Last night at 7:45pm, myself and six of my dancers arrived at The Dance Complex in Central Square, Cambridge, MA. We were happy to meet Impact Dance Company at the top of the very long set of stairs (really matters when you're carrying 50lbs of stuff - costumes, clothing, books, a computer, your toothbrush, etc - on your back). The lobby was buzzing with activity. So many faces we knew, so many faces we were soon to spend the night creating with in one building.
We sat in a circle in Studio 1, the space that a mere 12 hours later would become our performance space. The building was filled an electric energy the entire night. My only regret is not spending more time in other company's studios. My own anxiety about 'not finishing' a piece, along with everyone's energy and creativity, drove us to work with few breaks from 9pm through until our group meeting with all of the participants at midnight. In a small circle, each of the choreographers talked about their different processes for creating. With everyone at different points in the process, I didn't feel alone in a generalized feeling of nervousness and anticipation I had buzzing. We all knew it was going to take truly 'dropping in' for what felt like the most crucial next few hours to make progress towards something we were willing and excited to share with the world. Sleep was an 'if' at that point.
We continued to work from 12am to 2am in the studio. By the end of that session, we had warmed-up, improvised several ways, developed a total of 9 repeatable phrases, but had very little structure to the piece. I decided how I wanted to start, but that had only set about 20 seconds of the piece. We met again as a group in Studio 1 at 2am, all 40 of us passing through different stages of wakefulness. Some laid down in human caterpillars, others wrapped in blankets. Most of us had our eyes open. After an intense game of rock-paper-scissors to choose tech times for the following morning (beginning as early as 8am, at that point, only 6 hours later), Luminarium dancers led us all through some gentle body work with each other, taking a moment to pause and take care of ourselves to support us through the night.
Following the body work, we continued to develop some of the set phrases we had created. Although I had figured out how to start the piece, I hit a wall in my decision making and energy level at about 3:30am. I had learned about making dance using chance in college, something made famous by Merce Cunningham, and was one of many dance generating techniques I read about prior to beginning this process by coincidence. I wrote down all of the phrases we created on scraps of paper and created two piles, one for heads, and one for tails. We flipped a coin, and whoever guessed right picked the next phrase to create the structure and order of the piece. It was one way we were able to incorporate the theme. We gambled with the possibility of the order not working out because using a mechanism that made decisions for us based on unpredictable variables - the toss of a coin and random selection of who would physically choose the next scrap of paper. We committed this structure created by chance until 4:25am, when we tried to sleep.
I could feel Ryan P. Casey's group tapping into the wee hours of the morning vibrating through the floor. On the ceiling I watched patterns of light move created by cars lights streaming through multi-paned windows and heard sirens several times. After a while marinating in the experience of the last three hours, I moved to the other side of the room, further from the vibrations. Moving in and out of sleep I watched the first few moments of sunrise, when the horizon is still a deep blue, and the sky a painting into greens and yellows. When the sun was finally bright enough to warrant shirts over eyes at about 6:00am, I woke up, and began searching for music for the piece. I also wrote this little blog post (the 6am one).
Once we remembered the structure we created the night before, we began to rehearse the piece a few times with different songs to decide. For the warm-up the night before, one of my dancers created a playlist that included "Luck Be a Lady" from Guys and Dolls and Daft Punk's recent hit "Get Lucky", so they were the first candidates for testing. I found an instrumental version of "Luck Be a Lady" played by the Boston Pops that worked incredibly well. We couldn't contain our laughter, and I think most of my dancers didn't feel like the song quite matched the direction we had taken the theme, although it made the piece hilariously dramatic. Just look how awesome our improv exercises look with that as the backdrop, horns and chimes punctuating dramatic moments.
After trying "Get Lucky", the dancers suggested trying to find a song with a similar beat, so everyone took to their phones. We listened to ten or so options, none of them feeling quite right. There was unfortunately not enough time at that point to edit multiple songs together before tech so dancers would feel comfortable performing to the music. I found a song I had used a few times in improv exercises in other rehearsals and company class, Christian Kleine's "Several", an ambient instrumental song with some energy changes, simple progressions and consistent driving beat throughout. We ran the piece with it, and we knew we had made the right decision when the piece ended just as the song faded out.
From there, the day continued to be surreal. Through tech and dress I think we were all able to make it through so well because we've done it before. We've tech-ed, we've watched dress rehearsals, we've performed. It was re-invigorating to watch one of the best dress-rehearsal I've ever seen experien the beautiful work everyone had come up with, with so little sleep, with not much time, fueled by coffee, bagels and peanut butter.
All of the choreographers/companies, Luminarium Dance, Impact Dance Company, Monkeyhouse, Paradise Lost: A Movement Collective, and Ryan P. Casey, created incredible work in such a compressed yet high-energy, highs-stress, high-creativity, environment. I am so impressed and grateful for all of the work my dancers and I created together in Studio 6. I still can't believe they went to sleep at 4:30am and let me wake them up at 7:00am to continue into a three hour rehearsal and tech after having rehearsed since 9am the night before. I can't think of a better group of humans to spend the night with.
Thanks for having us Luminarium!