted an intimacy between performers that was playful, invested, and personal.  The seamless partnering and dynamic flow of the two bodies in space had my neighboring audience member whispering "beautiful" under his breath and clapping overhead by the end.  Hutter and Hodges' life long friendship in movement was a treat for the audience to savor.

The evening culminated with Hutter's interpretation of The Rite of Spring, which celebrated it 100's anniversary just this past spring.  Entitled "Prite oef Stringh" (and yes, to save you a moment, it does work out to spell The Rite of Spring all jumbled), this piece was set to a recrafted version of Stranvisky's original score, as freshly composed by Austin Wintory.  I very much enjoyed the simple modifications to the original music to suit a contemporary aesthetic of dance as well as a newly crafted retelling of the story.  The dancer's wore white long underwear that was cut for the women, and socks on everyone that allowed the dancers to slide and be slid (by others) across the white marley floor.  The large cast was essential for creating the sense of tribe and community in the piece and made the final "outcast" particularly prominent.  The dancer's exquisite physicality was the shining star for me in this piece.  They danced from their gut in a way that was completely vulnerable and appropriately disturbing at times.  This, juxtaposed with periods of live clapping, added to the visceral immediacy of the "Rite."  A beautiful and beautifully danced contemporary work, that before now I hadn't experienced among the professional LA dance world. 

This show runs the weekend and should be seen by every dance lover who aches for concert length contemporary dance works that are unashamed to be exactly as they are in a city of glitter and red carpets. 

Then.  Now.  Onward!
 April 4, 5, 6 2013 8:00pm, April 7th at 7pm
LACDC’s Spring Repertory Concert featuring new work by L.A. choreographers Arianne MacBean, Lindsey Lollie, and Artistic Director, Kate Hutter.  The performance will also feature live performance of original music.

Diavolo Dance Space in the Brewery in downtown L.A.
616 Moulton Ave.  Los Angeles, CA  90031