Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mountain View Solstice Dancers: Rehearsal 1

We liked it so much the first time, we came back for more! That's right, gentle readers, get ready for another blow by blow account of a new community dance project. Last night 40-odd alumni from Le Grand Continental, joined by some eager new participants, gathered at Celebration Hall in Mountain View Cemetery to begin rehearsals for an outdoor dance performance that will take place the evening of the summer solstice, June 21.

The project is the brainchild of Mark Haney and Diane Park, LGCers who also make up The Little Chamber Music Society That Could (LCMS). LCMS has an artist residency at Mountain View, and as part of their program of work, Mark will compose a new piece of music, Diane will create an installation involving mirrors, and we dancers (who presently number 52) will perform some original site-based movement. Overseeing the choreography is Jessica Barrett, also from LGC and, we soon discovered, an excellent teacher.

Even though it's been less than two months, it felt as if I were greeting long-lost relatives as I exchanged hugs with my LGC peeps in the foyer of Celebration Hall, a modernist jewel-box of a concrete building in the middle of Mountain View that I've cycled past many times but never been inside. Soon enough, however, we were catching up on gossip like old friends as we filtered into the hall, which has windows to the west and north that let in the natural light, a shiny black marble floor, and incredibly high ceilings from which are suspended light fixtures that look like they are designed by Omer Arbel. A bit different from the Ukrainian Hall, to say the least.

After Mark introduced himself and explained a bit about the project, including the other musical pieces we'll be dancing to (among them Arvo Pärt's haunting "Spiegel im Spiegel"), Jessica took us through a few introductory warm-up exercises and also gave us an overview of the composition and rehearsal process for the movement. The biggest difference for those of us who participated in LGC is that we won't be learning set choreography. Rather, we'll be creating the piece together in collaboration with Jessica, who already has several ideas for different movement structures based on the music and the site, but who will also very much be taking her cue from our improvisations in rehearsal.

To that end, we began by improvising in canon to a basic waltz step, mixing things up by leading with alternating feet, and eventually adding in some fairly simple arm movements. Somehow I found myself at the front of the group and paired, no less, with the un-upstageable Ling. It didn't help that Ian and Darren's cameras were also back, trained on us one last time for a final bit of documentary footage. But despite all the reasons to feel pressure as Jessica counted us in to the first diagonal pass, I didn't. Instead I just let myself go, attuning my body's rhythms to the rhythms of the music as best I could. And everything was fine.

I wouldn't have been able to do that before LGC.

Thirteen more weeks before our performance. Stay tuned for lots more.


No comments: