Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Stimela"...Nico O'Connor

Recently I have been discussing the connection between principles of architecture and the dancer's body. In many ways, the design elements that apply to buildings and bridges have practical parallels for dance. As strange as it may seem, this clip from LA choreographer, Nico O'Connor, demonstrates some of these concepts beautifully.

MUSICALITY: The vocals used for this combination have an interesting geometry that flirts with syncopation, yet is grounded in an almost mechanical tick-tock riff that can be clearly identified in the opening bars. Although this underlying straight, square, marimba groove continues under the melody the entire time, Nico has different ideas and interpretation of where he wants the accents to hit. If you watch the sequence from (0:25-0:31) you can see an example of deep syncopation, working around a "short-long" rhythmic pattern where a staccato gesture is immediately followed by a brief adagio moment. This section is suddenly broken by a return to the square rhythm, hitting 1-2-3-4-hold, on straight beats. Its fascinating to watch the interplay between these two interpretations and creates a textured musicality that draws the viewer in completely.

DANCER SYNC: Good choreographers have the ability to find a logical progression in their phrases. Going back to the architecture analogy, when you build a physical structure, the construction must be executed in a logical progression. It makes no sense to jump around from step A to step D and then back to step B. In the same way, if you watch how Nico builds his phrases, each one leads the dancer logically to the next moment. Look at (0:36-0:41) and you will see how a hip touch rises to a chest touch, which leads to a higher level above the head. For dancers, this kind of logic makes the combination especially satisfying to move through.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: I really like the way that Nico's choreography supports the dancer and pays respect to the musical source material. However, the average audience member might not be able to articulate what it is about Nico's work that captures their attention, but they know that they are watching intently. The choreography is not overly lyrical or indicative, and yet it is such a well-crafted phrase that demonstrates clean architecture and deceptively complex rhythmic patterns.

KUDOS to Nico for giving the dancers a strong blueprint for constructing a beautiful, artistic structure.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Man Down"...Parris Goebel

To follow an artistic impulse and reject the reasons why you ought not pursue it, is a courageous step for many people. However, as with many things in life, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Although I've never met Parris in person, I feel that she is the type of individual who has a very strong sense of self-direction. And when an artistic impulse reacts with a personality like Parris...sparks fly.

MUSICALITY: If you have ever spent time in the kitchen, you know that the key to a great recipe is the interplay between flavors and spices. Food that is ALL hot or ALL sweet, is too overpowering and ends up disgusting. Instead, we love a little bit of salty with our sweet, or bitter with the zest. In a similar way, choreography needs to have a touch of interplay to give it flavor. Musicians call it dynamic...dancers call it sharp and smooth. Depending on the particular line, Parris will find hot, staccato stabs when the music suggests it (0:54-0:56) or melt into a juicy dance hall groove just to spice things up (0:43-0:53). By mixing things up, she is able to keep the movement interesting, yet so deep within the musical pocket that it seems as though they were "meant for each other."

DANCER SYNC: This is not the first time(nor the last) where I have featured a piece where the choreographer and dancer were the same individual. Recently, I have been talking to my dancers about finding movement choices that you can "wear" like a perfectly tailored pair of jeans, not too tight, not too loose...just right. One of the great things about watching a choreographer/dancer mashup, is that they almost ALWAYS make choices that flatter their technique, bodies and style. Every dancer can learn a valuable take-away message from this...find movement that is right for you, and OWN it.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: All the elements of this video contribute to the final product. I love the raindrops and the breaths of warm air in the cool night breeze. The lighting is ideal for such a noir type atmosphere and the facial close ups give you a brilliant sense of what she is about to express. I love when choreographers give their art a context and framework. To me this shows a more mature aesthetic in terms of message and signature.

KUDOS to Parris for allowing us to peek into this private moment and vicariously share in her artistic impulse!