it's about that time
we give ourselves away at every moment: a program for merce

Much to catch up on! This past Monday I experienced an event rather worthy of note if you ask me… which you are, because you’re here to read nothing but my opinion, soo you don’t have much of a choice… 

July 26, 2010 marked a full year since the death of Merce Cunningham. At the studios I entered to find a bunch of deliberately places roses to honor the date. Word of mouth sent me (and about 12 of my purchase comrades) to an open field at the bottom of the west coast of manhattan for an evening performance honoring Merce. It was apparently the “event of the summer”. Lucinda Childs, Bill T. Jones, Susan Marshall, Jon Kinzel and Faye Driscoll all presented whatever work they pleased, in Merce’s honor. The same music was played for each performer - each group peacefully beginning just after the next. The relationship of music to dance was very much in the style of Merce. They used chance principles during the performance. Music and dance were two separate entities, only brought together during the moment of the live performance. What an experience. 

image
Stunning, no? These are three members of Bill T. Jones’ Company. The stage was raised over a bed of perfectly groomed grass. The scene’s backdrop was downtown manhattan across from the sloshing Hudson River. The dancers were lit by the setting sun and the audience was able to enjoy the passing wind from all directions around the stage. The show was free - very low key. Important dance figures could be spotted all across the lawn. There was an understood respect that existed within the crowd. We all knew why we were there. No announcer needed to inform anyone of anything. The beautiful music - performed live by David Eggar (cello), Geoff (Guitar), and Kotchy (Laptop) - was the first to enter the performance space. It provided a perfect feeling for the beautiful evening. The entire experience was a bit surreal. Speaking of which… there should be no reason for me to explain what was going on here… 
image
In conclusion to his dancers finishing off the program, Bill T. Jones himself shed his white linen over-shirt, straw fedora and stepped on the stage. His chiseled, experienced body gave me chills as it crossed the space. His journey was brief, but once he was through, we looked to his three trusted company member who had moved to the opposite corner he entered on. They stood on the ground below, framing the edge of the stage, attentively watching their beloved leader. Bill crossed to them and stood for a moment. There was a short conversational exchange. What I made out was: “catch me”. And they did.
Bill T was then let down after the audience gasped in unison and erupted into applause. He whisked around to collect his dropped belongings, then proceeded to dash off through the crowd, away from the park all together. His presence feels otherworldly… He creates this peaceful, contemplative energy wherever he goes. You can feel that energy encompassing the space in which he resides. Then he dashes off into the night like a fairy! What a man… Not to mention his gorgeous appearance! Breathtaking. honestly. 
The other pieces were certainly interesting as well, I am just drawn to his work specifically. Sigh. The whole evening was a surprise gem in the treasure chest of my summer experience! I am thrilled I was able to witness such an event. 
image
The performers take their bows. 
How lucky I am!

the shoes.

image

old, nasty, unstable character shoes. These have withstood two full runs of Barksdale Theatre’s summer musicals. I wore them for “Guys and Dolls” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” during the past two summers. They miraculously survived the entire run of both shows - then the costumers let me buy the poor things for $16 (a steal for character shoes in this day and age…) They have done me well, but it was time to move on…

image

These… are the shoes. New, beautiful, stable, legit, character shoes. Sigh. I sucked it up, and made an investment. I have decided I deserve the real thing! There is one Laduca store in all of Manhattan - just big enough to give you what you came for. With exposed brick along the walls and dark maroon/gold painted wood detail makes for a classy, old book store environment - perfect for trying on the nicest shoes I have ever purchased. Upon my arrival, the super nice, flamboyant man behind the counter gave me his full attention. They even put a slab of dark green velvet fabric on top of the wood floor in order to protect the surface of the bottom of the shoe. After two frantic calls to each of my parents, I felt better about taking the plunge. Something about the process made me desperate for someone to give me the okay: I needed that person saying, “you need this” in order for me to hand over the cash.

As I was telling my mother…. it feels like wearing those paper flip flops (the ones you get after a pedicure) around the streets of New York city for 10 hours, then putting on a pair of the best running shoes you can find, and walking down the block. They’re that good.

image

I… really… own these…

Here’s some shots my friend Elliot took at my recent performance. We danced in the back of a deli in Brooklyn… the things we do for our art… The space is free and many people use it as a venue. A little odd at first, it ended up being pretty awesome by the end of the night. 

It all started with a friend of mine from Purchase, Theo Boguszewski. On her own, she received a grant in order to put on a production of interdisciplinary work for the sake of creating art. This happened during last school year, and she was able to gather together somewhat of a coalition of artists who were all interested and invested in her project. We had film students, musicians, dancers, visual artists, all putting together a show entitled (very appropriately), “For the Sake of Art”. The group of artists was called the Hoover Damn Collective and we continue to create opportunities to present collaborative and experimental work inside and outside the city. At this point it’s not as if any agents or New York Times reviewers have any interest in our productions whatsoever. However we are completely unconcerned with this matter. To us, art can be created for the pure enjoyment and experience of other artists/friends. While recognition for our work would be great, it is not the goal of our ventures and we like it this way. So for now… we do it… for the sake of art. 

Oh! Check out Melissa Ahern! She is one of my favorite musicians at Purchase. 

girls just want to have fun

image

I began the day with a sprightly walk down 59th street. I was headed to meet my friend Claire for “coffee” - the quotations represent the fact that I love the idea of coffee, but strongly despise the taste - when I stopped to tend to all of the commotion surrounding the apple store at 5th avenue. The CBS studios are located right there, so I often pass by a filming of some politician being taught how to grill asparagus - usually I pass right on by knowing I will most likely not recognize the guest of the day on the early show. However, this time was different. Somehow I knew the “celebrity” who had drawn the surprisingly large crowd was more legit than the usual suspects. Only 2 minutes after I’d stopped, Cyndi Lauper came out and proceeded to climb onto the stage in front of her band members. At the time I was convinced I had no idea who she was. But still sensing it was worth my attention, I asked Claire to screw the coffee idea and meet me there in order to see someone famous sing a song. Claire met me, then proceeded to tell me the songs Cyndi had been famous for back in the day…

Well, my goodness it’s a good thing I stuck around! Turns out I not only knew who she was, but actually got excited about the prospect of her singing something I loved! She sang THE song of my childhood. The one all the 5 year olds would blast on our parents stereos… I mean this one truly is worth of jumping on all of the furniture. I was far from star struck, nor did I even attempt to whip out my Samsung 2007 to snap a phone-pic… But I gotta tell you, when THE creator of your nostalgic joy is singing ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ into your very ears… those chills are hard to avoid. Thank you for being a friend, Cyndi. That song will forever bring happiness and pride into my heart. 

Claire and I then made our way into Bergdorf Goodman where we went to the cafe on the 5th floor. There, we shared a fruit and cheese plate and pretended to fit in with the regular clientele. And by “pretended to fit it”, I mean we people watched and gasped at price tags. Never did get that coffee. 

After that I was even more sure of my decision to take a Jazz class at Steps on Broadway. I walked to 74th, passing two of my Purchase chums in the street who were working for Children International. I did not buy a sponsorship, however I did promise that I will once I have an income that allows me to buy anything more than rent and dinner. Dare to dream…

I made it to Jazz class. Mind you, I have not taken anything but Modern and Ballet for essentially 3 years. I’ve fit in the occasional class or two, just know that it’s been a while. After being thrown in to a set warm up that everyone in the room knew but me - which was utterly ridiculous I might add - I finally felt at home when we learned a fosse-ish combination complete with snaps and hip rolls. The teacher (Deborah Roshe) has the following credits - Broadway: Woman of the Year, Camelot; National Tours: La Cage aux Folles, Song and Dance and West Side Story. No big deal… I took the class in characters shoes (which is a fancy term for danceable high heels) - so much fun. However, I did realize that the heels I paid $16 for (a steal) after I wore them in Barksdale’s production of “Guys and Dolls” are far too dangerous for me to actually use. They are unstable, cheap, and too high. Not a good combination when you are nervously auditioning for a broadway show. All the broadway girls wear Laduca - they’re legit. I have decided that I deserve to have a safe, good pair of character shoes that I can use for class and feel comfortable auditioning in. Here goes one of the biggest splurges of my training life! Wish me luck.

image

Movin’ Out. Check the shoes!

What an experience. The environment in that studio, in that class, with those dancers provides a huge contrast to the Cunningham studios - or modern dance for that matter. It’s incredibly interesting to witness the differences. Let’s just say they were two extremely opposite worlds. Though I honestly know that I have a place for both in my life. 

until next time. xox.

This is the video of a piece I performed this past Spring at Purchase. It was shown in our ‘Dance Theater Lab’ located in the actual dance building. Beautiful space - it’s a black box theatre converted into a proscenium arch with tiered bleachers that hold chairs for about 400 (if I’m not mistaken). My apologies for the poor quality video, it is terribly hard to make out what exactly we are doing but you’ll get the idea. The piece, I think it’s what we live for, is Lucy Wilson’s senior project- a recent Purchase grad who is a good friend of mine. Seems a tad random that I should be posting this now… However, I promise it is relevant to my upcoming life. (Below is a still shot from the piece - I am in the back on the right wearing the blue shirt)

image

This summer, the Purchase Dance Corps - which consists of any dancers performing repertory for the school - will be performing at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The Festival is a huge artist hub of activity. It is the longest running Dance festival in the country and offers incredible opportunities for dancers, choreographers, composers and the like! (Click HERE for Pillow History) The summer program - which I auditioned for, and was rejected by - is highly competitive. I believe they accept 12 girls and 12 guys (from the entire world) into the summer Contemporary Dance program… or something completely ridiculous like that. In any case, Purchase was asked to present an evening of dance as a part of their ‘Inside/Out’ Series and Lucy’s piece was chosen as a part of the program.

Well Jacob, you may not want me dance in your summer program but you can’t keep me from performing at your festival! Take that… picky, pretentious, folk. I’m not bitter. Ahem.

SO. Purchase is bringing two pieces in addition to Lucy’s project that were performed in our most recent Spring Concert. George Balanchine’s Serenade, and Gallem Gallem choreographed by Nelly VanBommel, an exciting new choreographer who happens to work at our school - I LOVE HER WORK.Lucy’s piece was chosen as the best and most appropriate student work for the venue/concert. This means I will be headed up to the woods of Massachusetts on August 26th to perform at the Pillow!

Click here to view the stage I am assuming we get to perform on. What a blessing! To be immersed in nature while physically engaging in my favorite activity? Not sure it gets better than that. I am quite excited, to say the least. 

reporting from the intensive

image

It is almost day five of the Merce Cunningham Summer Dance Intensive. Part of my scholarship allows for participation in the week-long program that offers a deeper insight into the work itself. Each day I take class at 10AM as usual - along with the other 35 participants from all over the world - get a lunch break, then we finish the day learning a piece of repertory till 4PM. Here is the info on the piece we are currently learning:

Change of Address, 1992
First Performed: Austin, TX; 31 Jan 1992
Music: Walter Zimmermann
Design: Marsha Skinner
Dancers: Merce Cunningham Dance Company

CAROL TEITELBAUM, Faculty Chair is leading us in the workshop. She was in the company for years and has this down-to-business drive that I am drawn to in a studio. She teaches class every day, is responsible for passing on the original material, organizing 40 bodies in one giant room, making sure our questions are answered, giving us as much information about Merce, the company, and the work as possible, and learning all of our names. Let me tell you, she’s doing a damn good job. She was also in the original cast of “Change of Address”, so it’s really interesting to learn about the piece from a direct line to the first process. 

The piece itself is in true Cunningham form and is very challenging - to say the least. Somehow the stars aligned and I ended up with a pretty difficult part - not much luck in his work, all the parts are pretty difficult. I am now known as “Jennifer” in rehearsals. We do one section where Jennifer has to go from a position with the legs in parallel, knees bent, arms and spine curved over in a low ‘C’ shape to the exact same shape facing the other way 180 degrees away - only in between these two shapes, you have to jump in the air kicking your legs behind you, reaching your arms and torso into an arch looking at the ceiling. Jennifer happens to do the most of these jumps in a row - bringing her grand total to a whopping 13 at hyper speed. Immediately after this sequence we create a circle going backwards with the most difficult step in the piece - if you ask me. It involves traveling with your head/spine over in a curve, then flipping one leg from back attitude (a dance term describing a leg that is extended to a bent position still maintaining its highest height) to front attitude (turned out), then keeping that same leg in attitude, jumping off the standing leg into a full rotation while rolling your head and upper back in a simultaneous circle. Hard to picture! Hard to do. Rewarding to try. 

 We are showing the 15 minute section (with two different casts) today at 3:30PM. It is open for anyone who wants to come and watch, who knows who will show up! As of right now we still have a few sections to learn - only a few hours to go. Wish us luck!

http://dlib.nyu.edu/merce/mwm/2009-07-06/

This is a link to a video series on the website called Mondays with Merce. They’re all very interesting - gives you a better idea of what the work is like. Check out ‘Episode 007 Cunningham Events’.


Spent the afternoon in Bryant Park watching excerpts from shows that are currently on Broadway. Today the four shows featured were, “Nunsense”, “Promises, Promises”, “STOMP”, and go figure, “In the Heights”. All were great, particularly the last two. How I have never seen “STOMP” in the many years it has been on Broadway is pathetic to me. They were out of this world. “In the Heights” was great as usual. The energy of the performers in both of these excerpts was outstanding - there’s a reason they are on Broadway I suppose! The performances set me on a natural high… it’s always good to relight that fire of inspiration. 

Click on the title above to see some footage from ‘In the Heights’ on Broadway. “ITH Montage” gives a good feel for the whole show.

image

As one of my recent efforts to “get out there”, I decided I could pretend to be ethnic enough to audition for such a show. There was an equity dance call about a week ago. Because the show is so type specific - meaning only people who look a certain way can really audition - I figured I would have a good chance of being seen as a non equity member.

First go round my friend Selena and I showed up a good 26 hours early. oops… So for round two we actually showed up on the right day. By this time, we were really ready to audition. I grabbed my gold hoops, hair gel, red lipstick, short skirt, borrowed a pair of nike dunks and headed to the dance call. 

We went in with the first group of 35 girls - only 8 equity girls showed up - and there were 2 more groups of equal size to follow (which is actually a pretty modest turnout). The combination was quick and it was hip hop. Putting aside the fact that everyone around me looked completely legit, I worked my stuff as much I could as a white girl from Virginia, currently training in modern dance. The choreographer was very nice and seemed like he’d be great to work with. With our headshots/resumes in hand (which cost me a whole $5.00) the big guys in charge made “yes” piles and “no” piles within minutes of seeing us dance - 5 at a time. After all the groups had done the combo, they called four of us out to do it again - this is what we call the ‘make it or break it’. I was called last so I got gypped in the line up. I had to dance in the back corner where he was barely even looking. Didn’t make the cut. Oh well! It was a bummer because I wanted to get to the salsa portion of the audition which is where I know can strut my stuff. But in the end I realized that not only am I not a trained hip hop dancer, but I do not posses the racial diversity they were undoubtedly looking for. In this world, you gotta look the part, be a killer dancer, and be in the right place at the right time. Oh, the odds! Many people in the room could dance the material, you just had to be exactly what they were looking for- head to toe.

For the record, I had a blast. I also feel confident that I didn’t hold back. I have almost no regrets about my performance although I do know where I should have made different choices. Auditioning requires thinking about so much in such a short amount of time! I learned though.

Also, I am addicted to auditioning. I love doing it. This is a good thing.

Until next time!

daily news.

These days… my summer routine includes a daily dose of Merce Cunningham.image

Thanks to SUNY Purchase, the wonderful Carol Walker, and the Lifetime Legacy Summer 2010 Scholarship, I get to take class 6 times a week for 12 full weeks. This technique has been quite a learning experience for me. At school I took two Cunningham classes a week, in the middle of the other 10 hours I spent dancing a day. Being able to concentrate on this school, taking Cunningham every day, is proving to make all the difference. I get a different teacher essentially every day. Their opinions are incredibly well informed. The intelligent people I am learning from gained their knowledge from personal experience as well as learning from Merce himself. Most of the teachers are or were in the Cunningham Company. Overall I feel that I am learning to understand my body on a new level. In addition to making me move fearlessly, the technique is forcing me to figure out the mechanics - no cheating allowed. For instance, I’m experimenting with a new way of relating to my pelvis when I dance. It effects me when I plie (dancer term for bending your legs), when I move in space, and even when I sit down. 

Now… I am aware that to a non-dancer this sounds like a very strange thing to be thinking about. However, it is something we pay a lot of attention to: the pelvis. In modern dance - traditionally the more original, early developments of codified ideas: eg. Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham -  the pelvis is the center of all movement. Movement is usually initiated with the pelvis and all energy that extends outward is rooted there. The placement of the pelvis is crucial to how the rest of the body aligns itself and has mobility around its base. During the classes I have been taking, a lot of emphasis is put on proper alignment - and why shouldn’t it be? How else can one expect to ask dancers to move in ridiculous ways - as they so often are? Basically, things are making more sense! I’ve learned so much in just these few weeks. Things are already becoming easier for my body to do. (Although I still have much to learn!) This technique is extremely beneficial to all dancers in many ways. I am not here to attempt to be hired by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company - although I wouldn’t turn it down : ) I am here to become a better dancer, or perhaps one who has a broader perspective than when she moved to new york city almost a month ago.  

At this point all I have managed to babble on about is my pelvis. My apologies! It seems to be on my mind quite often these days!

Here is a picture of the Cunningham Company performing in one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever had the pleasure of being in: Dia Beacon. Gives you an idea of their aesthetic/athletic demand of the technique. So long for now!

image

Welcome!

This is my blog, I suppose. I have never even considered my life to be interesting enough for others to read about on a regular basis. However, it is a good way to let a lot of people in on how things are going up here. Thanks to you - wonderful people - I have been able to sustain a living in the big city. Here is where I will share little tid bits of experience that will add up to my life-long education. With the risk of sounding corny, let me just say…. here’s to a summer of opportunity, curiosity, and utter excitement. 

Your support means the world to me. 

mp