Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Making of a Dance: A Dancer's Perspective, Part 1

Getting Down to Dirty Work - July 16, 2007
by Karen Krolak, Monkeyhouse Artistic Director

It's about 5 minutes in to my first rehearsal for Stephen Koplowitz's piece at the ICA and already I am impressed. He remembered my name after meeting me briefly a week ago. I had dropped by to his first rehearsal here and then dashed off suddenly to catch a flight to the Midwest for a funeral. As a choreographer and teacher, I know that identifying everyone by name can be one of the most daunting tasks of working with a new group of dancers. Having been born in Nashville, though, I usually resort to calling everyone ambiguous terms of endearment like "darling," "peaches," or "you."

As he greeted the other newcomers, (Gloria, who is from Austria, Hannah, who is from Canada, Jacqui who performs with Rebecca Rice, Cristin, who works with Prometheus Dance and Cat, a Summer Stages Dance alum) Stephen noticed that one of us had arrived in flip-flops causing him to announce that anyone who dances for him needs to be prepared to "get dirty."Now, before you leap to any conclusions about what that means, I should warn you that it has nothing to do with soaring into a lift above Patrick Swayze's head. Most dance forms require specific shoes or lack there of. Apparently, when you are sliding off rocks, rolling into windows, and crawling around rock gardens, you will need a sturdy pair of sneakers. As we watched section 4 unfurl before us, we all understood why we had been asked to bring knee pads and windbreakers as well.

In his explanation of "getting dirty," Stephen emphasized the importance of discovering the technique of working with the site. When you see all of us crammed into the tiny crook in the wall underneath the stairs, you will know what he means. Our movements are limited by many factors, but those limitations open up a very specific physical vocabulary. The choreography is an honest response to the shape of the space. While you can apply skills derived from other dance forms, you ultimately devise new methods of moving with gravel, cement, and whatever else lurks in the crevices of those stones.

My first day was mainly focused on studying the other dancers, gleaning bits of advice from their bodies about how to interact with the architecture of the ICA. I am eagerly anticipating Wednesday, when I willhave my own chance to get grimy.

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