In my current self discovery mode of defining what I want to do with the rest of my life, pursuing it and finding ways to tell others about it, doubt often floats around in my head. There are a lot of questions I ask myself but one that has been frequent lately is about the need for dancers. Do we serve a purpose? Do you need to have freakishly awesome flexibility or set of tricks to seem captivating? Do you need revolutionary concepts and content for you work to be relevant? The amount of steps dancers and choreographers have to take to finally get to the work has me constantly thinking about the hoops we have to jump through and how that may be changing what we create. I know it does for me. Even looking at applications has me second guessing my ability to meet the requirements in addition to have an authentic idea and create something that can be presented proudly by its performers. It has to be a new work, it has to be a finished work, it has to be 5-15 minutes long, it has to address a particular theme, idea, purpose, it has to be suitable for a particular audience, it pays this much...I’m drowning.
I have been working for Toronto based choreographer Peter Chin as a rehearsal assistant while he perfects his work Woven to be show in the Harbourfront Centre’s upcoming Next Steps 2015/2016 Series. Sitting in on rehearsals has been amazing. The current cast of Woven is comprised of two local dancers and three international dancers of different nationalities. There are language barriers and variations in their training backgrounds, but regardless of the differences this cast is a team that is cohesive and cooperative. Individually, dancers physically recall intricate material from digital sources and are able to alter details on the spot. In groups, the dancers can work through vast detailed choreography by contributing to its accuracy as they kinesthetically remember and rely on one another for help. The dancers also respond to Peter with a mutual respect and caring for the work that shows their investment in what they are doing. There are conversations about what the dancers “need,” where to start, how far they can travel, if they need more time, etc… They’re also involved in the process of creating by offering suggestions as how to clarify a movement or for a particular transition. The dancers also have the confidence and ability to fully embody verbal instructions. The ability for Peter to see the whole picture, stand at a distance and direct the dancers is an awesome choreographic tool. When the choreographer can clearly verbally communicate what they’re interested in and allow the dancer to physically find the movement, it achieves the choreographic idea as well as resonating in the dancer with an authentic quality.
Maybe this is all so very typical of the art form and I am blind to it, but it continues to be an eye opening experience for me. To see in front of me, day after day, the physical stamina, ability and awareness along with the mental and creative capacity demonstrated by the Woven cast clearly outlines why dancers are important. Why not just anyone can do this work. It reminds me to embrace and cherish the moments of working after you have jumped through the hoops.
Last week I also participated in an intensive hosted by Alias Dance Project at their home studio, Cornerstone, by Gerrard and Coxwell. Frigg. Talk about awesome people. This week, coming directly after a week of working with Peter Chin and his team gave me the physical experience of what I was seeing in his rehearsals. The Alias intensive is based on the sharing and learning of physical skills. The ability for individuals to create is a given, and the discovery of new forms is found with the same concept of holding the movement as your own, authentic. Working in concentrated focused classes with a group of people as hungry as I am to learn and grow was therapeutic. When dancing at Cornerstone I had no questions. I wasn’t worried about how legitimate dance or the arts is or isn’t and I didn’t ask if this was the “right” thing. I was fully consumed and lost in the challenge and freedom of working with people who are working on their passion and profession and who won’t let anyone or thing get in the way.
Almost a whole week out of the intensive, I’m crashing. Still fantasizing about the 40 hour dance week of my dreams while working in kitchens and gardens across Toronto. These artists find the balance. They work. Dance without the work is hollow. It's self conscious and insecure. it's eyelashes and high legs and quiet.