A Separate Piece

I have creative diarrhea.

There comes a few points in every artist’s life where they feel as though they are about to uncover the mysteries of what is sure to be the apotheosis of anything they have ever created. The hiatuses in between are of course known as development periods or writer’s block or a myriad of other dubious monikers to describe the artistic process that isn’t necessary stunted, but lacks the qualities and characteristics worthy of a true eureka.

I have spent the past several days confounded with my own ideas, trying to assimilate what they mean and what it is that I’m going to do with them. I was dubiously blessed with a weekend void of any plans, commitments or work that allowed me to indulge in the adage of the idle mind- that wonderful, wretched workshop.

This is not to say that I don’t have about a million things going through my head all at once. Ever watch the beginning of Moulin Rouge? Sometimes that it is what it feels like for me, not necessarily in a vivid, ADHD kind of way, but more in a focused kind of delirium. The sheer magnitude of environmental factors weigh upon me in abundance, luckily it does not deprive me of sleep. There is the ever important, first in line aspect of my life which is my day job. Ever hear of Sisyphus? I am in love with that fucking rock, no matter how stubborn it is, and every time I start the challenge over again, it has changed in someway, which keeps me interested and ambitious.

Another major distraction is boys. Oh boys. If only I had a stick large enough. Or pepper spray. The more I shed my modesty, the more repellent I require. I guess that is the nature of the beast and why nice guys do indeed finish last. But since the beginning of time love has been the greatest muse. Whether feigned, unrequited, psychotic or serendipitous. It takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go. It is the apparition that guides the wrist as you paint the canvas, the spirit that carries the tune, the entity that helps you leap and turn…

The problem is, I haven’t been in the studio in (weeks?). The arduous task (no, I’m not using a thesaurus) of coming up with a schedule suitable for everyone is wearing on my nerves. It’s always been this job that should be perfunctory; I doubt that it won’t be easy until I have my own company.

The good news is, I have a show coming up. The bad news is, I’m dancing in it. I’ve expressed many times that there is no better Narcissistic thrill than to be able to see your work live on stage, from an audience’s point of view or backstage. This time, I’m putting myself in front of the firing squad, all of my insecurities out there, in the hopes that I will make the piece stronger and not deter the audience from appreciating the other dancers (I kind of stick out like a sore, but sexy thumb).

So once again I have the egg before the chicken. I hate this. The whole point of me working in the studio was to have a piece ready to present for when the time comes. Now I have a limited amount of time to put together something just short of beautiful, and I am worried. I have faith in my collaborators and that they will do better than perfect, but if you know me, that is never enough.

Luckily technology is kind of my deus ex machina. Youtube has proven to be a good “homework” tool for the dancers to watch the rehearsal footage and get acclimated with the music. Also, I just started using Joogle to upload music samples for them to listen to at home. Since I’m one of those choreographers that doesn’t use counts, it is of the highest import that they memorize the music. There are two kinds of dance makers, the 5-6-7-8 kind and the Bah-dah-dah-and… kind. I’m the second one.

The biggest struggle for me (dare I call it that) is deciding what music I’m going to use. I have already submitted the composers names for the program but I still have 2-3 pieces that I am really ambivalent about. The first half of the piece has already been choreographed. I’m using a light and fluid piece by Erik Satie. It is quite the adagio, and I wonder if I should pick up the tempo for the latter half of the work. It’s like I have my own demons inside, two separate desires, the personifications of Gene and Finny, one striving to be intellectual and hooked on accolades and praise, the other athletic and virile, totally immersed in hedonism. Part of me wants to put something out there that satisfies the audience, the other me wants to stay true to myself and do what it is that makes me happy.

As of last week, I was convinced (or at least I convinced one of my many selves) that I was going to re-use a piece of music that I already used by Daniel Bernard Roumain, a composer that I have used more than any other. His works are so modern and innovative in rhythm and structure but stay true to the more traditional elements of classical training, a lot of which resembles the compositions in my work. Then I got to thinking about how blasphemous it would be to try to come up with a new piece using the same music, the song I intended to use was an inspiration for what I feel has been one of my more auspicious works. And then I thought, well, there’s nothing wrong with reinventing myself and my inspiration, if it is a successful venture, but still, I can’t decide. It was hard enough getting over the fact that I’m using a Satie piece that I know a lot of choreographers have used before. And now this. And furthermore, I’m freaking out wondering if I’m going to have to change the music at the last minute because another choreographer is using it in the same show. I’ve seen it happen. Ah!

I described the piece I’m presenting to a fellow dance maker:

I was really inspired by this fashion designer, Thomas Browne. I also make wearable art and design my own costumes, so I thought that I would take some of my burlesque background and add that to the piece. I found this wonderful piece of music by Erik Satie (who I love, no matter how overused he is) and I started playing around in the studio. The collections of Thomas Browne stuck in my head because he makes a lot of utilitarian menswear, with a lot of pockets. I thought that I would choreograph simple movements using the pockets as a motif, having the dancers reaching in the pockets and going from there…it worked out very well.

So now I am taking everything I’ve been working on for the past few months and creating a new piece altogether that involves the simple yet intricate focus on the sports jacket and I am designing “high fashion” clothes for the dancers to wear underneath. The first part is solely based on the jacket and then they will strip down to the flashier clothes and it’s kind of symbolic of the current socioeconomic state of the nation. We are all kind of melding into this working class society, no matter what class we are in. There is more of an appreciation (and longing) for looking and acting expensive, but we have to cut corners. So the jacket represents the hard work we have to do to stay on ground or keep our heads above water, all in an effort to create this demeanor of social status. I can’t wait to work it out with movement. Another aspect of this piece that is a challenge is that I will be dancing in it. I am NOT a dancer. I really consider myself a dance maker and I hope I don’t restrict the possibilities of the piece with my limited abilities. Luckily, I like to mesh different compositions together in one piece, so I will certainly use the dancers to their fullest, exploiting their individual skills in the hopes of making something dynamic, cohesive and entertaining.

I’m already looking ahead to potential shows for the rest of the season. I think it’s going to be a busy next couple of months. If the convoluted nature of this blog post isn’t any indication of how all over the place I am artistically, then the fact that I totally got locked out of my house this weekend might be. I went for a walk, one of my favorite clear-my-head affectations (that is usually the opposite), and ended up leaving my keys at home. I sat on my stoop and listened to my music choices over and over again. More and more ideas came to mind. Serenity FAIL!

The artist usually strives to be innovative. New New New. Something they’ve never seen before. A feast for the senses. What does that mean? How does that affect how we work? I have such enmity towards those works of art that are obvious displays of avant garde in a desperate attempt to be new and different. But I’ve already gone through this a million times. I digress. Again.

I wonder who will win out in the end, Gene or Finny. My hyper-ambitious self is trying to figure out how they can cross the finish line at the same exact time. It’s hard, but remarkably fulfilling. I know that a lot of it will depend on my dancers. My muses. No matter what I do, it is them who makes it happen. I can’t fucking wait to get in the studio.

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