Back to the Swans
In Paris again just now I received an email out of the blue from a dancing colleague who came across this weblog…So people are still finding their way to it!
In the interest of bringing the historical record up to date I’m posting excerpts from letters to Diane Madden and Steve Paxton about getting Glacial Decoy back up to speed a year after our initial work there, and also a bit about the ‘creation,’ O Composite, Trisha’s newest work for 3 ‘étoiles’ (literally ‘stars’ in French) at the ballet. I didn’t keep a log this time because I am working on articles for Dance Magazine – one on the work of Trisha Brown at the Paris Opera Ballet and another on the Trisha Brown Dance Company’s 35th anniversary. Both should be appearing in the April ’05 issue.
Here’s my last chance to send you a progress report from Paris – we leave tomorrow. I’m gonna make it short because there’s a lot to deal w/ around here.
Well, before I write about the dancers, the whole picture has been really different for me this time because I was also focusing on the Dance Magazine articles – interviewing people, transcribing, reading and writing text. A big preoccupation and one that helped me feel very engaged every minute, not lonely.
The Decoy dancers really went way beyond where they got last year. Ironed out (fingers crossed it stays) the tendency to punch out and pinch inward when revved up. They are moving with more continuous clarity and ease and have zippy, spontaneous seeming exchanges in the duo. I had been afraid about helping them with that without you but it was OK. And your admonition to just help them dance beautifully in the way my eyes wanted to see that was incredibly helpful. Thank you again.
O Composite (the new work for POB dancers) with your alphabets is totally stunning, Di. It was something to be present at the birth, like being in the next room when someone is going through labor. Laurie’s (Anderson’s) music is almost hypnotic with its electronica and seduction of whispered Polish, the set is a deep black night sky with white dots of stars at varying distances, the costumes white and fitted like fencing bodices but for Aurelie’s organza skirt, transparent like the Decoy gowns. The visual connection of the two is totally uncanny. You can picture it, all b&w Decoy to all B&W composite, years later, more serene and mysteriously emotional…
Because Steve Paxton and I have had some correspondence this year about dance writing, I wanted to write him after seeing each other at the Premiere.
....What I notice in the ballet dancers is their extraordinary ability to finish their shapes cleanly. In Decoy they’re moving at times in layers in the body – one trajectory this way, another beginning a hair later, that way. These are the challenging aspects to master, a complexity of simultaneous intentions. On returning to Decoy, it took a while for them to recall how they understood that before, and connect more deeply with the quality of sequencing that ripples from limb to torso to head or the reverse. Now it’s all embedded in their muscle memory so they can play with the varieties of attack – hard/soft, something I like to think of as solid, liquid, gas. They can tease out the timing—stretching out toward the edges of the rhythms, and then they look both dynamic and really Brownienne. In fact, Carolyn (Lucas, Trisha’s longtime choreographic assistant) said this Decoy is now as good as it has been since the original cast. Them’s strong words. I’m pleased. And so are they.
Part of the trick is providing easy keys for unlocking the usual holding patterns. You know all about that. This time we started w/ mobility of the head, things I even remember doing with you—focus on atlas/axis plus hands on being tipped and supported, a tad like a balloon. Alexandrian but loosely so. Doing this they exclaimed that their whole body relaxed, that they felt extremely settled. So we took that sensation as a reference point for how we wanted to feel when beginning to dance Decoy and I reprised the exercise in miniature repeatedly
It was a treat to have time now for revisiting movement and performance qualities, revisiting the detail of the movement (we were teaching one new dancer) and getting quickly to quality issues….
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There are a couple of topics I’d enjoy writing on from this last 4 week stint:
-difference in working style. In interviews, the étoiles characterized theirs as always working in a state of urgency…it made for culture clash
-interesting performances in the Festival d’Automne
-how to empower performers in terms of their presence, we got at that more clearly
-some issues and materials from my interviews and notes that won’t ever make it into a publication (too strange, too anecdotal, too personal?)
So this is a fingers crossed proclamation of my wish to get to them. I’ll keep you posted.