Thursday, October 20, 2016

Long Division: In the Studio with Lesley Telford

Earlier today the choreographer of Long Division, Lesley Telford, invited me to drop by the studio at Arts Umbrella on Granville Island, where she was working with members of her new pilot research-training program for early career dancers to test out some possible studies for different movement sections in the play. (In fact, I invited myself and Lesley generously agreed that I could stop by.)

As I have previously mentioned, Lesley just happens to be working with seven amazingly talented dancers as part of this program, and they have each taken on a character in the play, drawing from the text (which was spread out across the studio floor when I arrived) to improvise and develop individual gesture phrases that may or may not eventually get set in some related form on our corresponding actors when we begin rehearsals next week (yikes!). Lesley asked each of the dancers--Aden as Paul, Corrine as Reid, Brenna as Jo, Maya as Lucy, Stephanie as Naathim, Caitlyn as Grace, and Katie as Alice (apologies for any misspellings)--to run through the solo phrases they had come up with and I was amazed at how bang-on their instincts were in terms of energy and tempo and line, as well as things like muscularity vs. flow, repetition, different levels and directional facings, and so on. I was also pleased to note that I could also read each character in the movement without reading the movement itself as telegraphing too obviously this or that character's psychology or profession. Which is to say that is the furthest thing from mimeticism or pantomime.

The dancers also ran through different group sequences that they had developed with Lesley, including a portion of what might become the opening walking pattern (there's a recurring falling into gravity motif that together with simple moments where the dancers just stop and acknowledge each other in space, or else let a loose arm swing back and forth that had me smiling the whole way through). Lesley has additionally choreographed a bit where the dancers move downstage as a clump, with each of them taking turns fading into the pack, which is a nice visual image for how the characters are connected to each other, whether they want to be or not. Another sequence Lesley tried in canon for the first time today, and despite the fact that some of the dancers were only just learning the movement, it was most effective. Ditto the moments when the dancers took turns manipulating each other.

It was all so exciting to see and it was a joy to share with the dancers some of my thoughts on each of the characters whose movement vocabularies they are helping to build. That vocabulary will necessarily look somewhat different (less dancerly, more pedestrian) when transferred to the actors, but the point is that no matter where it has come from, it has to be performed with intention. To that end, it will be an enormous help to have the dancers with us on Wednesday afternoons as we move through the rehearsal process.

I keep having to pinch myself that we have such a fabulous creative team.


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