breaking up with a dance

One of the saddest things about being a performance artist is closing night of a show you love. Friday marked the second and final night of my thesis concert, Like A Unicorn in Captivity.  This piece was the result of over a year of collaboration with amazingly talented artists, in addition to the cliche but true “blood, sweat, and tears”, and to see it come and go so quickly is difficult, to say the least.

I hope to keep the piece alive, to get it presented at a local theatre and perhaps even take it on tour, but it won’t be the same.  The elaborate (and expensive!) set design, costumes, and lighting and projection were made exclusively for the performance space (The Dance Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center).  While they could perhaps be recreated in some ways, the size and space limitations many theatres, in adition to the working budget of most freelance artists (myself included), would certainly mean many alterations would have to be made.

I feel a little bit like I’ve just gone through a break-up. Of course there are other fish in the sea, as they say – more work to make, more chances to bring back Unicorns in different and exciting ways –  and thinking about that is thrilling in many ways. But there is a small part of me that just wants to wallow in what I will be missing.  I long for the comfort, safety, and familiarity of the old relationship – the one I have with Unicorns.  It’s a strange place to be, but one that might be familiar to anyone who has lost love: I want to hold on to the old while still very much looking forward to the promise of the future.

But as they say, “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.”  While I don’t think that’s true in love, it certainly has potential in art. On Saturday morning, just hours after I took my final bow, I was back in the studio with youngest students, teaching them echappes and falaps. The next morning, I boarded a plane to LAX, where in just three days I’ll present my research (a poster titled, “Play as a Pathway to Higher Order Thinking Skills in Recreational Ballet Classes”) at the National Dance Education Organization’s 2012 Annual Conference. It’s been great to spend the last few days catching up with my brother Larry (who lives in Pasadena), but I am so looking forward to spending 5 days discussing dance ed and the ways dance can be integrated in a variety of settings with talented and thoughtful dance teachers from across the country, as well as catching up with my former professors Gretchen Mclaine and Tim Cowart!

Then, it’s back to the DC metro to begin collaborations with UMD music graduate students YeeVon Ng and Jonathan Cain, for a performance at Tawes Recital Hall on December 1; between DC area music group All Points West and New Street Dance Group coming up this spring; and with NSDG, College Park Arts Exchange and New Chicago Dance Studio’s Youth Company for my own performance at Old Parish House in College Park, MD!

There will be little chance to sit around mourning the end of thesis performance, which is good, but still I must take a moment and thank my many collaborators on the piece:

Dancers: Jan Beardsley, Allison Bobby, Tanya Stephens; Unissa Cruse-Ferguson, Ellen Clark, Emilie Davignon, Ebony McSwain (performance cast); Sara Elizabeth Brower, Krista Armbruster, Lauren Fanslau, Abbey Hogg, Mary Wayock (video cast)

Music: Natalie Spehar, Joel Pierson

Lighting: Andrew Cissna

Projection: Robert Denton

Set Design: Douglas Clarke

Costumes: Chelsey Schuller

Stage Management: Sharon Eve King, Kayla Wright, Scott Kincaid

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