Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Creating for the Space

In the last couple weeks, Meena and I have been packing in our rehearsals.  We've finally finished the first long dance section, which is about 12 minutes and takes place mostly along the boardwalk and in the rock and palm garden.  It's been a lot of fun working in the garden, tailoring our choices to help show off the beauty of the space.  The next section to work on will take place in the installation of chairs and fences, just in front of the guest house.  Again, for me, the choreography is about showing off the lines and detail of the space that we're working in, and this is definitely a different way of working for me.  As anyone who works mostly in a theater space will tell you, creating a site-specific dance challenges your brain to add a whole new layer, a new dimension, to how you create meaning through movement.  I love it.  Even before working on the beach house residency, I have been drawn to spaces in the environment, and will often see whole dances there, in my mind's eye.  But now, it's even more so!

Musically, Ellen and I have been swapping ideas and drafts back and forth, and we're starting to get a feeling for the arc.  Still, there will be plenty of adjustments to be made closer to the premiere, but it's nice getting a feel for the over-all sound world of the piece.

Costumes, same thing!  Tiffany is working on the outline, or the silhouette of the costumes for Meena and I.  I had to dissuade her (much to her dismay) from using too much chiffon, because with all the hands on/body-on contact we have with the vegetation in the rock and palm garden, our costumes would be hot mess getting stuck on everything!

I won't be on site this week because I'm in Dusseldorf, Germany, but you'll see me again the following week, after Labor Day.  Come say hello!  And then, on September 8th, we'll have our big group rehearsal day with all our community performers!  Can't wait for that.

See you at the beach!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hot Pavement, Recording Session, and Panelists...Oh My!

We're moving quickly now.  This last week, Meena and I have been choreographing and rehearsing our main dance scene which will take place on the boardwalk and in the rock and palm garden.
Usually, during the hot, daytime hours, we try to find some cool indoor space to work out the movements.  You might find us rehearsing in the Garden Terrace, or up in the Sand and Sea room, and then in the evening, as the sun sets and the crowds disperse, we try out our movements in the actual space.  It is challenging to dance barefoot on the cement, and we have to be careful of not practicing a move over and over on a floor surface that has no "spring" to it.  Although in India, where I trained in a form called "Kathak", for several months in 1996, there are no sprung floors.  It's very rare that you find that kind of comfort in India, and in many other countries where the resources for the arts are even less than what we complain about here in the U.S.!  After one week of pounding and slapping on the hard floor for 6 hours a day, my feet swelled up to the size of grapefruits!  That won't happen here at the Annenberg Community Beach House,  but still it's a challenge.  Add to that the grittiness of the sand on the boardwalk, and hot pavement, and it's hard not to grimace!  Still, we love what we do, and I am very excited about this piece and about working WITH the challenges in the environment.

This week I hired a costume designer, which is very exciting!  Her name is Tiffany Maxwell, and I get a great feeling about her.  Her work is edgy with very interesting detail.  Of course, she is going to work with our theme and also with our movement and the actual environment that we're in (including a dance that happens in the Splash Pad), so it's something totally new for her and a welcomed challenge!

A couple days ago, we had a great recording session with the composer for the work - Ellen Reid.  I worked with her once before on a multi-media piece for the Artwallah Festival at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica.  She's great to work with.  The recording session took place at my house, and out of the session, a title for the work emerged!!  "I Am You".
I don't want to give away too much about the piece, but we had a good laugh at my various interpretations of a New-Age Motivational Speaker.  Ahhh...I love my job.  I love that I get to make up things in my head and then put them out in the world.  I just think that's the coolest thing ever.  It's like, I never had to grow up!  I just get to keep imagining things.

Anyway, this Tuesday August 21st is my 2nd Public Workshop/Event at the Beach House and I am curating a fantastic panel of artists to discuss, ruminate and answer questions on the topic "The Art of Being An Artist".  I'm so thrilled to bring together this diverse cross-section of directors, choreographers, animators, educators, dancers, composers.  The list includes:  Shyamala Moorty, Anaitté Vaccaro, Jonathan Beard, Jones Welsh, Juliette Carrillo and Adnan Hussain.

Come on out Tuesday August 21st at 6:30pm for juicy discussions, participatory exercises led by the panelists and some refreshments after.  The sun will be setting, and it will be divine.

See you at the beach!


Friday, August 3, 2012

My MUSE is in the HOUSE!

It's been a very nice week, in terms of getting some creative juices flowing!  I love it when I hook in to the tide of inspiration and the instincts that I have start to get affirmed in the external world.  That's when I know my MUSE is in the HOUSE! (The Beach House, that is).

For example...little things.  I'll have an image of a dance scene, and for some reason, a song will pop into my head.  The title of the song is somewhat reflective of the theme that I'm working with, but the song is so old, I can't really remember the words.  Could it really be the right song to use?  I'm not poring through catalogues of songs to find the right one...I just have the name of this song in my head...could it really be right?  I check it out on YouTube, and...it's perfect.  They lyrics give a different perspective on the theme that I'm working with, which is...?
DUALITY.  I don't have a title for the piece yet.  It will come.  But for now, here's a little about what I'm exploring:

The theme of the work is on the nature of “Duality”.  The piece has poetic and spiritual undertones and is an exploration of the conflict between the Soul and the Personality, the Spirit and the Flesh. That we are ultimately striving to be in tune with our “selves”, to find harmony between the eternal and the physical, the mind and the body, thoughts and feelings, fact and faith - between that part of us that knows everything and the part that is still learning.  From the time we are born, we experience duality in our separation from our mother’s womb. The piece explores the joy in union and the pain in separation, and the inevitable duality of earthly human existence.  The poetry of Rumi may serve as textual and/or imagistic inspiration.  The general theme of Rumi's thought. like that of other mystic and Sufi poets of Persian literature, is essentially that of the concept of tawhīd - union with his beloved (the primal root) from which/whom he has been cut off and become aloof  - and his longing and desire to restore it.
And have I told you who I am primarily working with as my dance/performer collaborator? Meena Murugesan! You'll get to know her more in time as well.  We'll be posting some fun videos of our work together.

So, is this piece a duet?  Yes...and no.  It is a duet, but there is a community aspect to this piece.

Here's the part where I ask YOU, yes, YOU, reader, to be part of this event, this site-specific dance-theater piece!

First of all,  You do not need to be a performer!  

You may also invite your friends or family, if you think they would be interested.  In other words, feel free to pass along this notice, invite others to this blog, email me with questions, etc.!
Before I go into the specifics of how I would like to work with you, I want you to first just imagine yourself on the beach with many others you know and love, and some new folks that you may not know, but who are obviously awesome...

Imagine the particular lightness of being experienced when your routine is unexpectedly broken, add to that the high you get from being outdoors, multiply that by a game of volleyball, a burger at Back To The Beach Cafe (veggie burger offered as well) and a few laps in the outdoor pool, and divide that all by an assurance that your involvement will add a great deal to the success of this performance!

Here's how I plan on working with YOU:

I want the community performers (that's you) to represent "humanity"; the world that we are born into; this earthly existence.  You will carry red umbrellas and at times, move as a group in unison, and at other times, break off as individuals or "families".  You create the visual architecture that frames the piece.  There will be simple choreography, possibly some text or song (if it's appropriate) and improvisation.

Of course, there is a rehearsal schedule and some commitment needed from you.  So PLEASE think it over carefully before you reply with a YES!

Saturday September 8th from 10am-5pm (to learn material)
Sunday September 16th from 12pm-4pm (only if needed)
Tech Rehearsal: Wednesday THURSDAY September 27th, Time T.B.D. (2-3 hours to remember and refine)
Friday September 27th 28th, 6pm (call time is 5pm)
Saturday September 28th 29th, 1pm (call time is 12pm)
Sunday September 29th 30th, 1pm (call time is 12pm)

I need to get RSVP's by August 10th.  Please email me if you're interested at: sheetal@sheetalgandhi.com


Till the next,