Friday, October 5, 2012

All's Well That Ends Well


I didn't have time to blog as we got closer to the performances.  There was too much going on, as you got from my last entry.  But what you didn't know was that one of my main performing collaborators had a kidney infection, and we found out the day after my last entry, which was 3 days before our first public showing of the performance.  Was I stressed?  In a way, I got very Zen.  This is beyond my control.  We can't rehearse...we're 3 days out...and we haven't rehearsed in 3 weeks because my collaborator was in Canada, I was in Norway...if she ends up not being able to do it, how do I make a duet into a "solo"?  It was much too much, so I just chose to relax into it, laugh a little, and put some positive vibes out there.  What is meant to be will be, and I will roll with it.

My collaborator healed.  She rested, and on Thursday Sept. 27, we did a technical run of the show.  Of course, she was still very weak.  It was the first time we were EVER putting everything together, and actually, we still didn't even have the whole last 10 minutes of the show!  Somehow, it would come together.

On Friday, I met with her to rehearse a little and actually fix what the last section would be - the section in the fountain.  And on Friday evening, we had our first audience.  The show actually went quite well, outside of some fountain issues that we had, and a lack of communication between our Stage Manager and our Sound Technician.  The only way to communicate and call the cues in this large space is via walkie.  When her walkie was taken, our sound guy couldn't get his cue, which meant myself and all the performers were walking around and around in circles wondering why the music wasn't turning on!



The setting sun creating a magical backdrop to the performance.  It was very moving, as a performer, and I'm sure, as a viewer.  It was the first time that I could feel the spirit of this piece.  And I did feel it.  As the director/choreographer/performer that is juggling so much in such a short period of time, I knew in my mind what I imagined the spirit to be and to feel like, but it was only in the moment that I could experience the fruition of this and the affirmation that what was imagined...came to be.  It is my reward as a performer to get to experience this, this in-the-moment pleasure of connection with my audience, with the other performers, with the discovery of what each moment means, without knowing, without intellectualizing or controlling or designing it to necessarily be a certain way.  Live performance is ephemeral.  And this makes it all the more special and valuable, because it lives and is passed on in our hearts and minds.  It was a shared experience, and it is gone forever.

The rest of the performances went very well.  Saturday afternoon my family was here, and we had a fantastic audience interaction session during the "motivational talk show" scene.  I'll never forget one large tatooed man's affirmation.  I picked on him, and asked him - "So, what do you tell yourself when you wake up in the morning, or before you go to bed?  What gets you through the day?"  And his answer:  "I'm in love".  Wow.  Say it again, I said.  "I'm in LOVE!"  I got him to repeat it again and again, his voice booming out into the space...
The audience was loving it!  My little bro said it was his favorite part!  : )



There were many beautiful moments, not least was seeing the community performers grow more and more comfortable and confident, really owning their roles and being the leaders and guides that they were meant to be.  My main performing collaborator, Meena came through beautifully.  Her presence and our connection seemed to really resonate for people in the audience, and I was told by many how powerful it was to see us dancing together.  Those are wonderful things to hear.



The Q & A after the performances was always interesting.  I think I got the most profound feedback and questions after the Friday Open Dress Rehearsal.  It was wonderful to see and feel people getting so involved and knowing that as esoteric as my topic might be, it is did resonate for others and touch upon something deep in themselves.  It's not something that we can necessarily articulate - but something that lives in light and shadow, in poetry and imagery.  Art has the potential to "speak" of those things that we can't always put into words or express ourselves.  I love that it does that for me, and it is why I am an artist - so I can do it for others.  To move and be moved.

Here is my Director/Choreographer's note from the program:

One of the challenges of making any new work is about making choices. There are many ways to tell a story, and the process of filtering through which way is best can be a long and winding road. Working here at the Annenberg Beach House to create a 45 minute piece that makes use of the architecture of this gorgeous space gives me a multitude of options to work with, and it also diminishes those choices in a wonderful way. The space determines the choice, as does the short creative process, and I find, that as much as I loathe having to “rush” a process, I also love the intensity that it brings to it! Instincts take over, and choices must be made in the moment. Being in the moment is a large part of what this piece is about. Everyone struggles to different degrees with their “selves”, their connection to their best self and their journey through this obstacle course called Life. We want to be present, in the moment, connected, on the right wave-length, in-tune, but so often, we simply aren’t. I have a great compassion for the individual and collective journeys that we are on. Though the feelings around this topic are complex and difficult to package into a neat and tidy performance, I hope that through my explorations here at the Annenberg Beach House, the path that winds through the site will lead us to a place where we might feel a little less separate, and a little more connected.


I have already moved out of my little office and am writing this from the San Francisco Bay Area where I am home visiting family.  I won't forget the adventures of creating in and for this space - the Annenberg Community Beach House.  I am thankful for the opportunity, and hope that it isn't the last time that this piece is performed and shared.  Could the city of Santa Monica - could cities in general - create a budget for ongoing free performances for the community?  Could this event be repeated one weekend per month for 6 months so that the artists involved in the making of it have the pleasure and the financial renumeration of repeat performances?  Could it gain momentum so that more people could be exposed to it?  The economy of dance, especially dance outside of the mainstream, has an intense working period and a short performing period.  I would like to see that changed.  I would like for there to be a longer term performing scenario for the incredibly hard work that goes into making a new piece.

How can this be accomplished?
I've been in Los Angeles for 6 years and I'm in for the long haul (as far as I can tell).  I've never been any one place for more than one and a half years, so for me, this is a huge thing!  I'm invested in seeing and creating new opportunities for dance that are longer-lasting and more sustainable, and I'm interested in being a part of that.  Fewer and fewer dancers are able to commit to making new, creative, paradigm-shifting work, because we don't get back what we put out.  And we burn out.  We can't hold on to our dancers, our collaborators, because we can't pay them what they deserve.  We feel guilty.  We feel in debt.

Nothing I'm saying is new.  And nothing is beyond the possibility of change.  If and when I figure out how to create an economy that benefits all through a system that presents dance for longer, I will push it.  Audiences benefit.  Performers, technicians, choreographer/directors benefit.  All of us that "pushed out the baby" (the artistic event), for the sheer love of it and love of the arts, can now watch it (the baby) be nurtured and grow.  Are my metaphors getting too obtuse?  Well, that's what it feels like for me - every time I make a new piece - BIRTH.  The baby is born.  Now...who's gonna help feed it?

Always,
Sheetal


                                                   


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