Thursday, February 6, 2020

Insert Moving Pun Here

Another year of the fantastic Danceworks Moving company has come and gone.  Once more Miss Chris has organized an outstanding group of performers through a veritable minefield of updates and changes to bring the joys of dance (and sing) to people who aren’t able to get out and view it on their own.

Yet again the dancers each brought their own personalities and influences to the shows. They all follow the choreography created by Miss Chris and her staff, with weekly tweaks as needed based on available space and occasional absences.  However, infused with participation in sports, yoga, cheer and other activities, plus individual personalities shining through, everyone has a bit of uniqueness in their performance.

Anabelle and her friends are now in the top half of the ages in the senior company, and frequently mother-hen the youngsters and help keep things organized and moving back stage. They also appropriately named the modern dance number's costume, "sexy Chewbacca" which both made me proud and horrified. 

My nieces have advanced too. Veronica knows the ropes now that she’s in her second season, and Aurora is ready to graduate to senior company next year.  This time around the junior company ranks swelled and it was split into two tiers, providing extra end of the year party performing opportunities for the dancers.

Instead of repeating myself about how awesome it is that they bring such joy and happiness to all these rest homes and rehab centers, I’ll go over it in a diary type format to display the highs from each  show.

As an illustration of the kind of stamina and drive these dancers have: after several weeks of regular practices, they had a five hour full dress rehearsal on Saturday followed by two scheduled shows on Sunday.  I don’t think too many of them were dismayed that the first show got rained out, but they were ready to go through with it!

November 24
Now the second show was the first, in the big atrium at Morris View.  For the first time in years, the opening show wasn’t outside, meaning the singers could participate. This was fantastic for the dancers, removing several of the quick changes required in the truncated performances. It was a little less fantastic for me, as getting re-accustomed to the song selection and speaker volume controls had to be done all at once. Since the complexity of my job pales in comparison to theirs, that was a worthwhile trade.  Seeing the people thrilled to have entertainment brought to them created an atmosphere of total joyousness back stage.

November 29
After some scheduling shenanigans, the Dancers were invited back to perform at the Denville Black Friday open house in the early evening. It was literally freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) yet still warmer than last year. Many blankets, coats and hand warmers were used “back stage” to help the dancers survive.  I plugged the edible size pink IPod into the sound board of the guy running the evening.  He worked volume and I hit play and stop, although occasionally he would wander off. (AAAAAAAAH!) My other role was using my body heat to keep the iPod working.  The battery drain was like a visible fuse in the deep cold, and he couldn’t get his phone to charge at all.  Amazingly the dancers performed to their usual high caliber. Even more amazing was being able to tell they were smiling by looking at the backs of their heads in the performance. They certainly sell it with all they are.

Crowd watching at this event was different than the usual “thrilled to have entertainment brought to them” folks in the indoor sites.  This audience was filled with a large percentage of parents and family members, all beaming with crazy amounts of pride.  Due to the proximity of Thanksgiving, multiple Danceworks alumnae were also watching.  They would cheer wildly for their old “little kid” dancers who are now at the top end of the Senior Company.  Junior company music gets re-used more often, and I’m still clueless enough about dance to not know why, but I suspect due to logical choices in choreography.  When “Don't Rain on My Parade” kicked in, a bunch of bundled college students on the sidelines broke into a fantastic rendition of their young lady routine from years back!

December 8
It was supposed to be in the forties for the rescheduled Farmer’s Market show.  It was really in the thirties, just warm enough to melt the snow and have it run onto the dance mat.  Mr. Carl, in addition to his normal incredible job at setting everything up waged a valiant battle to keep as little water from getting through as possible.  Only some did, which insured the Music Box Dancer number (one of this year’s performances that I often got caught watching instead of checking the time to stop the music... along with the tap number...and most of the senior numbers now that I think about it) would be accompanied by pointe shoe squeaks for the rest of the season.  It also meant the reduced space was made even smaller, calling for champion level positioning adjustments made on the fly through most dances. The wind chill made it feel well below freezing and while the show went on spectacularly as usual, the smiles were frozen on the dancers' faces by the end. With no singers, quick changes required dashes across the parking lot, adding to their faces getting redder and redder as the morning progressed.  Still, the crowd of shoppers and family members was visibly thrilled and delighted by another fantastic show,   

December 14
Sunrise in Roxbury gave the dancers what may be their largest overall area to dance in.  Vertical space was a bit of a challenge though, and I know Anabelle wasn’t the only one to whack a chandelier mid leap.  The unbridled joy of the residents is always a marvel to behold. Many of them sang and clapped along to the dances and the Christmas songs. One guy had a case of severe “resting grumpy old man face” but by the end was tapping his feet along with the tunes. Jared, the brother of one of the dancers, returned to the company with his swoon worthy singing.  This time out his sister, Antonina proved he wasn’t the only one in the family with impressive vocals.   Amy returned and, as always, continued to up her game with every performance.  From the technical side, I tried to compensate for playing a Lyrical song too quietly outside the previous week to combat distortion and nearly blew my head off with it.  A balance would be achieved going forward.

January 11
Merry Heart in Succassuna was supposed to have two shows to lead off the post-Christmas break season, but in what would be a feature of this winter, the one in the medical care wing was canceled due to a flu quarantine. 

The crowd that did get to see the show may have been the happiest all season.  One guy did a little shuffle step in his chair to the Sinatra songs. The crowds always connect to that period of music, but as generations change so do the emotional links. There were many visible reactions to the John Lennon penned song as well. One woman was singing, waving and dancing in her chair through the whole show. At the finale she actually stood up to join in the dancing.  Considering she had to use a walker to exit the room, that’s some incredibly strong evidence for the healing power of dance.  Some singers couldn’t make it, but the youngest, Breyanne had a breakthrough song moment.  Amy's sister, Lindsay (an alumni returning on her college break) brought the house down with an awesome Shania Twain number. What was more awesome was she didn't crack up while Cassidy, another alumni was doing an interpretive dance in the back of the room, in full view of the singer.  The little pink IPod got stuck on repeat mode as soon as it was turned on.  I swear to God I hit the icon that should have turned it off (and did easily after the show), but the thing stubbornly refused to function mid performance. Swapping out to the larger, slightly more confusing due to the volume of songs on it, IPod worked like a charm.  I did feel more part of the show than usual, as my location kneeling behind the coffee table wasn't far enough back and I found myself leaning back in time with one of the dancer’s forward lean to avoid a collision during a ballet number oozing with power and with a James Bond kind of feel, because Miss Chris is awesome.

January 18
Sunrise in Morris Plains was the show during a snow storm. There’s always at least one. We staggered in after braving the weather with the mentality of , “What? And give up show business.” Not everyone made it, but enough to have a nearly full performance with only a couple of cut numbers.   The place had finally stopped listing them as “Dance Force” but still assigned ownership to my sister, who interacts with the locations.  This site featured one of the most constrained "stages," with a tiny front to back distance and the side to side space wedged between columns.  I stuck with the larger IPod to allow better volume control since there’s no way for me to reach the speaker from behind a column without joining in the dance again.  The dancer’s professionalism overwhelmed the constrictions as always.  Veronica definitely got smacked in the face, Anabelle took one to the back of the head, and there were multiple wall and column hits throughout. None of these effected their “dance faces" during the show.  

Again, audience engagement was amazing, possibly amplified due to the lack of regular visitors in the storm. Most of the crowd sang along during the Sinatra numbers, and even the ones that looked like they were sleeping applauded the junior company kick line.  After the show, most expressed how thrilled and grateful they were. It’s why battling through the squall is always worth it.  One high point I could see from the sidelines:  a resident was standing off to “stage right” saying she didn’t want to see the show, she was waiting for her pills.  She did get her pills, but by that point was completely enthralled by Kate’s “Music Box Dancer” and asked for a seat in the audience when it ended.

January 19
Saint Francis senior living promised a big, one hundred seat room and pizza for the dancers.  Then they forgot we were coming and set them up in the lobby, next to a giant Nativity scene.  I was concerned someone would leap directly into the manger. They didn’t, though a Saint did fall off the wall onto  Miss Chris’s visiting daughter in the back of the room.  I'm sure it wasn't a sign.  I had gotten used to the bigger iPod, therefore it completely failed to make any noise when the show started.  I did a high speed swap out back to my little pink friend before Miss Chris got all the way over to see what was happening.  I think I'm finally getting the hang of this!  We had strategically located adults to steer the dancers to their spot, and visitors out of it. The show went off to another super delighted crowd, singing and clapping along, and beaming the whole time.  Jared returned and instead of the mellow tones of last year, had the residents rocking in their chairs to an Elvis hit.

January 24
The planned final show was cancelled due to another flu quarantine.  Somehow ending at Franciscan Oaks seemed right though as the two shows  there encompass the whole season. The first in the medical care wing is in an insanely elongated and flat oddly shaped space in a room never intended for performing, where several of the audience are bedridden, and all are super thrilled to have anyone come to see them.  The second, in the residential section, is on a full stage in an auditorium with plenty of room for friends and family.  

Speaking of flu issues. Multiple dancers and singers got hit with it as well, causing rearrangement of numbers and choreography at the last minute above and beyond the normal amounts.  They handled it with class (and stress, but still, class) adjusting to the space was made more fun by springy snowflakes hanging from the ceiling that even the shortest dancers were smacking around.

Besides the residents being thrilled and moving along to the music, this is also true of the people who work there.  Those caregivers have challenging jobs and seeing them get the chance to sit back and relax with their charges for a little while and enjoy the show is an extra sweet feeling.  The room had a back hallway the dancers used to enter it, allowing me to witness many of them practicing the numbers they weren't in to prepare for the end of the year party.

The crowd at the "stage" show was an equal mix of beaming with pure pride family members and local residents.  The final senior dance is always a tear jerker.   Antonina and Madison’s traditional,elegant, classical music accompanied ballet number was the perfect capstone for them.  The last show being on a stage, where it is filmed for the post party viewing seems to be a fantastic idea at first. However, it is a highly slippery stage, much smaller than it looks, meaning things happen that the dancers usually notice far more that the audience.

The audience, in fact, loved the show, and was tapping and clapping along the whole time. There was an elderly couple up front holding hands for some of the songs.  The guy sang along and tapped his cane to the Elvis number as well.  

The always easy to get enthralled in tap number on the wooden "coins" was down on the ground instead of up on the stage.  This was a bonus for me. Ironically, due to my positioning with the speaker on one side, the show on stage is the one I can see the least of.  Often I am reduced to "using the force" to figure out when to start, or at best, guessing when the couple of performers I can see are fidgeting enough to mean everyeon else is on stage.  The dancers tapping down on my level meant I could see them all, and I could see their expressions instead of focusing on their amazing feet from my vantage point. 

That may have been where I got thrown off and blew the last cue of the entire season.   I was prepared for the change in song order due to flu, however, the little pink iPod glitched and went back to the main menu during the tap number.  I got it back to the playlist but was so panicked and then relieved I didn't mess that up, I forgot about the switched songs, and blasted the first notes of the wrong one on the last number that directly leads into the finale, snuffing out a perfect record at the last possible moment.

January 26

The end of the year celebration:  Costumes were returned, food was shared and the season was recapped.  First they watched the stage performance from Friday night. This was accompanied by highly stylized sing alongs. It was also accompanied by practices for the highlight of the day.

As always, dancers attempted to perform the routines they'd seen their friends and classmates execute all season. With essentially three groups this year, the performances were a little crazier than usual, normally breaking into two distinct groups getting yelled at by the observing original performers of the dance.  Miss Chris was over on the side, quietly demonstrating she could have easily taken center stage and done the whole show solo, because she is, as mentioned, awesome.

A highlight was "Don't Rain on My Parade." While the older Junior company was copying the dance run this year, Anabelle, Kate and Lindsey, (Senior Company members and the last remaining dancers from the Junior Company that did it in the past) knocked out their  routine from five years ago, each of them taking the role of a now graduated former eighth grader.

Another epic season is history, but there will be more amazingness to come.

And I got flowers again!  Woo Hoo!


Unknown said...

Thank you for this post, Jeff... I will try to measure up to your glowing review. lol Your service with the Moving Company is most appreciated!!!!

Jeff McGinley said...

Many thanx for reading and sharing, you more than live up to it, creating the amazing community you have.