Monday, December 24, 2012

"Someone Like You"...Melanie Mah

"Just make good art"...I find myself constantly imploring my students to adhere to this maxim for success in choreography. And yet, many would say that it is much easier said than done. I agree that mastery of technique and skillful use of choreographic tools is important, but when it comes to making "good art," nothing trumps honesty and vulnerability. There is a phrase in stagecraft that says "personal is universal" other words, if you allow the audience to see the most intimate corners of your psyche, they will vicariously relate your experience to their own. This creates a moment of magical empathy with the viewer and consequently produces good, truthful art. Melanie Mah is a fearless choreographer, who has the courage to be completely open about the pain, hesitation, frustration, and uncertainty of relationship dynamics. Much like Apple computer products, she is an artist who values design and executes a simple concept with sharp precision and authenticity.

MUSICALITY: There are a number of key moments in this piece that work so brilliantly, I find that they are etched in the forefront of my recollection. Watch how Melanie accurately conveys the longing for attention and recognition (2:01-2:09) using simple head gestures. This synchronicity of movement and music creates a palpable tension between the woman, who is begging her partner just to look her in the face, pleading for him to connect with her eye to eye. In terms of accent and rhythm, Melanie has a natural sensibility in bringing longs and shorts to life. At (2:53-2:58) she creates distinct pictures on the words "this" and "would"...but then allows the movement to languidly melt to the ground on "taste." Finally, the moment at 3:58 may be the most effective image of "hurt" I have ever seen in a dance...the male dancer's hand may as well be a hot branding iron, burning the back of her arm. Simply stunning.

DANCER SYNC: The partnering phrases, as well as the unison group sections, have a fluid cohesiveness that every choreographer should aspire to. Too many times, in an effort to be "original" or "inventive," a novice choreographer will overcompensate and create phrases that are awkward and messy. Melanie keeps the vocabulary fairly traditional, but then executes it with perfection. The unison sequence at (3:27-3:40) is gorgeous flowing example of logical choreographic choices, which allow the dancers to move through their full range of motion and explore the music deeply.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: At the beginning of this post, I talked about the idea of universality. If an artist creates material that is a genuine reflection of their life and perspective, the audience will find the pieces within the work that apply to their own experience. The first time I saw (3:23-3:26) I literally felt my heart sink for this girl. The "hurt" that she is able to convey with her body, falling into her man, and then struggling to stand, is a raw and unaffected take on the emotions "real" people feel in moments of hopeless desperation. I also love the way, Melanie took the time to "set the stage," by assiduously and efficiently creating the characters and establishing the relationship. The little preamble that occurs in the reality of Starbucks, serves to make the internal monologue of the dance that much more effective.

KUDOS to Melanie for demonstrating the "Apple Principle"...take something simple, do it really well and produce a good, sharp product that people can embrace and relate to.

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