Saturday, April 9, 2011

Taking a Moment to Pause

The past few months have been very full. I've performed with Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers at the Painted Bride and Montgomery County Community College; each performance contained a different program. I performed with the Nora Gibson Performance Project at the CEC Meeting House Theater. I'm setting new choreography on students at Temple University and choreographed Oklahoma! for Alvernia University. Oklahoma! opened this week and runs through next week. In the midst of all of the work, I find myself needing a moment to reflect on everything that's been happening.

I've been performing for years and years in many different venues. Every performance is different and exciting and terrifying. The moment of performance is so magical because it is so immediate and fleeting. Although this is true in life, there is more of an urgency with the energy of performance. There is nothing to which we can grasp and keep forever. When it is over, we have only the memories and the feelings created by the moment.

Each performance is an investigation. I am, by nature, very analytical and for better or for worse, bring this quality to all of my work. Including performance. While I find it valuable to investigate performance during class and rehearsal, and teach performance, and write about performance, there is also a time when I need to let myself experience performance.

Yes, I am totally capable of this, and I am a strong performer. However, in rehearsal, I am often told that my mind gets in the way of my body. Or that my thinking body is so clear that it inhibits the ability of my living body to shine out.

Last night, I sat in the audience of Oklahoma! and was so clearly reminded of how incredibly fun performance really is. And in that reminder, how enjoyable the moment can be. Reflecting on Oklahoma! and it's importance is a different post, but I will state that this is the University's first ever musical production. We've engaged with the entire musical, as originally created. (Many companies choose to cut or edit some of the dancing or scene work. We've doing it all - including the whole 15 minute ballet.) With good reason, I think many of the performs were nervous about opening.

How they shine on stage!

I am so impressed with the work that they've done. More so, I'm so impressed with the performers that they have(are) developed(ing) into. These young artists have grown and developed by leaps and bounds over the past several months. Many artists do grow through the rehearsal process. But these young artists have transformed themselves and in doing so, have transformed a small theater into a giant territority. I no longer see the individuals with whom I've worked. Rather, I see a community of pioneers struggling day to day to make their dreams come true. I am entranced with individuals whom I've never met and will never see again; but for three hours, they reveal their secrets and their stories to me and those who are lucky enough to sit in the audience.

I am impressed by how clearly their bodies are telling these stories, as much as if not more so than their words and songs. I am energetically charged as one character sucks at his teeth and rolls his eyes while another is giving directions - her shoulders tense, torso forward, and arms extended strong and high. My heart breaks at another moment when a character is so angry it looks like he's going to burst or break something; his body taught, arms and neck bulging, and feet planted wide- only to completely release in surrender and despair in the next moment. His form shrinks, his torso drops, and his limbs release into dead weight. He hasn't physically moved, but he has energetically shifted his entire kinesphere and the atmosphere of the theater. Their bodies are telling these stories.

Last night, these young artists reminded me how precious the moment of performance is. They reminded me that I need to really embody and live in it - and that I can analyze it after it's over. They reminded me that it is possible to completely transmit someone to a different place for three hours solely by commitment to the performance and the space. They reminded me of the sacredness of what we do. That sacredness is to be celebrated and relished.

So, thank you, young artists, for transforming me. Thank you for reminding me why it is we do what we do.

And with that... off to another rehearsal...

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