"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No one's Laughing at G-d

Today there was the largest terror attack in Jerusalem in three years.  A bomb exploded on a busy street at rush hour near the Central Bus Station--One person was killed and at least 40 injured....While we are far away from Jerusalem, up in the North of Israel, it still was a shocking reminder of the reality of this situation, and how sad it is that innocent people are maimed because of it.

We were having an especially busy day today because we were in an all-day workshop with choreographer Sharon Vaisvaser.  We heard about it when my roommate, Bec, got a text from her friend regarding the situation.  We went back to our apartments for our dinner break and I immediately texted my friends in Jerusalem, went online to make sure everyone was okay, and Skyped my dad, and later my mom.

When I went back to class, I had this weird, kindof distracted feeling at first, that was soon replaced by a sense of relief in this craft of dancing.

I was strongly reminded of a day that was over 9 years ago now, but that I remember with such clarity--September 11, 2001.  I was a freshman in high school, and I was in Band, and next, Choir, when it happened...while it was so overwhelming and shocking, I was so grateful to be surrounded my my music friends here!...after having seen the towers fall, live, from the TV in the choir room, and watched the news the rest of the day, I was home with my family, huddled around the TV, just staring at the shocking images, being played over and over again.  When I found out my regular Tuesday night ballet class was still being held as scheduled, I was amazed.  Why wouldn't class be canceled?  Why would I want to leave the comfort of my family right now?  Out of not wanting to be counted absent, I went to class.  It turned out to be incredible; not only were all of us young dancers present, but the class was even more full than usual.  Other teachers and random drop-ins came in, just to take their mind off of the crisis in New York.  While chaos still reigned not too far away, for an hour and a half, we danced.  And it was beautiful.

Tonight's experience was different because, though we are closer in vicinity to Jerusalem than Chicago is to New York, terrorism here is--so unfortunately--something Israeli's almost come to expect might happen.  We also had just barely heard about the bombing, and there are only a select few of us who even know people in Jerusalem.  However, I definitely had this on my mind as we were dancing.  In the aftermath of hearing this news, I felt lucky to be interacting with people through dance.  The Israeli-Palestinian crisis is deeply upsetting, and I really hoped I would be here during a time when peace talks were moving forward.  It upsets me to see things like this happening (and other rockets have been fired out of Gaza in the last few days, and the IDF has been bombing within Gaza as well).

There has been a lot on our mind's actually, lately, with the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan claiming so many thousands of lives...(About a year ago I wrote a post on the Haiti earthquake with similar sentiment...see post here).

We artists, however, have the power to remind people of our humanity and our ability to be compassionate people.  It is times like these that I am most strongly reminded why I do what I do...and that dance can be a catalyst for peace and comfort.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Infinite Possibilities...Forsythe and Gaga

This past week or so has been filled with exciting experiences in and out of dance.  Last weekend I went to Tel Aviv with ten or more fellow dancers; we saw the Batsheva Ensemble (the second company) perform Deca Dance.  This is my third time seeing Deca Dance, and every time I see it, it is a new experience (This piece is a collection of sections from other works of Ohad Naharin, and regularly changes).  "Echad Mi Yodea," the most-famous section from Minus 16, might actually hold a permanent spot in Deca Dance, because I have never seen the show without it.  To be honest, it wouldn't be complete without it.  In this 8-minute event, the dancers sit on chairs in a semi-circle and perform an intricate and extremely athletic accumulation to the a rock version of the children's song "Echad Mi Yodea" (Who Knows One?).  My favorite part is where they fling their arms back and arch over the back of the chair in a canon; when the light hits the white of their costumes....I don't know to explain it, but it's incredibly powerful.  This piece is what made me fall in love with Israeli dance, and is definitely one of my favorite works of art...ever.  I know I've written about it before.  It made me so happy and gave me goosebumps to see it again, live.  I have also really grown to love the section where the dancers pull members of the audience (usually of the older or non-dancer nature) on stage.  It is such a creative mixture of humor and lightheartedness and technique and grace as they ballroom-dance their way across the stage, leaving the chosen audience members amused and baffled.

At the beginning of this week, we had a three-day workshop with Eldad Ben Sasson, who is an indescribably genius choreographer/dancer.  He danced with Batsheva for many years, and his class is heavily informed by Ohad's technique.  After a Gaga-warmup (If you are new to this blog and don't know what Gaga is, see here), he then led us through movement exercises and eventually a long combination based on the principals of William Forsythe.  I have read in detail about Forsythe's ideas of space and dimensions, but I have never had a class that utilizes them.  Pretty much...it was awesome.  Eldad talked us through the combination, not by naming the movements or using ballet terminology, but in terms of the physics--the points in space we touch, the lines we create with our energy and direction, and through which dimensions (including time, and ones undiscovered) we are traveling.  He kept talking about how movement is full of infinite possibilities until one is chosen, and we should never cut a movement short, or stop in our tracks when we mess up, because then we just closed ourselves to the possibilities.  The class was so different from anything I had ever experienced before, and the movement was a completely different quality.  I really enjoyed the challenge of learning in this new way.  On Monday evening, a number of us met with him for coffee and asked questions about his experiences and philosophy.  We asked him about how he creates choreography, and he said he often starts by writing, which is influenced by books and films on quantum physics and simply observing the world around him. Well, I admit I'm a bit of a nerd about physics, and I clearly enjoy writing so....maybe I'm on track. :)

In other news, I feel like I am starting to grasp how to more quickly learn and remember this choreography.  I still feel overloaded--I have NEVER had to remember this much choreography before--but I'm starting to learn how to go about doing it, and what works for me.  I've realized I don't learn using one method, but many.  First I learn by a combination of watching and doing.  I have to physically try the movement to get it in my body, but I also need to stop and just watch the teacher (and from multiple angles) to see the details.  Each time something is added, I NEED to string the old movement to the new, so that I get the sequence and go through what I've learned, accumulation style.  I've also been taking some video clips of my rehearsals, so that at night, even if I just watch it and let my body rest, I can review it for my brain.  AND....when I really have a sequence down and nail it in rehearsal, it feels awesome, and I can actually have fun with it. :)

Oh, also, random tidbit, my favorite class thus far is definitely our floor modern class that we have once a week in the morning...what a fantastic way to warm up and get going for the day!

"A million things we might do or might not do every day.  A million decisions that make themselves."~Copenhagen by Michael Frayne

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I go to Extremes

This week was a rough one of dancing for me.  We only had half a week last week because of our Jerusalem trip, and so this week my mental and physical stamina was lower.  I've been noticing overall that there are many ups and downs in this program.  Sometimes I get out of bed in the morning and am so incredibly excited to dance.  The day is filled with inspiring moments, and I feel alive and so lucky to be here.  Other days are harder to get up; my body is tired, and I feel like the day drags.  In a way though, I feel grateful for these less-than-enthusiastic days, because they are what make the exciting days amazing.

I've been dealing with some recurrence of back pain that began before I left for the program.  A combination of having a really hyper-flexible lumbar spine, slight scoliosis, and straining myself doing too-intense ab exercises, caused pain in my lumbar back, especially at night when lying down.  At home, I had about three physical therapists all giving me wonderful suggestions, and the pain started to go away completely when I did my exercises diligently.  Now that I've come back to dancing really intensely every day (and this choreography entails a LOT of combres/arching/layout-type things), it's been hurting again, both when sleeping and dancing.  I saw the physiotherapist (same as PT, they call it "physio" for short) here on Tuesday and he modified my exercises slightly and showed me how to better activate my transverse abdominis.  He also did massage that felt simultaneously amazing and painful.  Kindof masochistic I guess.  Anyway....I'm going to continue these exercises and hope it gets better soon.  My goal was to NOT get injured here, and it's only Week 4!  But I'm not counting this one because it's just a flare-up of an old injury. :-P

So I think this week my spirits were a little dragging because of not sleeping enough because of my back, and also dealing with a bit of drama with a couple friends at home....not quite coming through and being the friends I wish/thought they were.  I am trying to be very no-drama here, so I'm just focusing on the present and the people here who are supporting me.  I've realized people can read me like a book.  "Is everything okay?" someone asked me the other day.  I didn't even realize anything was showing on my face.  So I'm going to try letting these emotions--the bad and the good--fuel my dancing.

In happier news, I had my first rehearsal for the piece I am choreographing.  I really like the people I've chosen, and they are jiving with my ideas.  Yay!  Making dance and working with people I like really brings up my spirits.  Also, I was starting to feel really overwhelmed with all of the massive amounts of choreography we are learning and are expected to remember (and picking up choreography is not my strength).  I talked to Mika, the artistic director, about feeling a bit behind/overwhelmed.  She gave me an encouraging smile and said she saw the opposite--that I was really standing out.  Hmm...interesting.  This doesn't make much sense to me, but I'm taking it to heart.

Tomorrow, a bunch of us are heading to Tel Aviv!  We are seeing a Batsheva Ensemble show (Deca Dance--SO PSYCHED).  I am also seeing a friend from college, and going to another friend's theatre/performance-art event.  This all is sure to be inspiring, and it will be great to be back in this wonderful, vibrant city again.