Facings and Surfaces: Rehearsing Dance in 3D
Over the last month MBDT has been rehearsing for a new site-specific dance video piece with performers Olivia Davis, Merly de la Hoz-Cookson, and Jessica Marquard. Due to COVID-19, rehearsals have been virtual until recently. This September the company had its first live rehearsal in a local park with some interesting discoveries. Translating online dance rehearsals to live ones revealed skewed interpretations of two-dimensions to three-dimensions with choreography. Dancers don't see diagonal facings as well in two-dimensional settings while working collectively online. As we danced together in the park, there were surprise revelations about the feeling and meaning of the dance material based simply by clarifying a diagonal facing. As the choreographer, I really enjoyed this exchange, it felt like we took a collaborative score created online and brought it to life together at the park. This new method of rehearsing dance virtually, in order to maintain health and safety, has produced unforeseen outcomes. It is an efficient system of practice because dancers arrive with a solid amount of known dance material ready to vitalize it into a live, three-dimensional ensemble experience.
The location of our site-specific performance will determine the final dance piece, and rehearsing it in similar locations defines it as well. This is most evident with dancing on surfaces. Our practice started on grass, moved to a baseball dirt surface, and finished in a smooth asphalt tennis court. Each ground texture determined the quality of execution of the choreography, and each one yielded new relationships to the movement. From a choreographer's viewpoint, I was attracted to all of the surfaces and intrigued how movements can be reinterpreted just based on the terrain; as for the dancers - the asphalt ground was optimal for spin, slip, and the least torque on the joints. The tennis court most emulated a typical dance floor and studio setting, which is where dancers have traditionally rehearsed.
During these days of the pandemic any safe setting may be the new norm for dance rehearsals, so things may change. We will adapt and, as we mutually agreed during the live practice that day in the park, there are elements of in-person dance rehearsal that we will never take for granted again.