Sunday, May 7, 2017

Cloud 9 -- An impressionist view of a rehearsal

It is worth noting that in my recent visit to a Cloud 9 rehearsal of D.A. Hoskins' "Bird Nesting in Fingers in Bloom" I did not see a run of the piece. Instead I saw a working rehearsal with technical elements at play; spacing, working, playing and serious figuring-out by all members of the team in the room from stage management to lighting designer to choreographer to dancers. 

Observing these often awkward and painstaking parts of the creative process taps into a different kind of electricity from watching a run: how do artists choose succinct and simple words to communicate twisting, multi-layered ideas? what is the image-world mutually created by the artists involved? which small moments get a large chunk of time and attention and which are left to sort themselves out? how do authority and collaboration intermingle?

My impressions of course are coloured by my personalization of these experiences.  Watching dance is visceral, personal and always reflecting my current state of being. Which is how it should be for every audience member, yes? But this is why, despite being asked quite a few times to review shows, I can't do it. I am always a questing dancer, a buoyantly bruised choreographer. I am writing this after just closing a new show for my company, while I am in the process of writing reports and evaluating how I handled all the creative and productive elements of it. So these obsessions will poke through as I watch...

In particular what seduces me in observing a working rehearsal is the action of repetition (in French this is the word most used for rehearsal), the repeating of movements, thoughts, interpretations over and over. When you have a cast of veteran artists, Larry Hahn, Karen Kaeja, Claudia Moore and Robert Regala, what is evident in the repetition is the process of learning, the process of processing. It may be this spectacular collection of dancers, but I do think it is true of many older performers, there is no veil disguising the inner work, no attempt to hide confusion or questioning.

Similarly, Darryl Hoskins responds to confusion or questioning with (paraphrased) "I don't know the answer to that yet, let's figure it out. Let's try it." Questions or confusion do not threaten the creator or the work because they are offered in absolute purity. And so are the possible solutions.

As pauses occur while Darryl and lighting designer Simon Rossiter figure some things out the dancers keep going, keep moving, working through material in full physicality. Marking or stepping through material doesn't really happen for these artists. Marking something is a full-body experience with only a small retreat to the inner world, calibrating and recalibrating the sensations always. They track these inner sensations fully which creates an outward expression that is no less dynamic, no less impactful. 

I wonder in watching this quartet if they feel like I do, that in the second half of life and dance career, there is a push-to-curtain. Not a drive to get to the end, but a drive to go with gusto, to exert oneself fully and completely. To empty oneself of all the physical impulses. An hour and a half into the rehearsal and they are still going, going, going. They haven't stopped.

Simon flashes through various lighting states, creating a dark but somehow luminous black square at centre with a bright framing, later interpreting Darryl's request for a state that creates parallel worlds between right and left. These moments of translation are astounding. It reminds me of how these "silent" art forms -- lighting design and dance-- excel in communication.

Entities that lack a voice will find brilliant ways to be heard.

Some things that moved me: 

1. A blue basketball allowed to find its own end of a bounce. Its bounce started by a man in tropical green and blue, vivid colours that remind me of the view of earth from space. 
2. Movements or transitions that take the time they take. Could we do this in life, instead of trying to move things along so fast all the time? Sometimes the time it takes is very little, sometimes we need more. Let's be honest. Rush and lull....
3. Each performer seems to have a mystery behind their eyes. Not one is the same mystery.
4. The strange words or images that Darryl uses to describe moments or actions and the nods of dancers who understand exactly what he's referring to. I don't know this language but this is a magic I love. 
5. "Smushy smushy" a whispered reminder between dancers of a new layer of quality to a certain section. What a great word. Dancers find new words to describe hybrid feelings.
6. How much movement my audience eye can take in of one duet without watching it specifically, while paying attention to a more languorous duet happening elsewhere on stage. I can see it all without realizing it exactly.  Darryl is really smart in creating this balance of just enough on both sides.
7. Claudia Moore's ability to transform to a child instantaneously, the way her face takes the light.
8. Robert Regala's subtlety: wearing the brightest colours on stage, he manages to suddenly disappear and then reappear somewhere else.
9. Larry Hahn's delicacy. His physical presence is huge but he can move like gossamer
10. Karen Kaeja's consistency. She moves in such a spontaneous way, yet in watching the repetition you see how precisely she can reproduce the in-the-moment feeling.
11. The mirror-head. Something from Oz. Disturbing and blithe at once.
12. Darryl's ability to synthesize many elements into one idea, one sentence, one image. And his kindness.

I wrote so many other notes that are, frankly, illegible and after a certain point, I stopped writing my scribbles in the dark and just tried to absorb the light of these radiant collaborators.

This is a beautiful piece, a beacon that hopefully will beckon you to the Theatre Centre next week. 

Tune in tomorrow for another impressionistic view on Karen Kaeja's "CRAVE" rehearsal, part of the Kaeja d'Dance program that shares two weeks with Cloud 9 at the Theatre Centre.



Marking its 20th anniversary, MOonhORsE Dance Theatre raises the artform to new heights in commissioned works for Cloud 9 by Lina Cruz and DA Hoskins, with performers Louise Bédard, Karen Kaeja, Larry Hahn, Claudia Moore and Robert Regala.

Tuesday May 9 at 8:00pm
Wednesday May 10 at 8:00pm
Saturday May 13 at 8:00pm
Thursday May 18 at 8:00pm
Friday May 19 at 8:00pm
Saturday May 20 at 2:00pm
The Theatre Centre, 
1115 Queen Street West 
Toronto ON M6J 3P4

$30 (general)
$22 (student/senior/artist)
Dance Card packages also available
Two card pass for Cloud 9 and Kaeja d'Dance CRAVE/DEFIANT: $39


Tickets available  or at 416-538-0988
Approximate running time: 1 hours and 20 minutes



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