Some early drafts of dances in my brain

May 6, 2013 – 11:00 am

Writing this partially so I can look back later and see how each of them turned out — I don’t know which ones will fade out and which ones will turn into something and actually get performed. I’ve noticed that I seem to work exclusively on character pieces to songs with lyrics and a strong beat, so someday I may push out of that comfort zone — but right now, I’m happy.

Makers (working title) is something I hope to do for my “Race, Class, and Gender in Engineering Education” class in the fall with a cast entirely composed of female engineers (who may, like me, have no dance background). I want to explore how many female engineers “perform masculinity” in some way, and how exhausting that can be — so the entire cast is dressed in button-ups and ties performing aggressive, mechanical phrases in canon, and individual dancers and small groups intermittently collapse out of that into brief phrases from contact improvisation before dragging themselves back in. If ends up being really good, we’ll try to perform it at the 2014 American Society of Engineering Education conference in May.

The music for this is going to be an exercise in solo classical-style piano arrangement all its own; I’m adapting “Walk Like A Man” into a lilting waltz and “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” into florid arpeggios and mashing them together and I don’t know what else. The dance is more developed than the music, which I’ll ultimately need someone else to do.

Watching (working title), a lyrical hip-hop solo with a lot of ASL elements, set to Straight No Chaser’s cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” I wonder if this will end up being the first solo I choreograph and perform; my body fits inside it like a glove. This surprises me. I’ve never performed a signed piece. Au contraire: I’ve stayed far, far away from them lest I get labeled “Mel The Deaf Person” — and the movement vocabulary is unmistakably feminine (and the song is about the male gaze, to boot). But it’s Mel-feminine, and when set to all-male a capella vocals, it somehow works. I need more arm and core strength; there are some shapes here I would like to hold with better lines. But I’m curious to see where this goes.

Coast-to-Coast (working title)a heavily blues-influenced hip-hop piece set to Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings’ cover of “This Land Is Your Land.” I’ve been tinkering on it since October and it keeps changing from a solo to a duet to a trio and back again. I really want to see Onyx (one of my cast members from “In The Stacks”) do this — she has a spunk and attitude that would bring this hilariously to life — so it’s likely to be a duet or trio at XWorks this coming October right before she graduates.

Transmogrification (final title, ’cause it’s awesome) is  a trio inspired by the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes and set to Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams.” It’s got 3 characters — Calvin, Hobbes, and Calvin’s Mom, and the boy and his tiger tumble all around the stage reenacting highlights of the strip (I love love love the Spaceman Spiff section). The running gag is that Hobbes is a lithe, acrobatic character (in contrast to Calvin’s twitchier, more pent-up, combative movements) — but when Calvin’s Mom is onstage, he (probably danced by a “she”) abruptly turns into a prop manipulable by the other dancers. I have no idea how I’m going to cast this.

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  1. One Response to “Some early drafts of dances in my brain”

  2. I really want to see Transmogrification now. That sounds amazing!

    I know that pragmatically it might not work at all, but I envisioned it cast with dancers from Makers so it contrasts the constraint of adult masculinity with the freedom and imagination and lack of accountability of childhood masculinity. That’s probably just based on my experience, though, of how a childhood of imagining myself Calvin got twisted by the corporate world and egos when I try to keep doing those things only for real.

    By Beth on May 6, 2013

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