Movement created alongside live cello and violin music, abstract images resembling neural
networks projected onto the bodies of dancers donning mad scientist goggles, and a dancer being
transported across stage through a series of human log rolls and somersaults. These are a few of
the things the audience can expect during tbd. dance collective’s performance on July 11th at
Sokol Auditorium as part of the Omaha Under the Radar Festival. We have an incredibly
diverse and unique array of pieces this year choreographed by myself, Steph Huettner, and guest artist Nichol Mason Lazenby, as well as some improv created by all the dancers collectively during the live performance.
The piece choreographed by Steph Huettner entitled “Infra 5,” will require complete darkness in
the auditorium as images are projected onto the dancers. These images are generated in an app
called Delirium Free and controlled through touch by company member Jessica Reed. Visuals
will be manipulated and selected based on movement happening within the space. They could be
anything from swirling circles and strobing flashes of neon color, to web like networks of lines
shooting across the stage. The arrangement will remain a surprise to all of us until the night of
the performance. Huettner’s goal is to use the dancers as a screen to allow the audience to
experience the music through their movement as well as visually on their bodies. In this way,
the choreography is dependent upon the music, and in fact, was created by the music. Huettner
explained that rather than coming up with movement separately, she let the music guide the
creative process and lead the movement.
The piece I choreographed entitled, “Acts of Living,” will be performed to live cello composed
and performed by April Faith-Slaker. My choreography is a series of reimaginings of a few
phrases of movement, and an experiment in the various ways humans are able to lift one another
in a space and across the stage. I was inspired by the idea of a single phrase of movement being
viewed and performed not just from one perspective, but from many perspectives and
interpretations by more than one dancer at the same time. Therefore, similar movements are
repeated throughout the dance, just arranged differently. As the piece ends, the choreography
works in opposition to the tempo of the music. As the tempo of the cello loops begins to speed
up, the movement slows, as if two very different thought processes are occurring simultaneously.
It is challenging, but ultimately rewarding dancing somewhat independent of musical guidelines.
I wanted to stretch myself as a choreographer to create movement that didn’t necessarily go hand
in hand with the music. That being said, the general feel and nature of the music inspired
incredibly specific gestures that ended up being the main choreographic elements used
throughout the piece.
We are excited to collaborate with artist Nichol Mason Lazenby who choreographed one of the
pieces we will be performing entitled, “The Weight We Carry.” Nichol is a visiting guest
artist/choreographer from Southern California. Her choreography has been presented in a variety
of venues and Universities around the country. She is currently an Artist in Residence at The
University of Nebraska Lincoln, and serves as a guest choreographer at Creighton University.
Nichol initially wanted to choreograph on the dancers of tbd Dance Collective because of the
creative drive, openness to process, and love for dance she felt we exhibited. She described her
process for this particular piece by explaining, “The dancers I chose to work with for this project
ach have a personal movement signature that I was drawn to. In The Weight We Carry, I gave
each dancer a quick moment of guided improvisation to highlight their individuality. This piece
is about burden and the emotional resilience of the human spirit.” In addition to choreography,
Nichol will join us in performing two other pieces at the festival.
We also have a piece that is entirely improvisational. This year, we wanted to experiment with
not only the movement being improvised during live performance, but the music as well.
Musicians Danny Sabra and Megan Siebe will collaborate with us to create the music together on
the spot as we dance. Danny thought it only fair that if the dancers had the creative freedom to
improv their movement, the musicians should have the same. The unknown can be both
terrifying and beautiful when it comes to performance, but that is the thrill of unrehearsed
movement. It is our hope that through this collaborative experiment, authentic and genuine
ovement will be created in a way that can only happen through spontaneous reactions to music
heard for the first time.
Performing to live music can be incredible because it produces an energy that ignites the
movement differently than when performing to a recorded piece. It provides an opportunity to
create something unique that can only be experienced in that moment. The music and movement
are charged by one another and the audience sits right in the middle of that energy. We are
looking forward to creating this experience for everyone on Saturday and we hope to see many
people there including those who are familiar with dance and are regular show attendees, and
those who have never been to a dance performance in their life. I believe everyone can
recognize and enjoy the beauty in the art form of movement.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!