Sarah Griffin on SKETCH 4: Dance and language

The Imagery dancers and choreographers have finished up the last full week of rehearsals, and now we prepare ourselves mentally and physically for a week in the theater and a week on tour to Walla Walla. This year’s SKETCH has been a real joy. We have all eight dancers from last year’s project, and that familiarity has brought so much ease, intimacy, cooperation, and laughter to the process. I’m fortunate to have worked with both Adam and Amy in the SKETCH environment in previous years as well, so I’m also familiar with their movement languages and creative processes. In the few days before opening, I focus on adding nuance and thought to my work with the performances in mind. It’s important to find my footing, timing, spacing, and breath, both on my own and with my partners, so that we can develop a cohesive and consistent approach to performance. All of the work continues to evolve on stage, with each performance unfolding in a new way. The greatest joy of performing is the feeling of total presence and immersion in the “now”, the complete trust in the moment and in my body, my partners, and the musicians. It’s a great privilege to have live music in performance, and I’m very excited to begin working with the musicians and to see how my appreciation of the music may change. The energy of an audience also adds an element of communication to the work, particularly in an intimate theater like ODC. 10527325_10152162190551954_7023030529856162662_n The theme of SKETCH 4: Music Mirror is that we are dancing two ballets to the same piece of music. When Amy proposed this idea to the dancers months ago, I was intrigued. I am an attentively musical dancer, and have found few challenges in this process. I’ve been getting to know the music the way I would any piece of music I dance to, and I’ve been learning choreography the same way I would approach any new movement. If anything, dancing (and watching others dance) to the same music in very different ways has made me appreciate a broader idea of what dance and music can be in relation to one another. I feel that I’ve learned the music more instinctively with a depth of perspective informed by two very different approaches. Another way to explain it is with a language analogy. I’m fluent in both English and Spanish. I know that when I speak Spanish, different parts of my brain are working; my thoughts are in Spanish, my inflections and tone of voice change, I use my mouth and tongue differently, and even my body language changes. Movement language is very similar. Both Amy and Adam have very distinct movement languages, and the two ballets they’ve created couldn’t be more different for me. I dance en pointe in Amy’s work, defying gravity and stretching phrases in long, curvy, precise balletic fashion. Her choreography requires a flexible posture and highly articulate feet, and the partnering work is intricately cooperative. Amy relates to the music as a musician (something I’ve always liked about her), carrying around her score and helping the dancers hear the music as it’s written. In Adam’s ballet, I dance in socks, which radically changes my connection to the floor and the way I articulate my feet and legs. His movement feels more weighted, and has a fluid, almost relaxed muscularity, with release and a sense of surrender to gravity underlying moments of tension or stillness. Adam approaches music with the mind and ear of a dancer, so there are some unison sections that we count and others where timing can develop naturally with the movement and may vary slightly with each performance. In these ways, it’s nearly impossible for me to confuse the two ballets simply because they use the same music; my body feels so completely different, and the way I process the music intimately reflects how my body feels. I’m sure a fancy brain scan would show different parts of my brain working for each ballet, much like synaptic patterns with multiple spoken languages. I’m so grateful to have been a part of SKETCH from the beginning, and I look forward to the future. The opportunity to learn and grow in an open and encouraging environment is a blessing that few people enjoy in any career. The creative skills and invaluable lessons I’ve learned from the dancers and choreographers through the past four summers have made me a better, stronger, smarter, more joyful dancer. I’m moving to Portland to join Oregon Ballet Theatre just a few days after we return from Walla Walla, and I feel that SKETCH has given me a great advantage in approaching new work and repertory work in the context of a larger company. Thank you, dancers, choreographers, audiences, and supporters. And thank you, Amy, for taking a chance on me.

Show Comments (3)
    Wes Krukow (aka the Puppy) on SKETCH 4

    Week three!!! (Little known fact about Amy: if she reads three exclamation points, she imagines the writer wagging their respective tail.)

    What a journey so far! Having now spent a week with Adam’s creation it’s safe to say the dancers have a feel for the challenge of two dances to one song. Here are some of the benefits that I have experienced so far:

    + The musicality is more developed. Because we have been listening to one score for over 100 hours, we are beginning to understand its’ nuances and how we can incorporate our dancing to fit different stylistic elements within each segment. Because of the complexities Kevin has composed, every time I listen to the score, I discover new things about either the rhythm, dynamic, or melody. This makes the process all the more artistically satisfying:there is always more to learn!

    + The voice, style, and intention of the choreographers are so developed that it’s almost impossible to confuse the two. This helps prevent confusion when we run each dance. It is rare when we accidentally switch dances midway through the song because Amy and Adam have structured their pieces so well that we have no room to second guess our actions. There will be days that because the movement is so different, it sounds like another score entirely.

    The challenge that this has provided has given everyone a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. When friends and family of mine come to see a show they usually comment on the amount of memorization needed to accomplish a piece. “So much movement, How do you remember what goes where and when?!” This added challenge is a gift to push ourselves and answer the question “can we do it?”. Like bob the builder, Imagery says “Yes we can!”

    Although I’m usually one to say “Come and Play, Everything’s A-Okay,” there are some challenges to this process that are hard to ignore:

    – Musicality is hard to switch between pieces. This is most challenging for synchronized sections where the musicality is spoon-fed to us. Ironically enough those are my most challenging moments but they have turned into my favorite moments because I then get to watch Ben and Katherine and see all the details that I strive to achieve.

    – Finding a different atmosphere in the same music. Amy and Adam has different intentions and therefore the mood is unique for each piece. Finding the individual voice is difficult when your inspiration is from the same music. It is making me realize that there is so much influence to be had through the development of a personal story. I love making the story relevant to my life making it a personal experience and therefore offering a realistic presentation to the audience. This has been fun finding motivation in the music and then having to go away from it to find another shade to the spectrum.

    I am looking forward to the process and finding new discoveries this week in myself and from those I am dancing with and for. What a joy to be in a place that is motivating, challenging, and inspiring all in one little bundle of sunshine (tail wagging)!!!

    Wes Krukow

    July 15, 2014



    Show Comments (1)
      Ben Needham-Wood on SKETCH 4

      Sketch 4: Music Mirror is underway and I could not be more excited. I have been a part of Imagery’s Sketch series since it’s inception in 2011 and every year it continues to exceed my expectations. The dancers get stronger, the work gets more innovative, and the atmosphere continues to exude confidence and joy in every artist that shares in the collaboration.

      This is the first time where the Sketch dancers have remained the same from one year to the next, and after only one week of work we can already feel that same, magic bond that grew over five weeks last summer. It is rare to find a company where there are no egos or personal agendas that inhibit the overall progress of the work, but Imagery is exactly that; every artist in the company shares a mutual respect and admiration for everyone else in the studio, allowing us to continue bettering ourselves with confidence knowing that our colleagues are supporting us through every step. Looking around the room and absorbing Private’s incredible partnering, Sarah’s long lines, “The Puppy” Wes’s strength, Katherine’s clarity, Annali’s technique, James’s fluid articulation of movement, and Rachel’s flexibility, it leaves me in awe and inspires me to push my own limits and strive for more.

      All eight of us are very different dancers from one another, and it takes an amazing choreographer to successfully highlight those individual strengths within the context of a single, cohesive work. Amy Seiwert and Adam Hougland are two such choreographers. I first worked with both choreographers while I was a Company Artist with Louisville Ballet. I can honestly say that I would not be the dancer I am today without their influence. They are both nurturing and invest completely in their work and their dancers. Each day in the studio with them brings new ideas and insight that helps us dancers to push our boundaries and rediscover our own limitations.

      Amy Seiwert's Imagery, Rachel Furst and Ben Needham Wood copy Photo David DeSilva

      This amazing combination of Amy, Adam, and the eight dancers in the company have become my summer family and I love every opportunity I have to work with them. We are having such a great time already and the work we have accomplished thus far in the process is truly remarkable. I can’t wait to see how this project resolves and I can’t edit to share it with the audience.

      –Ben Needham-Wood

      Pictured – Ben Needham-Wood and Rachel Furst in 2013′s SKETCH 3: Expectations. Photo by David DeSilva. Rehearsal shot of Mr. Needham-Wood by Andrea Basile.



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