Saturday, March 1, 2014

For those who must know: An insider’s look into Dance Adventures in Dots and Stripes

For those audience members interested in the “back story” to Megill & Company’s latest show, Dance Adventures in Stripes and Dots, this one is for you.

When I started creating this work, I knew I didn’t want a narrative, but I knew I wanted a theme. I wanted to create a world that was fanciful, colorful, exiting and quirky.  I don’t remember exactly when I hit on the idea of stripes and dots, but it was long before I created the first dance phrases for Dance Adventures.  I have no other great explanation for the dots and stripes except that I like them. I like wearing them, I like seeing them, I like mixing them in my outfits. 

So, this world of dots and stripes developed out of that love.  I then picked songs that I made me want to dance- to groove, to play. I picked songs I felt encapsulated the timelessness and playfulness that I associate with dots and stripes.  From there I started making the dances, phrase by phrase week by week.  Usually I create 1-2 minutes of choreography each week.  Each week I picked a song from my list and experimented with movement.  The music evokes a quality that I associate with an emotion or a character, and I do my best to bring that to life. 

For instance, the Amy Winehouse trio called Every Town’s Got a Hot Mess was directly inspired by the musical qualities of that song. While I don’t choreograph to lyrics, the sentiment of the song comes through because of the quality of the jazz rhythms, instrumentation and vocals.  In this case, the piece is about three jaded cougars who live in DotsTown and are tired of the “scene.”  I drew out the components of apathy and boredom in Winehouse’s vocals, and paired it with contemporary dance vocabulary and sultry jazz qualities. 

On the other hand, I also created some of the work from concept.  Inside the Vault is a structured, improvisational solo that I perform to a combination of Tom Wait’s “When You’re Young at Heart” and Text from the book My Stroke of Insight as well as stream of consciousness text of my own.  The concept of this piece came to me in a flash. The idea of being young and growing old, of cognitive processing, and making memories, of forgetting events, words, ideas, and names, and yet always feeling the emotions of life.  This piece is about dementia and the reality of our nervous systems being both tremendous and fragile. 

First Step Again is a solo performed by Karissa Smith, and is a great example of a piece that started with concept and grew into its own over time.  Set to another Tom Waits song “Walk Away,” this solo was always about the challenge of breaking habits.  I choreographed 85% of the dance before I realized that the 2:30 minute song wasn’t what the solo needed. The story of breaking habits is not a short one, but a tedious and often painful one.  In the music Waits sing of walking away to “start all over again.”  And, that inspired me to make a play on words, that breaking habits often forces us to start all over again, even if we don’t want to.  Thus, I broke up the choreography into chunks, having Smith repeatedly perform the material with varied intensities and emotional content and the two minutes and thirty seconds piece became a six minutes and thirty seconds piece in the course of an hour rehearsal.  

The group piece Tequila and Chocolate, set to Regina Carter’s Jazz violin performance in "Mojito," is a more abstract dance work, based purely on the joy of moving.  This piece is not about story as much as it is about the craft and design of the composition. The Latin rhythms provided a fertile ground for me to play with syncopation and accents and each phrase became a nugget of complex rhythm that demanded hours of rehearsal and cleaning.  The joy of this piece lies in the company members’ joy in dancing together. We love to make visual rhythms with our dance and there is nothing better than coming together on stage with a group of your best friends to dance together. 

The goal of Megill & Company is two-fold. First, we dance because we believe the joy of dance can be found in the pursuit of high quality dance composition rooted in rhythm and character. Second, we dance because we love it, and we love sharing our joy with others.

To all our MeCo fans, old and new, thank you for your support!

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