What It Feels Like to Come Home to Dance After 22 Years
These days I work as assistant to shoe icon Steve Madden. It's a busy job, and it had me running late for my first dance rehearsal with Jane Comfort and Company after…22 years? Yikes!
When Jane asked if I'd like to perform in her 40th-year retrospective, I didn't hesitate to say yes. I'd worked with Jane for many years, and really missed her and the process of putting a show together. The pieces I'd be performing involved mostly gesture, like Four Screaming Women, and singing and acting in She/He. At 64 years old, I was thrilled at the chance to hit the stage again.
We wouldn't have a lot of rehearsals for our performance of Four Screaming Women at the Joe's Pub Dance Now series, so I'd looked at the piece a thousand times, and practiced indoors, on decks, near swimming pools, and on trains. I've always been an over-rehearser, because I like to get the material deeply ingrained so I can "get lost" when it's time to perform.
Excerpt from Jane Comfort's Faith Healing, with text by Tennessee Williams' (from The Glass Menagerie). Performed by Mark Dendy, Nancy Alfaro, and Scott Willingham.
I last performed Four Screaming Women in 1988, but miraculously, muscle memory kicked in, and though I had to work to get the text down, the gestures came back like I'd done them a lot more recently than the 20th century. Maybe my past drilling had a lasting effect!
When I walked into Jane's studio, where we'd rehearsed so many hours for so many years, a place where I'd grown as a person and an artist, a place where I was able to pursue my art while my baby daughter rocked in a swing (thanks Jane!), I felt like I'd come home. Memories rose to the surface as I looked at the familiar columns, art and furniture that surrounded the space.
I felt really lucky to be working with Jane, Peter Sciscioli, and Leslie Cuyjet, all talented, supportive castmates. I told myself to just go with the process, to make my mistakes and try to retain what I learned from them. I really wanted to be present throughout, so I could eventually move beyond drilling, and give the words and movement their full value.
When the day of the show arrived, my heart was pumping like I'd just run a marathon, even at tech rehearsal. The last "exposed" performing I'd done (meaning, not part of a big group) was about 11 years ago. I wasn't sure if I was afraid I'd make a mistake, or excited to be on stage, or a combination of both.
I forced myself to focus on my breath before going on, and that quieted my pounding heartbeat some. Once onstage, though I could practically hear myself swallow, the familiarity and enjoyment of performing hit, and I was able to express and feel in command of my performance.
This April, we'll be showing Four Screaming Women again at La MaMa, and I'll also reprise my role as Clarence Thomas in She/He, a piece from 1995. I'm so fear-struck/excited that I've already learned my monologue, and am working with castmate Peter Sciscioli, who is also a "Voice as Movement" coach, to help me find more subtleties within the role, and to enhance my vocal performance. Jane recently invited guests after only one She/He rehearsal, and this time I thought my heart was going to jump right out of my chest!
It's only January, but I'm going to work my butt off to do the best I can this April, to allow the performance to rise to the surface, so it's not forced out by sheer will. I have been so elated to have this return to the world of dance, the world in which I spent so many cherished years. I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I've clicked my heels and realized, there's no place like home.
Social media has made the dance world a lot smaller, giving users instant access to artists and companies around the world. For aspiring pros, platforms like Instagram can offer a tantalizing glimpse into the life of a working performer. But there's a fine line between taking advantage of what social media can offer and relying too heavily on it.
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
On August 19, 1929, shockwaves were felt throughout the dance world as news spread that impresario Sergei Diaghilev had died. The founder of the Ballets Russes rewrote the course of ballet history as the company toured Europe and the U.S., championing collaborations with modernist composers, artists and designers such as Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel. The company launched the careers of its five principal choreographers: Michel Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine.