It’s been some time since this particular performance, however, I’m still thinking about it. Our work, Two Steps Forward by Jessica Vokoun for the Living Arts eMerge Dance Festival in March, was a challenging exercise in creating a dance specifically in a site with all it’s architecture, limitations, and embedded ideas. Because this site has historical context, it was natural to think of the long passage as a journey and even easier to connect it to what ideas emerge about the journey of life, as in the past, present, and future.
It was an interesting exploration and a thrill to create with Jessica Vokoun and Alicia Chesser but some of the most interesting moments were discovered in performance; in the moment of being physically oriented in the hallway with these ladies in whatever proximity we had planned ourselves to be in.
There is moment in the dance that I stand with my back toward the audience and then look back at them (symbolically in the past). This was a logical performance choice in rehearsal as we built context for the piece, however, I never noticed Alicia so vividly as when there was an actual audience witnessing the dance.
As I ponderously gazed at the audience, Alicia steps in front of me. She was near; she was with me. It wasn’t until my vision was filled with her nearness and eclipsed my focus on the audience that I noticed a shift in my focus metaphorically from past to present. It shifted my focus from past and the distant connection there to the present and what was happening in the moment. It didn’t negate the past but gave me an opportunity to be present with others and actively continue to write the journey in the now. In other words, it was the acknowledgment of the bodies near me that shifted my focus and inspired me to move forward. The metaphors for life and living exploded with connections to my recent grief year. It wasn’t a revelation for anyone else but me. That was where performance was once again, rich for me.
I find it curious that the assumption about performance is that all the discoveries are made in the planning, choreographic, and rehearsing stages before the performance happens. Maybe I assumed that years ago but I doubt I’m alone. It seems to be assumed that by the time a work is performed, there is nothing left to do but execute what was planned and choreographed and rehearsed with the addition of an audience that may change how the performance feels to the performer but in general, if the performer is “good”, it will be mostly the same as when performing in rehearsal. Who is assuming this, I don’t know. It could be the audience, other dancers or even the performer herself at times but it is thrilling, in my opinion, to be reminded that this is simply not true. Ever.
Paying attention to those moments in performance is what makes the art of performance a true art.
Rachel Bruce Johnson is the Executive & Artistic Director of The Bell House and has been performing professionally for more than twenty years. She continues to make new discoveries with every performance.
If you're interested in viewing the dance, it is attached below. Enjoy.
Our friends in Waco, TX with Out On A Limb Dance Company are working hard to continue developing dance in Waco, TX! I'd thought I'd share what she is up to lately. Brooke Schlecte, artistic director of the company (OoLD), is starting a series of dance class offerings for budding "limbs" interested in dance and moving. This is exciting news! She has forged some pretty exciting relationships with art galleries and camps in Waco that are interested in integrating movement into the areas of art-making they currently support. Below is the information on the program she recently released. Check it out!
Thanks for your work, Brooke, and keep moving!
Please find information below about my new creative dance class starting in August! If you have already seen this information, would you kindly pass this along to your friends? THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Out On a Limb DOT BUDS:a creative dance class for children
"WHERE CHILDREN FIND THEIR CREATIVE VOICE THROUGH MOVEMENT."
C.A.S.T on 605 Austin Avenue
The classes will cover: Movement skills, culture studies, performance, movement patterns, ballet and modern technique, improvisation, creating, discovering, history, leading/following, discipline/freedom
Classes on Tuesdays at 3:30-4:15
with Live Musicians!
COST: August-May $50 a month
Fall: August 26th-December 15th
Spring: January 19th- May 18th
Cultural Parties with Families two Thursdays: In addition to movement and dance technique, the classes will study cultural dance to provide students with a global understanding of dance and history. During these parties, the whole family is invited to take part in the dance and culture party! With help from everyone, there will be music, food, costumes, and a brief performance by the students.
October 16th at 5:30-6:30 pm
March 12th at 5:30-6:30 pm
Shows: The students will perform in two shows throughout the year, end of fall and end of spring. The goal of these shows is for the students to practice the study of performance, to present the hard work they have accomplished through the semester, and to feature their own work as ‘BUDding’ dance artists.
POSSIBLE EXTRA PERFORMANCE AT "DECK THE HALLS", November 9th, Time and details TBA
Winter Concert: Sunday, December, 14th at 3:00pm
Spring Concert: Sunday, May, 17th at 3:00pm
WHAT TO WEAR:
Classes: Students can wear ANYTHING comfortable (not confining like jeans or revealing like skirts or tube tops) AND closed toe running SHOES
Performances: There is a ONE TIME t-shirt fee for all the performances $25
Registration is now open! How to register: http://www.outonalimbdance.com/dot-buds.html
1. Fill out Registration form below
2. Send $10 (Registration fee) before August 1st and $20 thereafter
3. I will send address and checks payable after I receive registration email.
1. Parent Name:
2. Child name, age, birthday:
3. Parent email and cell number:
photo by Nathan Harmon; dancers: Jessica Vokoun & Rachel Bruce Johnson.
PC: Jeanne S. Mam-Luft
It is a simple philosophy here at THE BELL HOUSE; make connections by bringing people together through dance. Art that seeks to defy a fractured view of the world by creating culture that cares for the soul and is concerned with human thriving. For me, it isn’t enough to just make dance for dance’s sake; it is my belief that it is the connective power of people that makes art worth engaging. We do that by taking our interests and talents and challenging the ways we connect them to something tangible in the human experience. It is through these connections and tangibilities that we see the true power of art and dance manifest back to relationships with and through people. In my view, what matters is people; the time and space of making work refract and overlap revealing and creating new possibilities for human connection.