With time and distance, I see that the process of teaching Glacial Decoy to the Paris Opera Ballet was an emotional seesaw. I was convinced at some moments that this could be the most elegant and satisfying Decoy that ever was and at others that the task was hopeless, that the dancers would never be able in such a short time to understand a totally new use of weight and manner of comportment. We certainly gave it our all and the final product delighted many viewers.
I remain impressed by how things that appear so simple to do are actually immensely complex. Martha Graham’s quote that it takes a year to learn to run, five years to walk and ten years to stand rings true here. In truth what we have is a hybrid form now, a Decoy with some very clear grasping of the essentials along with some more balletic kinds of inflections, not in the original, but not at all unattractive to an audience. The mind shift of welcoming the hybrid may be what’s called for in this kind of situation where time is limited. The underlying assumption, as Brigitte Lefevre so astutely assessed on my very first day at the Opera, must not be to make the dancers dance just like us (the Brown dancers).
The fact that the time is ripe for such a hybrid to exist at all, the crossing of a Decoy and a Swan, a luring of the classical toward a new terrain in dance, is cause for celebration.
A final exercise: in the days leading up to performance, we were thinking about how to find the right quality of attention onstage. Trisha asked the dancers to go ahead and dance their complex duet material while she played “catch” with them, tossing a rolled up sock (we lacked a real ball) and having them catch and toss it back. The very real demand of the task - keeping eyes open, senses awake – meant that the dancers looked open, with it, present. Ready for anything. Just right. That simple way of teaching seemed to me classic Trisha – finding an amusing and immediate way to approach a complex dancing issue. Being re-immersed in her work and world brought many such moments. With my great gratitude that it came about at all, so ends “Decoy Among the Swans”.
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An unexpected upshot of the Paris Opera Ballet project is that I have so much enjoyed writing that I plan to continue on a new blog entitled “Writing My Dancing Life”. It will offer a running account of concerts seen, works in progress, experiences teaching and reflections on history (access at www.writingmydancinglife.blogspot.com).
If you have any responses to “Decoy Among the Swans” please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org