Day 5 Working the gaps

day 5 wang lei solo

day 5 duets

day 5 Wu Shuai

day 5 wang lei 2

Working the Gaps

Kerry looks like she might be riding a slight panic (with positive energy of course). There are 4 dancers in the space. Wu Weifong is injured and will not be back till Monday. Zhao zhibou is off this morning, and Sun rui will be off this afternoon but zhibou will be back.  Kerry asks the dancers if they will all be there next week. Reassured, she accepts that today and tomorrow will be without full cast. She needs all 6 dancers to work the sextet, the trios and the legs/arms line. As yet, she has had only one day with all 6 dancers present.

She shows me her rehearsal notes, she has structured most of the material now on paper, with the sound score. Now her structure needs to be worked in the space, which is tricky when dancers are not present.  There is no time for re-thinking, the dice is thrown, and there can be no wondering or wandering into the gaps that have appeared. Kerry needs the dancers here, present and full in the space.

She begins rehearsal working with the men’s floor phrase, begun yesterday. Wu shuei, Wang lei, Sun rui.  Cleaning the details, counts, spacing.

I watch the solo for Sun rui.

…Slide through, deliciously pointed foot, shove hip, look, turn, arabesque, perfect, deep on supporting leg, spin, arms over the head, drop hands, stagger, stagger, hands on bum, travel, drop head, leg up, clap hands around knee, slide hand down sternum, hands to ribs, hands to bum, extending those legs, those violently beautiful extensions, slicing in the air. Exquisite, a tall sinewy swan, sharp swift and linear.

I watch the solo for Wu shuei.

…Reach arm back, step forward, parallel rise, stop, drop, jump, thrust hips, circle, smooth, catch, throw arms down, straight legs jump, snake through, pull out, sharp arms down, smooth ripple of back.  Small, tough, cheeky, direct hits and fluid as a butterfly!

Kerry begins to structure material. Wu Shuei’s solo links into the men’s feet phrase. Kerry sorts the spacing, fronts, diagonals, facings, corners. Concentration on the legs.

A gap appears — 4 counts need filling before the repeat of the leg phrase. Kerry pauses, her body hesitates, opening up the gap for a new something that has not yet been figured. She searches for a movement that travels, she knows where she needs to be, how many counts. What will be the movement that emerges? Hold that moment unfixed, just for a moment — then she is off, the movement appears and fills the space — two runs and a skidder — and the gap is filled.

We are in positive space, punctuating points in space, on the beat, movement happens on 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 – even the stops are sharply accentuated. Gestures cut rather than absorbing the space.

And then there is dancers’ remarkable ability to remember material!  We tend to take this for granted, for it is assimilated into daily training from an early age. Memory of movement is a fine skill.

Have some lunch gentlemen.


Studio 703 Wang mei

I have gathered information. The piece is based on a poem. I am given 4 translations. Here is the first (translated by Lin Yutang):

In my young days,

I had tasted only gladness.

But loved to mount the top floor,

But loved to mount the top floor,

To write a song pretending sadness.

And now I’ve tasted sorrow’s flavors, bitter and sour,

And can’t find a word,

And can’t find a word,

But merely say, “What a golden autumn hour!”

The composer is Bach with an overlaying score treated by a Chinese composer names Fan ZongWei.

As expected, the company is sitting on the floor, discussing the fine details of moving forward on their bums. Who moves first, how they move, on what count, the quality of the move, the extent of each lean forward — are discussed through collective wrangling. The timing of the movements reminds me of musical counterpoint.

Wang mei often steps into the piece and one of the dancers takes over the direction.  Her energy matches the dancers, no more, no less. Yet she clearly has the final say. The work looks inwards to its internal functioning, its group rhythms, rhythms composed of 4 parts, 4 layers. Each dancer’s part brings a different counterpoint to the whole, a 4 part score. The question is – how are they reaching decisions – as it seems to take a very long time!  Wang mei seems passionately absorbed in the problematic details of space and time.

I return to studio 702.

Kerry is working with Wang yabin. Here are some of Kerry’s words, caught as she directs.

… Yea, so from here, quite like to see the hands, hands go, hands drop, can this be bigger, exactly, carry on, judder, hit emilyn, travel, carry on, small, small, small, big.  Exactly and carry on. Ah, so could I have this with this shoulder, big, big, exactly, just make sure, stop it, then go, then shoulder, yea, and then yabin, you can do this one on 4, nice, two arms legs in, good yabin, where does your solo finish? Urr, so literally from here I want you to go…  do you need a minute to think?

Yabin does the solo again, this time I try to catch what I see – writing as I watch.

…Still, eyes, mouth smiles, step, leg round, arm air swift, sway, shunt out sideways, criss cross, hand on floor, curve, split legs, turn, swan lake wrists, elbows in, hug self, circle arms, throw above head, head snake, foot up, cramp, elbow, heel, lunge, hips turn, spin, twist arms around, fingers judder, ripple back, whoa, fall to floor, circle hips, tiger walk, skidder on feet, shoulder circle small, small baby, fetus, lengthen out, hips smash, hands flipped, draw along the floor, skidder round on one hand, lie back, shoulder twist, turn, kneel, skim along floor,  stomach tense, head lifted, snake whisper with hair…

We go downstairs to the BDA office, to look at Random videos, to give context to Kerry’s work.

Kerry discusses the rehearsal process and checks out how the dancers are remembering the material and assimilating it into their bodies. She is used to seeing dancers working all the time. These dancers rest while not working and then get up and do the material pretty well remembered. So how do you remember?

Dancers: In middle school this is most important in the training.

Tomorrow is Saturday, we will start at 11am. I want you there with energy, focus, for three hours. I want you there with bright eyes and energy. Good plan?

Dancers happy to begin later tomorrow!

2 comments to Day 5 Working the gaps

  • Wayne McGregor

    Dear E,

    Its been with great interest and enjoyment I have read your daily blogs about Kerry’s process. This ethnographic approach to understanding the creative process is endlessly fascinating and I am delighted Kerry has someone so attuned to the making process from a choreographic point of view to write about her process so eloquently.

    I think that watching other choreographers work teaches you so much about your own process, your own habits, it makes you question your own inter-personal skills, your own ability to mediate, communicate and engender a group productivity that is essential to a shared (distributed) process. I have recently been lucky enough to do this during my choreographic labs at the Royal Opera House — mentoring other choreographers evolve their own work — with me watching, noticing, learning.

    That said, I did read an inaccuracy in your description of my working practice that I would love to clarify if I may. I have NEVER, in almost 20 years of dance making left a studio/rehearsal, let alone left because I perceived that the dancers were not delivering the ‘required’ energy, attention for the work. This is a RANDOM myth. Of course, all choreographers want dancers to come – every day in the appropriate “state of preparedness” for the work – more often than not they absolutely do. Some days, life gets in the way. For me too. But I would never lose my ever precious rehearsal time because of someone else’s ‘mood’. Its my job to inspire a change, work with it, or as a last resort replace the dancer. Certainly, I would not leave my own rehearsal as a method of protest.

    It reminds me of a notice I came across recently at a school in the East of England. ~This laminated list of rules posted on the dance studio door set out 10 pre-requisites for entering the lesson and participating. Alongside the usual: remove your trainers, no drinks etc etc there were two very extreme instructions — you will be creative at all times and you will at all times give 100% commitment. A big ask for any human being………………..

    Thanks again, looking forward to the next posts and love from Melbourne

  • e.claid

    Hey Wayne, great to have your comments to the blog.
    Yes, I apologise for getting carried away with the myth!! I certainly didnt think you left the studio as a protest!
    I have to say I was very impressed with your mythical directorial stance – I was kind a hoping it was true! There is something about a working pace as a choreographer, and if collaborators (dancers and all) are in a different place it can be hard to keep the spark alight each day. Having said that, these dancers are doing a pretty good job and there is a sparkling atmosphere in the studio.
    It is great to work with Kerry and to see so much of your language through her. She is doing a magnificent job here, and her quality of delivery is one to admire! Take care, Emilyn

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