Kaeja d'Dance: Watching a CRAVE cue-to-cue

Last week I was invited to sit in on two rehearsal sessions at the Theatre Centre, both for portions of the two-week shared programming of Kaeja d'Dance and Cloud 9 (produced by Moonhorse Dance Theatre). 

It's a clever sharing. Each company takes an entire evening, but over the two weeks each company also gets a longer trajectory of performance. Contemporary dance performances in Toronto often suffer from dismally short runs, which truncates the potential growth of the creation and its interpretations, so when the arc of performances can be 5 or 6 shows and even those shows over the longer stretch of two weeks, the performers and the performances have a chance to flourish, mature, recalibrate and refine. Toronto artists and producers are getting more creative in finding way stop make this happen.

My last blog entry was about witnessing D.A. Hoskins' brand new work for Cloud 9 and today I've got something a little different: CRAVE, Karen Kaeja's 2013 duet for Michael Caldwell and Stephanie Tremblay. This remount it is being staged for the first time with live musicians for the gorgeous music by Sarah Shugarman.

No one notices when I first enter the Franco Boni Theatre, where rehearsal is taking place. What is happening is not chaotic or noisy, but full of inner activity. Intense thinking. Pacing, staring into the space, listening.

Dancers are catching a moment to check email and updates on their phones, dramaturg, choreographer and composer are triangulating the space with stage manager. Musicians are placing their instruments, stands, chairs, adjusting and tuning. Large bean bags are being dragged about -- surprisingly quiet as they go.

The most intense thing in the room is Karen Kaeja's mind. You can't hear it but you can feel it. There is a lot to synthesize in this first rehearsal with live musicians. Much time is devoted to discovering the level of amplification needed for the cello and violin, the ideal positioning and movement of musicians. All options must be heard, seen, understood.

Amid four or five separate conversations happening among the collaborators, Karen is a GPS multi-tracking system. I'm not sure how she is ingesting it all and maintaining calm. But she does.

They begin a cue-to-cue rehearsal where dancers and musicians and technical collaborators step from moment to moment to sort out cuing of sound and lights or sensitive spacing. 

As the dancers mark through the choreography I can't help but reflect on the Cloud 9 rehearsal I visited the day before. In contrast to the fully embodied marking I witnessed in the older dancers, I see Michael and Stephanie marking choreography much more internally, as though each has a small doll-like version of themselves inside and that doll is fully dancing the piece. A peculiar sensation.

This makes me wonder about a shift in ways of learning as we mature. Is there a shift from visual (or visualized) learning to visceral (visceralized?) learning? 

Either way you work, it is fascinating. 

The most wonderful part of this rehearsal is the rehearsing of the bean bags. Not even a dance of or with the bean bags, but the sheer time and figuring-out energy invested in how they get on stage and where they best land when they do arrive. 

Much time in this rehearsal is actually spent with what we might see as the more mundane aspects of the piece, entrances and exits (of people and bean bags!), the cuing of two-second transitions. As different elements and sections of choreography and sound are sewn together how visible are the stitches? They certainly don't all need to be seen or unseen, the way each of these mundane moments is finessed creates magic.

It is so clear that Michael and Stephanie are comfortable with the choreography, they know it and each in other in it down to the marrow of their bones. And rattling around in that marrow now is the live sound. Karen tells the dancers they can chill out, but once the musicians play they can't help but get on their feet and go with the music.

Dancers and musicians are enthralled with each other. They revel in each other's company. 

This synergy between musicians and dancers, within the first couple of hours of working together, is so palpable, I can't quite imagine the new dynamism and electricity that will circuit the theatre once this show opens. 

I know I want to be there to see it.

See Kaeja d'Dance in CRAVE/DEFIANT
Theatre Centre
1115 Queen St. West
Toronto ON M6J 3P4

Karen Kaeja's CRAVE
Allen Kaeja's DEFIANT

May 11 at 8pm (sold out)
May 12 at 8pm
May 13 at 8pm
May 16 at 8pm
May 17 at 8pm
May 20 at 8pm




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