Training Week 5

I think I got ahead of myself but I feel totally behind. I’ve started putting together the movement composition (or less pretentiously: the choreography) for the piece I am performing next Monday. My original idea has of course morphed into a billion others whelming me with anxiety.

I went through a bout of procrastination sparked by a heinous blend of cabin fever and spring fever. March is that time of year when the east coast is teased with the portent of spring weather yet there is still the possibility of being plagued by the last frost, a wretched reminder to wait before you start planting those seeds you’ve been saving for the special moment.

The work is always ongoing in my head. Because I take the train so frequently, I’ve been obsessed with observation and honing in on what I want to do with the choreography. This first piece will be an exploration of the environments of the actual train stations with little references to actually being on a train. Since I haven’t done the photo study of commuters on trains, I don’t want to delve too much into that arena.

I did make a call for other dancers but time ran out and came too fast all at once, so I will be flying solo for this one. Dancing has always been a challenge for me, I have wretched stage fright and I am always afraid of the little voice in my head telling me how horrible of a dancer I am. I try to muffle the voice by introducing it to my good friend Jack Daniel’s right around curtain time, but I know that is not always the best way, the self-criticism haunts me constantly.

I’ve chosen the music and even shuffled a few steps here and there during my commutes while waiting for the train, trying to make the movements as small as possible in order to avoid silent peripheral ridicule from the other passengers. The first song, “Extraordinary Machine” quite frankly popped in my head as a good song to use. I was scanning through my favorite artists that I listen to on a regular basis but haven’t gotten the balls to use in a live performance (or it just didn’t feel right) and before I got to Fiona Apple, it came to me.

The song is very bittersweet and it reminds me a lot of the social climate in Philadelphia particularly. The pith is evident in the title of the song, describing oneself as a machine on a persistent journey. Though I love the imagery, what strikes me most (besides the sweet composition of the music a la 40s jazz singer) is the arrangement of music with the lyrics that inhibits a sense of a traveling motion. “If there was a better way to go then it would find me” parallels a repeated introduction to each chorus. There is a correlation to two separate people’s journey going the same way but ending up in different places.

I sometimes wonder where other people are going when they are traveling by train. If someone is wearing a suit, you think they are probably going to or are coming from work. If a woman has a stroller and shopping bags, it’s presumed she is doing her domestic duties for the day. If you see a group of casual clad young people, you wonder if they are bar hoping. If you see a couple holding hands, dressed in their best Sunday best, perhaps they are going on a date.

So the first song was a no-brainer. I never like doing dance without music unless it is saying some obnoxious statement about something. I think dance without music is kind of self-indulgent and unnecessary, they go hand-and-foot. Music moves the dance and dance moves the music, if done properly. Though with this piece, I am trying to move out of my musicality zone, not appropriating certain movements to certain songs but rather creating a story of how the movement structure came into place and then exploit it with an entertaining motif.

I listened to the first song on my iPhone while I took the train home. When I got back to my computer I typed some words into my iTunes (no Apple isn’t sponsoring this project) that related to the project. “Subway” was my first choice that prompted no results and then I typed in “Train” and got more finds. My eyes led me directly to Jimi Hendrix though I listened to and didn’t rule out songs from Bettye LaVette, Tom Waits and TV on the Radio. Hendrix’s song proved to be the best choice – it creates a certain silent, amorphous and lonely atmosphere that I think prevails much of the feelings that come to mind when waiting for a train. I’ve used his music before in my work, and I love it.

(c) Ben Riley

I sketched out some movements earlier today. I will be using a chair to represent a bench, and I love using a prop in my work. Now I am struggling with which song to end and begin with though there will be some movements without music at the beginning of the piece.

I was very inspired by two films I watched last night. The first was “I Love You Man” with my unknowing husband, Paul Rudd. It touched on a lot of issues that have been on my mind lately about relationships and the maintenance of them in American culture, but I won’t go into that right now.

The second was “Jennifer’s Body” (though I don’t usually enjoy watching horror films alone; they are just more fun with someone else). It was fantastic. There was everything I like about horror in this film though it was far from too horrific and gore-y though there was a good amount of macabre, pleasantly disguised in the witty dialogue and plot design which made for hilarious spectacle. This film too touched on some very specific American satire that always gives me an art boner, so after I woke up from several nightmares, I was ready to get this show on the road.

This is a small step for the rest of this project and I feel kind of ill about dancing again, but it is what I have to do and I am starting to get the performance bug again, so it’s okay.

I finished a fellowship application last week regarding my other project about Blacks in Berlin from 1920s-1950s. I found more compelling articles about the subject and really rounded out the proposal to make it more cohesive and grant worthy. Wish me luck.

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