One thing my admittedly brief career in community dance has taught me: knowing how to count is important, especially when the musical beats are irregular and the accompanying movement even more improvisatory. All of which is to say that the careful reader of this blog (please identify yourself, whoever you are, so that we can have coffee!) will have noticed that I've skipped a number in my rehearsal documentation of the Mountain View Summer Solstice dance project. That's because I was in Montreal last week on business--a seemingly ridiculous phrase when applied to academics, but in this case I was truly in meetings for three days straight, from which I will also be producing a final report.
In my absence, Jessica and company finished setting the opening Arvo Part piece, which meant I had a lot of catching up to do at last night's rehearsal. I duly arrived early and tried to assimilate the last half of the duet that ends this section. But without Suzie there to accompany me it was a bit haphazard, and I mostly tried to focus my concentration on absorbing what Jessica was doing. Fortunately the new choreography repeats certain phrases from the first half of the piece, so I wasn't completely lost.
After the rest of the company's arrival, and following our opening warm-up, we moved on to learning brand new movement, which in this case will be accompanying the second of the three musical compositions of the evening. This is the original piece that Mark is in the midst of composing; the final version will be performed live on the evening of the actual performance, but for now he has given Jessica a skeletal bass track from which to begin building her choreography. He then plans to respond in turn by layering over different instrumental motifs. This is all very well and good in theory, but Heather wanted an assurance that Mark would at least provide us with a struck cymbal or some sort of other distinctive musical cue to alert us as to when we are to pop up from our bent-over, haunch-in-the-air grooving at the start of this piece.
We did spend a lot of time last night "assuming the position," to use Jessica's phrase--that is, bent over at the waist and sunk into our quads, moving only our tailbones and heads and fingertips for successive counts of eight (see, more dance numeracy!). This does eventually culminate in full verticality, leading into what I've dubbed our sci-fi sequence: a series of robotic steps forward that then segue into a brief and somewhat anomalous Fosse-esque jazz flourish that is really just a prelude to a longer Matrix-like bit of mirrored improvisation. I was partnered with Diane for the latter and we had a lot of fun channeling our inner Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss--though who was Neo and who was Trinity might have been hard to determine to the outside eye.
I have to say that I do like the improvisatory bits. It takes a lot of the pressure off in terms of the quality and the timing of the movement. But, as I suggested at the outset of this post, that doesn't mean that you can stop counting!