Stumbled across an old dance class paper from about 2 years ago now. Still one of the best dance performances I’ve seen — partnering is my favorite aspect of dance, which is why I enjoy training in contact improvisation. In my primary/preferred dance form — blues — excellent partnering looks and feels like this… and “After The Rain part II” was the first time I’d seen ballet’s equivalent.
I have wanted to see this dance for a while – I’ve read about it, I’ve seen pictures of it, I’ve heard reviews of how beautiful it is – and I was not disappointed. This was my favorite piece of the evening.
My first impression was of sparse precision (synchronized dancers and canons, cool blues and a spare soundtrack) giving way to a relaxed and tender liberation; the shirtless man, the woman in a pink slip of almost nothing, the backdrop sunset-orange, the music gentle and chiming chords. It was like stepping into a warm place from the biting cold and suddenly breathing again.
I remember the partnering – how skillful it was, but how it looked organic, not artificial or over-rehearsed. Their hands were just in the right place to catch each other; their glances, their clasps – they came together just at the right moment, not pre-anticipated, but not surprising. The physics of the lifts took enormous strength in legs and core and arms and everywhere – I could see that clearly – but they made them look so natural, strong but without strain.
The program notes suggested that the piece portrayed the “evolution of a relationship,” and I did see that ebb and flow; they repeated phrases and did variations, they went apart and came together, they counterbalanced and supported one another – but I didn’t see the “relationship” in the dance change significantly (it didn’t get “better” or “worse” between the beginning or the end). One thing I do remember was the very start of the pas de deux when the man is supporting the woman, and she makes a few tentative efforts to extend her right leg upwards – and then finally, she does it… and then later in the dance, she’s able to do it alone, without his support, in a very similar way. So I could see an evolution there, in the ability of the woman to do that strong upward and outward extension. Otherwise, it was a beautiful being-together that seemed to float in timelessness.
In terms of moments that engaged me, several vivid images stick in my mind: the woman caressing the man’s face, the man picking up the woman in a backbend and gently swinging her in a circle close to the floor, the woman cantilevered out from the man’s kneeling hip (what one review called the “Cadillac moment”), the man lifting the woman, spread-eagled and outstretched, full overhead and circling across the stage with her looking like a living paper cutout doll. It was just full of lovely moments; hair flowing, sweat glistening, two highly skilled people turning the focus of that skill towards being incredibly attuned to one another.
Thematic content here was relationship – I didn’t think it needed to be a romantic one, though. A close one, certainly – a tender one. It could be brother and sister, it could be dear friends, and it could be a romantic pairing; the themes of support and constant renegotiation and care for another kept on coming through in the way they looked and gestured. There was intimacy and closeness, both in the vulnerability of their costuming and the sparseness of the stage and the warmth of the light; these people were in a quiet space with each other, whispering alone together with their bodies. There wasn’t a need to externally perform or to prove anything. It was just two people.
And that did evoke emotions in me. Loneliness and love and gratitude; tenderness and closeness, longing, quiet smiling. I’ve had those tender moments with people very dear to me; I don’t have those moments here now, and I miss them and I hope for them again. Watching this dance was a reminder of that hope, those memories. Maybe that’s why I loved it.
They stimulated thoughts of times I’ve shared and people that I’ve shared them with. Cold starry nights in high school running in the open fields behind my friends and huddling in a pile for warmth while tinny songs played on somebody’s radio. Singing outside a buddy’s dorm room window while he played guitar. Quiet mornings in college waking up in the lab after a long allnighter pulled in shifts; the liquid morning and the intimacy of a sleepy team, bound tight by months of mutual exhaustion, smiling quietly at each other over orange juice and almost-working robots. Drives through the night from a blues dance marathon in Connecticut to a 5k race in Massachusetts; quiet evenings with unexpected friends while traveling around the world, a camping trip, a river walk, long strolls and conversations after conferences, standing at the window looking out at city after city twinkling, everyone asleep.
When the performance ended, I felt wistful, but also thankful. The piece was just the right length; short, delicious, fleeting. I’d love to see it again someday. It will be different then, and I will feel and react to different things when I see it a second time, because I’ll be a different person – I don’t know how. And the dancers will probably be different dancers, and the stage probably a different stage, and… that’s one of the nice things about dance. Every performance is its own experience.