Small Dances Weeks 1-6: It's a Big Onion

December 17, 2013



While it's December and we're in resolution-land, I want to get very hippy dippy. Is there something you're really hoping for in the coming year? I encourage you to put it on paper-- as specifically as possible-- and send the intention into the universe. INTO THE UNIVERSE. Yes, that.

Last December I wrote that I wanted to make dance the way a musician makes an album, and guess what? IT'S HAPPENING! In a nutshell, I wanted to make it tour-able and reusable, and I wanted to be mindful of the amount of money, energy, and time I was investing. This was after learning from the experience of making my dance I Like You, which I took 2 years to make, and required a big stage, 3 projectors, and 4 very specific performers, and played for just one weekend. So, Small Dances it is. I wanted to share a bit about my process here, because it really is similar to hacking away at any big project. I keep likening it in my mind to peeling an onion: a layer at a time, over and over and over again, not knowing what the center of the onion really looks like yet. I'm learning a lot about showing up, mentally and emotionally. Oh, and physically, because I think better when I move. So far my best ideas have hit me while on the elliptical at the gym, right next to that really intense guy in his 60's, who makes me a little nervous.

I've been thinking about these tiny, reusable dances all year, and they have been very slowly coming to fruition. I like that kind of speed. Realistically, I balance art projects with a lot of other kinds of projects. I'm able to make this work my big focus for the rest of December and January, but for most of the year it's been a quiet accompaniment to the rest of life. Here's how it's been coming together:

The Timeline
What's a realistic amount of time for creating and rehearsing an hour-ish length piece? I have no idea. I know that limits are good-- sometimes the best work happens with the pressure of a deadline. If I had a year or two, I'd for sure be able to use it, but my goal is to be conscious of time and money with this process (2 years = a lot of money). This piece will get 3 months of rehearsal time (3 1/2 months, with two week-long breaks for holidays). I've helped things along by workshopping parts of this piece back in May, and developing a lot of the vocabulary on my own time. The timeline has been like this:

January-May: Work on a 10-minute piece using some of the movement vocabulary.
March: Grant application submission.
June (late June): Grant award announcement.
September-October: Personal rehearsal time/organization time in donated rehearsal space. Auditions and casting.
October 31: First rehearsal.
February 10: First performance.

Notes From Weeks 1-6 of Rehearsal:
In rehearsals we've been spending a lot of time getting on the same movement-style page. I've taught a bunch of chunks of movement vocabulary, which are going to be shaped into about 10 different short sections of the piece. My dancers are really savvy, awesome folks, and the teaching process is going quickly. Regardless: this is dance, and it takes time to learn and memorize. Other than jazz-handed musicals, this is the most movement-centered piece I've ever made (as opposed to text or character-centered).

On the producing end of things, I've started to schedule February performances (with the help of my stage manager, Zoe) around the Twin Cities. My goal is to have 10 performances between February 10 to March 9. I've been reminded that scheduling rehearsals and performances takes a lot of time-- there's pretty much always some kind of email that I should/could be writing at any given time.

Some Awesome Things:
--I love working with a stage manager. I'm used to producing performances and running rehearsals on my own, and it's so nice to have company (especially smart company).
--Have I mentioned how fabulous my dancers are? I love them.
--Rehearsing during the day has really been helpful for my brain and process.
--We've had lots of generous offers for performance spaces.

The Challenging Things:
--I'm continually shifting between my producer hat and my creator hat, because performances and rehearsals have to be booked. I wish I could afford to ignore my other work and life responsibilities, and only focus on this project.
--Too much thinking. It's easy to get sucked into analyzing exactly how this will come together, when the best thing to do is to start acting. Structuring the piece is a daunting task, and I need to remember that I can always tweak things AFTER I've made decisions.

Up Next:
I have two big next steps: booking performances by January 7, and teaching/creating all of the structured sections by January 17. These are totally doable timelines. I'm waiting to think too much about sound design, guest performers (the original idea was to perform this piece with a guest artist from another discipline), or the placement of each of the sections.

Lessons:
I'm reminded every single day: just keep going, just keep going. Even a tiny movement forward makes all the difference in the world. It doesn't have to be great; I just have to show up. I take it as a good sign that I'm enjoying this process more than I've ever enjoyed a process. That in itself is great progress.

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