I’d rather do this for a living than pull weeds

I had my first three rehearsals for a dance project I am involved in in my hometown this past week and I am very sore!  But also happy, because I know that I will learn a lot.

The project is an internship type position for five dancers who will be learning and creating movement for Jenny Davies, dance professor at Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA) to use in the fall with her company, Progeny Dance, and in any other projects.  I’m excited mostly because this is real dancing in my hometown, where I want to be anyway, and also because I get to learn from the other dancers in the project – for us to learn from each other.  Not unlike the group of dancers I entered when I got to Connecticut College, I believe that the dancers in this project all dance distinctly from one another.  We come from different movement backgrounds, different studios, different techniques… and that is wonderful.

Emma (another dancer in the project) and I are learning a duet that was originally set on a man and a woman; we are two women.  The first correction we heard after working on learning the duet from the video for about a half an hour was a correction on how to share weight and give weight during the lifts in this duet.  And it struck me at the time that if you had asked me what our first correction would be, I probably would have said, how we are giving weight during the lifts.  In dance, most of the time you have to give more weight for something to be easier.

I think that when dancing with anyone for the first time (as Emma and I were) giving weight is one of the hardest things to do quickly, which is natural.  If you are giving all your weight, you are going to fall faster and farther if your partner accidentally lets go of you.  You don’t know or trust this person yet with your body; it’s totally natural that you would hold some of your weight back.  And yet that is the thing most likely to make your dancing clunky and difficult.

And so I’m thinking of auditions, and how we are sometimes asked to learn short partnering sequences or lifts in an audition and the whole room scans around, looking for a “good” partner – someone that you somewhat know, or someone that you’ve seen do contact before.  But maybe what I’ll try, the next time I find myself in that position in an audition or in a new rehearsal environment, is to give it all, even knowing that I’m probably going to fall.  It’s hard to explain in words exactly what is needed to make a lift work, but by just giving and taking more from the start I imagine that bodies will start learning and talking without so much need for words.

One more thought on weight.. This past semester in the intermediate experimental class (improvisation class), we had a guest teacher, Bryan Strimpel.  His class made me think about pressure within the point of contact between two bodies.  When does touch become push? There are so many variabilities in pressure from fingers barely touching to hands pushing strongly against each other, and I’m curious about how we think about “sharing weight” in relation to touch, push, and pressure.  If I hold my fingers a centimeter away from each other I can feel the energy running between them (my brainwaves imagining them touching, or something like that) and I can feel it intensify as I slowly bring my fingertips together and push to the point of too much – of pain.  I am interested in the specificity within these gradations, and what it can mean for choreography, play, and learning.

It’s been a while since I’ve been dancing full out, and these rehearsals have left me sore!  However, walking out of the studio into the Virginia summer heat and humidity… I was reminded that yes, I would much rather get paid to do dance, any dance, than pull weeds.   

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