Thursday, February 11, 2016

Moving Right Along

Another season of the Moving Company has come and gone, leaving only fond memories for the members and audiences. Once more Miss Chris of Danceworks has marshaled her troupe to bring the “art of dance” (and a bit of the “art of sing”) to those in the community unable to travel out to it on their own.

Wow, that was a sappy beginning. I’ll have to increase the “rude and juvenile” content on upcoming posts here to reset the balance.

Because Miss Chris understands entertainment, the show was built around a theme again. This year's was “New York, New York.”  This is because she also understands (what should be common knowledge) that any live performance benefits greatly from having a reference, setting or connection to the Greatest City on Earth.

Doing some quick checks before I started typing, I realized most of the praise I was planning on dishing out I had already said (word for word in some cases) in my previous two post season posts. (Here and here.)

It’s hard not to be amazed with such a combination of artistic grace and adaptability. Also, I feel no shame in repeating myself when I admit loving getting to see a performer’s self-confidence catch up to their talents and become revealed in ever increasing showmanship. 

One new part of that was realizing that some of the performers who were always "Happy Disney Faced" when younger matured into knowing when to dance with a more serious artistic expression.  Contrary wise: some of the more straight laced dancers learned to throw in the proper amount of excessive cheek when the music called for it.

Watching the previously younger dancers start to take leadership positions is something else I could comment on again. Especially since, now in her third year, my daughter is starting at the very beginnings of that journey. (And was very excited by, and thankful for, the opportunity provided to be in the Tap duet for the first time.)

However, simply restating themes as an excuse for an easy post to mark an occasion is below even my usually low standards for cheaping out of a write up.

Fortunately, in spite of the mounting proof that my brain is imminently running out of emergency battery power; there is enough new “material” for this post festering around in it.

I won’t refer to this list as things I didn’t notice before. They’re more like things I noticed but the full impact didn’t sink all the way into my already admittedly thick skull.  

In no particular order:

The first is a highlight to the sense of bonding that Danceworks forges between these young women.  As with any difficult (or for me, impossible) types of physical activity, injuries will occur. 

There were many shows where the injured performers showed up anyway, far more well-dressed than anyone in the audience, including us parents, as a sign of support for the rest of the gang.

Sometimes they also shucked any joint immobilization gear they wore on the way to the venue and joined in the performance anyway. This is because dancers are generally tougher than most “real” athletes.

A kick line always gets wild applause, period. 

It doesn’t matter how tired, medicated or wounded the audience is. 

This applied everywhere, including performing in a room with an alarm that sounded if the door was open for an extended time to prevent residents from wandering about where several audience members asked, “What language is that?” when everyone including the asker was speaking English. 

No matter what, the kick line seems to stand out as a perfect combination of:
“Wow, that looks really good!”
“Wow, that looks really hard to get everyone to do that together!”

I’ve raved about the performers adapting to all manner of strange sized and shaped locations, as well as unplanned absences.  It never fully hit home before what the latter part of that meant. I understood the dancers themselves were adjusting the general shape of the choreography to fit into the weird spaces.  However, this year was the first time it dawned on my slow moving grey matter that they needed to make larger shifts to adjust the choreography around the missing members by themselves as well.  That change is without the benefit that being invited back to the same places (because they are that good) gives them for the location adjustments.

Yet no matter where they were or who was missing, the routines looked like they were plotted out for those performing them in that specific location.

There was one exception to this self correction.  A double show got moved from one weekend to the next due to Old Man Winter taking a massive dump on New Jersey all at once back in January.

The number of previous commitments was high enough that the original teacher that arranged the choreography was brought in for touch ups.  We were in the hallway near the preparations and it revealed something I’ve long suspected about modern dance routines.

There is an actual step defined as, “Weird Thing.”

This year, there was more of a modern slant to many of the numbers.  Yes, before my daughter runs in to yell at me, I know only one of them was officially “Modern” and it wasn’t the one I referenced above.  To my vastly untrained faculties, in this show I saw Ballet, Tap, Broadwayeeze, and Modern. 

Modern art uses blank spaces on the canvas for emotional effect, and avant-garde music similarly uses silence. (Or maybe that’s just lazy musicians) 

In the same way, stillness is used in the more modernishness types of dance.  While they did appreciate the numbers as a whole, the pauses befuddled some of the elderly audiences, leading to extra bouts of finish style applause mid number.

Then again, extra bouts of applause are never a bad thing.

Somewhere along the way, a group of us transitioned from being proud parents to Roadies.

Besides acting as travelling boosters, cheering squad, film crews and paparazzi for the Moving Company, we ended up becoming a different kind of “Moving” company ourselves.

Part of it comes from them being invited back to the same places year after year, most of which do not have a specific performing area. 

We’ve learned where the chairs need to be set up, and restacked at the end.

We’ve learned where plants need to be shifted out of the entrance to the “stage” so the dancers don't get fronds in the face.

And we’ve learned where entire dining stations need to be lugged off to another room.

Then there are the locations that feature both assisted and unassisted living.  Those get two back to back performances with a mad dash in between. Considering many of us figured out a long time ago that Miss Chris is already doing eighteen times more than humanly possible at these events, we throw in any aid we can offer.

While not as strongly as the members of the real Moving Company, we’ve bonded too. This is fortunate as I’d hate to be seen crying in front of strangers on a regular basis. These kids need to realize that having skills great enough to cause adults to weep is a superpower that must be used with great responsibility.  It’s getting embarrassing.

Our little gang also learned to be fairly creative and adaptive ourselves…such as visiting locations that control the use of numbered parking spaces with military like fanaticism, and then plow all the snow into the visitor spaces.  It’s amazing how many cars can fit on one snow bank.

What is even more amazing is how many dancers can fit in the wings, more so in locations that don’t have official “wings.”  Part of the Moving Company bond these talented ladies share takes the form of them performing each other’s routines at the End of the Season Party.  However, the only way to learn dances they aren’t in is watching “backstage.”

In most cases, there is no stage, making the wings a nearby hallway or prep room, where those not currently out front can occasionally can be seen replicating the motions (frequently in an overly hammy way) of those who are.  The problem doesn’t come when the audience sees this, as usually only those of us with Roadie experience know where to focus to find them.

Issues only arise when one of those “out front” locks eyes with a comrade in arms (or maybe “comrade in legs” is more apropos) goofing about to their routine.  For some reason, eye contact between normally highly composed and professional looking dancers is the one thing that instantly reduces them to hysterics.

Recovery is normally instantaneous. 

Unless one giggling performer locks eyes with another on stage, then there’s a chance that a domino cascade of silliness will reduce the entire number to cute, preschool style giggles.

Perhaps this is why they often stare up into “dance space” during a routine.

With the above highly infrequent exceptions, the focus of the entire troupe is always on the audience.

Sometimes, they play venues they’ve been coming to for over a decade that present them with a real stage inside of a fully functional auditorium.  

Other times, they’re some place new and have been squeezed into a corner of a small room normally used for puzzles or a breakfast nook which “the Roadies” cleared the tables out of ten minutes before showtime.

Whether the dancers are facing large crowds full of anticipation who have seen them or heard about them from staff and fellow residents

Or the dancers are facing small groups they outnumber three to one who have no idea what they’ve been brought to see

The level of professionalism, enthusiasm, and energy the Moving Company greets their audiences with is always full throttle and completely infectious.

Because that’s what happens when people are not only doing what they love, but are also given the opportunity to share that passion with others who normally would have no access to it.

Both sides of the stage are incredibly lucky.


Kim Luer said...

Once again a beautiful summary of a beautiful dance troop. I can't wait for Aurora to join next year.

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx for reading and posting. Looking forward to the two of them performing together!