by Christine Zimmermann
Showtime is just days away! Time always seems to feel like a luxury, until SMACK! It is your last rehearsal. Pressure’s on.
Luckily, I’m heading into rehearsal for Grant Jacoby’s modern piece today with the confidence of having been cleaning and refining finished choreography for a few weeks now. Tonight, our only tasks will be to clear up any remaining areas of confusion and practice raising our work to the next level with heightened degrees of comfort and performance value. One more rehearsal should do it. We are ready to take the stage!
To be frank, if you asked me in April if I thought I would feel this confident and excited about this piece, you would have heard a fair amount hesitation in my response. Grant came to our choreography showcase in the spring to recruit for the Piece Formerly Known as TBD. There was no music. There was no choreography. There was no concept, so far as I could tell. There was no explanation of a vision. Of any sort. Not in the least. We were only told that the dance would be a collaborative effort built on improv (a.k.a. the most-feared word in a dancer’s vocabulary). TBD. He might as well have told us that we’d be going out on the stage to sit down and eat popcorn together while we stare at our audience. At least then I would have known what to expect.
But, somehow I ended up signing up. I think my motivation may have been sheer nosiness. And FOMO. I really like to know what’s going on. In the cases of the other dances presented at the showcase, I had a reasonably clear idea of what would develop. In the case of TBD, it was a great mystery. I was hesitant. I was nervous. How, when too often we are down to the wire in learning choreography, would TBD stand a chance of being ready on time? Also, it might be weird. Modern dance can be weird, right? Grant seemed a little weird. Then again, I'm a little weird. I decided I was okay with weird, and that my nosiness and FOMO trumped my nerves. I guess that’s how it happened.
After one rehearsal, I got it. Music was still TBD. Choreography was still TBD. But I learned to trust the process. Grant started us off by asking us to each share our favorite dance move or trick, and within seconds had strung them together into an interesting and dynamic phrase. And then it was part of our dance. Boom. Choreography.
As our rehearsals moved forward and this new creative process unfolded before me, I found this experimental, real-time approach to choreography to be gratifying, integrated, and energizing. Grant teamed us up in groups to prepare new choreography on the fly, which was tweaked and manipulated, stretched and condensed, and incorporated into our work. We returned to our original phrase from that first day, dissected it, embellished it, dismembered it, and reassembled it in a Picasso-esque manner. At one particularly memorable practice, Grant asked us to spell our own names in movement, and then to fuse this movement with that of another dancer. More choreography was born. Nothing was discarded. Like frugal cooks, we recycled the leftovers for use in another dish.
In my own experience as a choreographer, the process of conceptualizing and actualizing, and then teaching a dance has been long and involved. I never could have dreamed that TBD would come together so smoothly! My journey with Grant and my fellow dancers this season has been so enticingly different from any other experience I’ve had in building a dance.
I look forward to sharing our work with you! It is a weird modern piece entitled “We Were Here Once.”
Our Season Seven Performance is THIS SUNDAY, June 22 at The Boston Conservatory. Get your tickets HERE!
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