by Kimberly Peterson
Now that SYTYCD has run it’s course, I’m starting a new column devoted to isolating specific issues and qualities of dance that speak to me in an effort to start dialogue. I am going to be utilizing embedded videos to help illustrate exactly what I’m seeing and to help further discussion. What I’d like to encourage all readers to do is to leave a comment, add to the dialogue of others and continue the discussion beyond what I lay out.
I’m calling this new column “Musings” because it’s not only a play on the word – meaning to contemplate, think about – but also because it references, tangentially, the Muses – the mythological beings said to be the source of all knowledge and to inspire all of the art created by artists. It fits with my intentions to contemplate the field of dance through examples of work and to discuss not only larger issues in play, but also the origins of work, the process of creating work and aesthetic values.
As a transition from our SYTYCD journey into this new column, entitled Musings, I begin our journey with a powerful performance by America’s Newest Favorite Dancer, Melanie Moore.
This work by Dee Caspary was phenomenal for a host of reasons and I want to unpack some of that for you. But first I feel like you should watch the piece for yourselves and then I’ll delve into some food for thought…
Initially what really spoke to me and attracted me to the work was the seamless partnering of bodies. There was no “set up”, just rolling movement into and out of the floor, towards and away from each other, that perfectly echoed the struggle between their relationship as well as their struggle between light and dark (emphasized by the stage lighting and the use of the light bulb).
As I watched this over again, it becomes apparent that the use of musicality in this work is really unrivaled. If you pay attention, you can see the movement emphasis on specific repetitive beats within the music by specific instruments (a single drum tap at the end of phrases of music :10, :23) which helps carry the music and create tension; and when echoed in the movement seamlessly connect the two art forms. (:23-:47)
Musicality is something we speak of as a thing dancers bring to a piece, but really it’s a combination of awareness and interaction with the music. Musicality is how choreographers relate to the music, how dancers relate to the music, and how the music relates to both the piece as an independent entity and how it affects the dancers as individual choice makers.
Music is NOT a backdrop to the dance any more than dancers are simply props for a choreographer. Truly stunning works recognize that the music chosen has it’s own creative voice from the orchestration, the lyrics, the performers – those voices should be honored and included in your work as an artist, not whitewashed to fit a need.
There is no doubt in my mind that the song “Skin & Bones” by David J. Roch was carefully selected and cut for the work Dee was making in a thoughtful way – making sure to keep the integrity of the song and its intention intact while adding to that vision with the movement. It’s a skill to do this and Dee Caspary did it so well I personally would be shocked if this wasn’t up for an Emmy nomination next year.
Then there is the texture of the work created by the movement’s structure. Specifically, not playing with simple unison the entire time, but forcing the dancers to be seen as separate and struggling while being on the same path. The piece hardly ever uses unison dancing, but when it does, it sets it up in opposing directions, (:49) on different legs (:52) and in such a way as to further the sense of dissonance. (1:00) The few moments of traditional unison are taken out of the “matching” mode by the dancers performances – choosing to emphasize their characters’ differing opinions on the same issue. (:39)
On top of all of this, is the deep emotional connection the dancers exhibit with each other and the piece as well as the music, that brings all of us on their journey. It is truly dance as a lived experience. Melanie so clearly wants the light, wants to bring her partner to the light with her and have him want it too – it’s beautiful and crushing as he pulls her away at the end, so broken with loss and tired from fighting that she can no longer lift her legs to stand…..
What are your thoughts on this video? Do you agree with Kimberly? Did you see something else here? We’d love to hear your voice as well…
Contributor Kimberly Peterson is a transplant to Minneapolis from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She has received her Bachelors and Masters of Arts degrees from Texas Woman’s University’s prestigious dance program.
Her graduate research entitled: B-Sides: Independent Record Labels and the Representation of Dancers explored the parallels between the independent music industry and current methods of dancer representation. This research has produced a vision of a for-profit system of representation for the arts based largely on the institutional structures of independent record labels, for profit businesses, and the unique atmosphere of her time at Texas Woman’s University. This research is still developing and Kimberly continues to develop her research for future presentation and publication.
She has taught as a substitute teacher for Denton Dance Conservatory, a pilot after-school program with the Greater Denton Arts Council, a master class series with Dance Fusion and a number of personally choreographed works. She has also served from 2000-2004 as the assistant to the coordinator of KidsDance: Rhythms for Life – a lecture demonstration on the principles of dance to area second graders that is now in its 11th season.
Drawing on her experience with producing dance works, Kimberly has served as a lighting designer, stage manager, event coordinator, volunteer and as an advisor in various roles: most recently RedEye Theatre, The Soap Factory, Minnesota Fringe Festival and MNPR’s Rock the Garden in collaboration with the Walker Arts Center.
She was also a featured choreographer, representing her university at the American College Dance Festival Association’s South Central Region’s informal concert series in 2002. Her work has been commissioned by Tarrant County College in 2006 and has been set upon Zenon Dance Studio’s scholarship dancers as a featured choreographer in 2010.