This Rep I am rehearsing two very challenging, yet very different pieces, Victor Quijada’s Suspension of Disbelief and Ulysses Dove’s Vespers. Both pieces are allowing me to tap into areas of my dancing that I usually do not get to experiment with, and I am learning new concepts every day that will aid not only the way I execute steps in these contemporary works, but also the execution of classical ballet steps.
Suspension of Disbelief has been quite the experience. We spent the first week “work-shopping” with Quijada, or experimenting with how our bodies move through the space around us, and vice versa, how the space around us causes a reaction to move our bodies. His entire piece is based around this concept, for example, someone or something pushes a part of your body, causing it to react in a direction an then possibly rebound in another direction, knocking another body part along the way. Sounds confusing, but in the workshops it made sense to me. As a ballet dancer, sometimes the focus is on a position the body makes, or the end point of a movement. What makes that end point meaningful and beautiful is the process it takes to get there. Quijada has described his choreography to us as ‘real.’ Someone ‘really’ pushes you, you ‘really’ fall, and then they ‘really’ catch you and pull you back up. The steps and positions of the choreography are all there, but the focus is on the process it takes to get to those positions, and then they just happen, almost without even realizing that they did. Not that these steps are easy, or that no effort goes into them, because I can barely hold my arms up right now to type this blog. J Needless to say, everyone got way into the workshops. My coworker and friend, Barry, mentioned to me that he woke up in the middle of a night moving through space with his elbow. There have been many similar stories, and I catch myself work-shopping all over Seattle.
Besides this space reaction concept, the piece also incorporates an urban theme. I have always been a BIG fan of hip hop culture in its entirety; the music, the dancing, the attitude, you name it. I have taken quite a few hip hop dance classes over the years purely for my own personal enjoyment, and have always been in awe of the way these dancers move. It is about the feeling or intention behind each step, not the step itself. I have am also completely mesmerized by break dancing and the things break-dancers allow to come out of their bodies. Mesmerized. Through Quijada’s workshops I kind of started to understand how B boys/girls do the crazy things that they do, which made me really excited. It’s a lot of physics, which I’m not going to get into, but everything involves using the different parts of your body to get from point A to point B, and again, it’s all about the process, not the end points. It is pretty funny to see all of our faces when Quijada would demonstrate a new break dancing move. We all look at him like “Yikes. You want us to do what now?” But then everyone got to working on these difficult moves, offering advice to each other on different ways to approach each step in order to complete it. When someone accomplishes a difficult move or maneuver, there is always a fellow “teammate” there to offer some sort of congratulations. The process of this piece has been extremely rewarding, but the beauty of it is that there is still a long way to go.
Vespers is an entirely different piece; probably the only similarity is that it is also not ballet. There is a story behind Vespers, but the challenge is that the story is not directly communicated to you, there is no clear-cut picture drawn up for you. You get to make it up yourself, or, as I have discovered, you get to find it. The same concepts of using your body to get from point A to point B I have also found to be useful in Vespers, but honestly, I haven’t quite connected with what exactly my story is. Each time I rehearse the piece, I feel closer to finding my own voice, and that, I feel, is the point. The rehearsal process to find that feeling that I am fishing for will allow me to get to that end point where I actually find it. And if I can’t move my arms from Suspension of Disbelief, well, I also can’t move my legs because of Vespers. The physical and psychological demands of this Rep continue to present new challenges for myself and my fellow dancers, creating a never-ending learning process with no end point really, which I find to be the beauty of this process. There is always one step further you can go.
Featured photo: PNB dancers in Victor Quijada’s Suspension of Disbelief, photo © Angela Sterling.