Gumby

Coach is always stressing the need for clarity, contrast, “coloring” …. Taking full advantage of the slows, giving them their full value; filling the music and filling the space, the quicks rapid fire and sharp.

Nothing takes the excitement and anticipation out of a dance more than having it all on the same level of intensity, coming off washed out and 2-dimensional … not even black and white, just a forlorn “blah”.

Musicality and Expression each have their part to play, but a key factor in Color is Timing–not just knowing your steps, but knowing the value of each step.

Which means you have to count. And of course, one of my major challenges is COUNTING.

Let’s be very clear here …. I know my steps, I can picture the choreography in my head, but I’ve only ‘kind of” got the correct count. I cannot tell you how many times The Icon has stopped me dead in the middle of a sequence and demanded that I count it out for him. And more times than not, I’ve been counting wrong.

Timing is not a hit or miss thing—it needs to be precise. You need to know your count and where you’re supposed to be and it’s really amazing how the correct timing helps you do that (duh).

Basically, all steps are pretty much the same, but what makes each one different? What gives them their flavor? Their sparkle? What brings them to life? One essential component is Timing.

There are times when Coach just stands there and shakes her head, fighting to keep a straight face. She calls me an “artist” because of the way I come up with such innovative ways of doing the strangest things when I dance. For instance, she doesn’t understand how my body can be going one way and my head another. Or the times when all of my heel leads decide to go on vacation right in the middle of a waltz or foxtrot.

(That just might explain why, after all these years, I still look like Gumby when I dance. On second thought, let’s just say I probably make Gumby look good … oh, sometimes I just totally crack myself up).

But it’s Coach’s keen eyes and sharp ears that catch it–when I actually do count loud enough for anybody to hear me, what my mouth is saying doesn’t match what my feet are doing. I may be saying the correct timing, slow (1-2) quick (3) quick (4), but the body is doing a steady, flat line dut dut dut dut.

Coach is quiet for a moment, then looks at me and asks me to s-i-n-g the count (as in slooowwww, quickquick).

I’m a musician, at one time aspired to be a concert pianist. Tempo — Full notes, quarters, 8ths and 16ths; tinkling grace notes; tempo markings implying character … animato, tranquillamente, furioso — the dynamics — largo, lento, adagio; whispering or booming baseline; agile melody weaving in and out–the elements of the music, phrasing, going from pianissimo to forte, crescendo, diminuendo; strong chord at the end of a phrase, all start coming back and out of nowhere, I seem to have made the connection.

As a pianist, you express the music through the keys of the piano.

As a dancer, you express the music through the steps of the dance.

WOW. I think I need to go think about this. See you later ….

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Wonderland

I don’t think I’ve ever been late to a lesson; I’m usually at the studio 15 minutes White_Rabbit-small.pngbefore-hand. But there’s a first time for everything. That was this morning.

 Don’t know how it happened, but on hopping out of the shower, I look at the clock and realize I’ve got exactly 12 minutes to dress, pack the car and get to the studio.

 One of my favorite stories/movies is the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland … there’s one scene in particular that’s stayed with me, the one where Alice is walking out to face The Jabberwocky, and in a last ditch effort to shore up her courage, she starts reciting: “Sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before Breakfast … “

 Well, step right up, folks, hold on to your hats, ‘cause here we go with MY six:

 Impossible Thing #1 – Got into my clothes (try pulling up yoga pants when you’re still wet), dripping hair up in a clip, grabbed my coat and bags and into the car (make-up definitely NOT an option);

 Impossible Thing #2 – Did not encounter a single car, school bus, garbage truck or red light on the approximate 2 mile drive to the studio. I live on Long Island, people. It’s a week-day, morning rush hour. How is that possible?

 Impossible Thing #3 – Pull into the studio parking lot, check my phone, 7:01am!! Grab my kit bag and bolt from the car, catching sight of The Icon through the front window, just as he’s looking down to check his watch …  and I explode through the door the exact moment he reaches for his phone ….

 Impossible Thing #4— And I totally crack up laughing. Then HE starts laughing. Do you have any idea how good it feels to start your day laughing?

 Impossible Thing #5—I ask The Icon if we can start with a walk-through of the showcase routine, just to see a) if we both remember what the hell we did last week, and b) whether or not the pieces fit together, and he agrees, saying he was going to suggest we do that.

 Then we do it to music. And wonder of wonders, the routine not only flows, but the music selection is actually spot-on with the choreography and ends exactly on the closing line of the dance.

 Impossible Thing #6—The Icon actually remarks on how my out-loud counting is actually matching what my feet are doing and I’ve actually maintained connection throughout the dance and I’m actually totally present for what may be the first time ever, and except for me forgetting to breathe during all this, I’m actually not doing such a bad job and this actually might be one of our best sessions to date.

 Bring on The Jabberwocky !!!!!!!!

 

 

Ironing out the Wrinkles

The May 6th Showcase is just around the corner and I’m surprised to find myself really looking forward to it!

Last Thursday’s lesson was spent on logistics … the dance I’m doing started out Gold, got a bit of a make-over so that I could dance it in my Open Silver competitive heats, and The Icon and I are now doing a little tweaking and re-sequencing to “regild” it, so to speak … LOL.

We’re pretty OK with the opening, then took a piece out of the middle and stuck it at the end. Brought back one or two sections of the original choreography and … Voila !! It works beautifully, and everything should be OK as long as muscle memory doesn’t take over and we forget that we’re supposed to go directly into Sequence B because Sequence A is now the beginning of the end …. whhhaaaa ???

I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t mentioned precisely what dance I’m doing. It’s intentional. You know, build up a little drama … a little mystery. Yeah, right. As if anyone’s going to be holding their breath until the big reveal (oh, sometimes I just crack myself up).

In almost all of the past showcases I’ve done, I’ve usually danced two routines (one smooth and one rhythm). This time out, it’s just going to be the one. A test case, get my feet wet again, see how it goes. And who knows? Between the unconventional choice of music, the walk-on and the first few opening measures, maybe it will be something no one expects. Actually, I might already have that part covered, seeing as I don’t think anybody thought I’d ever be doing another showcase and there’s a surprise right there !

So anywho, I think tomorrow morning’s lesson will consist of marking our patterns and making sure The Icon and I and some semblance of where we’ve cobbled in the new sequences. We see how it flows– think it’s in pretty good shape, but putting the whole thing to music is the definitive test.

Then, of course, we’ll be addressing the very best parts of preparing for any performance  — TECHNIQUE and ATTITUDE!! Can’t wait to jump into that with both feet !

Really wish you could see how deeply I’ve got my tongue in my cheek here (someone once told me that my death will probably be caused by being sarcastic at the wrong time).

Laissez les bon temps roulez!