the fading of light and love

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We enter the back of a sublimely bare church, the void of prayers sated only by a rich wash of morning light.  Soothing acoustic plucks guide a white dress through satisfyingly simple, narrative movement.  Intimate perspectives drift over pews, peeking their way down into a dreamy scene.  The videographic rendering of indie rocker Rob Drabkin‘s Stay (The Morning Light Fades) is refreshingly elegant.

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Featuring clean choreography by Amanda Copple of Denver’s Michelle Latimer Dance Company, the music video is indulgently fluid in all of its facets.  Copple, partnered by charming fellow MLDC dancer Luke Kamppila, weaves the melody into each step, chords rolling over shoulders like a third dancer, visible only through the expression of its creator.  As our trio of dancers spill out from the pews of Colorado Springs’ Shove Chapel, we follow their “catch and release” love story, desperate movements shadowing the beauty and pain of an endangered relationship.  Copple and Kamppila float in and out of each others arms, the discord in their energies demonstrated by opposing directional focuses and out of sync turns.  They swim through the open air into feathery lifts and gentle connections, then combust into an irreparable dissonance.  Director Dillon Novak reflects on the result of a “once in a lifetime” videoshoot, offering,

 “Partitions of stained glass and countless rows of outstretching pews and columns become the physical bounds of a relationship. Beginning in the back of the sanctuary, a history of love unfolds into a dance. Their story travels through radiant light and crushing darkness, fighting their way towards the front of the church.”

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The composer and musician Rob Drabkin himself, who chose the video’s venue not for any religious or nuptial semblance but for the pure enchantment of its natural light and stained-glass windows, sheds perhaps the most insightful light on the collaboration.  Drabkin’s soulful singing reflects his own experience with the ache and relief which shadow the ultimate expiring of a faded relationship.  Stay‘s delicate chord progressions materialized as movement in Drabkin’s mind from the moment he conceived them, and when the song was complete, a need for choreographic accompaniment became impossible to ignore.  “It was time to take a risk and put the idea into motion.”  And we’re so glad you did, Mr. Drabkin.

Catch the full music video on vevo.

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this is where you belong

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One of my favorite artists, Sufjan Stevens, recently released a new album (which I wasted no time in downloading), and it’s got me all kinds of inspired.  If you’re unfamiliar with Stevens, first click this link to my all-time favorite song, and listen along while I give you a bit of background on the man, the myth, the legend… Continue reading

ballet with a bend

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Today is the day!  I’m very excited to finally share the music video for The Bynar’s Time vs. Money.  We worked so hard to create this, and I think the final product tells that story itself.  I am beyond proud to have been a part of this project, and hope you all enjoy watching.

music into movement

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One of the greatest struggles of working in a small ballet company with a very limited budget is our inability to afford a live pianist.  And I don’t just say this because I enjoy live music- having a pianist play specifically for your class is an unfamiliar luxury I took advantage of during all of those summer intensives spent away from home, never realizing just how beneficial it really was.  In my recent teaching endeavors, I’ve noticed that so many young dancers today tend to ignore the rhythm that is navigating them through space.  When someone is playing live- on the spot- with songs curated explicitly for the class currently being danced, it promotes a precise musicality, encouraging dancers to really listen to the music that’s guiding them, instead of just writing it off as a sound that comes from a machine which says “Go”.  The right pianist can feed the dancers with an external energy, sweeping the room up into their thick cloud of musical ardor.  In these instances, the music becomes much more than a simple accompaniment;  It’s a sharing of sound, time, and space.  Of course, the next best thing to having a live pianist on hand is a meticulously crafted recording, created by a musician whose great love for music intensifies even greater when he sees it come to life through movement.  Enter Christopher Ferris.

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Mr. Ferris is a business consultant by day, but his true passion lies in providing music for ballet classes, particularly those at the Evergreen City Ballet (ECB), where he spends most of his time behind the keys.  Chris’ specialties in composing and improvising are perhaps what make him so well-suited for playing piano for ballet.  “His style is wonderfully contemporary, and he seems to find a match to all the different combinations that we do. He knows when to be upbeat and happy; he knows when to throw in a little whimsy, or a soulful adagio, which is great”, former principal dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), and current ECB School Principal, Louise Nadeau, certainly recognizes Mr. Ferris’ incredible talent.  “On a practical standpoint, his tempos are always clear and precise, which is fantastic for all of us,” Ms. Nadeau adds, assuring any skeptics that Chris’ music is not only unique in its style, but it’s logical, too.

Chris’ accuracy in his interpretation of a ballet class seems to stem from a true understanding and appreciation for both art forms, and how beautifully the two intertwine.  In an email correspondence between the two of us, I pointed out that while much of my family is musically gifted, I am the only dancer.  Mr. Ferris helped me realized just how similar my family and I really are on an artistic level.  “I think that being a dancer is very much related to being a musician – in a few but not all ways. Playing an instrument is definitely a physical experience; both require charging the body with rhythmic commands, fine motor actions that combine refined technique and musicality/artistry to whatever degree is possible from an individual’s talents. While there aren’t really analogs for things like sight-reading for musicians (which I’m not very good at) or maybe snap memorization of combinations for dancers (which always amazes me), at the very least there are some similarities. Really talented dancers can use their bodies to express music like an instrument, or create visual music.”  What an articulate insight into the coherence of music and dance.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to share these gifts with the entire dance community?

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Now here’s where you come in.  Chris is working hard to record an original CD, his efforts being closely monitored by former PNB Soloist and current ECB Artistic Director, Kevin Kaiser, to make sure each track is just right for a ballet class.  All he needs now is your support on his Kickstarter campaign to get things moving.  Even a pledge of just $1 will help with this brilliant project, as we attempt to bring a new, interesting, and most importantly different sound to ballet class.  Some of the key elements Chris would like to bring to this CD include clear introductions, a good variety of combinations, reliable and appropriate tempos, longer running times (which means fewer trips back to the player and combinations that move straight on to the other side!), and full balances and stretch music on the end of each track.  Artistic Director Kevin Kaiser notes, “I’ve had artistic directors from around the country come in and teach our summer intensive; I’ve had principal dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the feedback I get is amazing – following the class – they all feel the same way the that I do, and that is that [Chris] brings such a high level of energy to the class and has that mood to be able to fulfill the steps, and it’s very nice to have a pianist like that within our organization.”  Well, that’s it- I’m sold on Ferris!  Are you?

To listen to Chris’ jazzy, syncopated and fun demo CD, click here.

To pledge to his Kickstarter campaign, click here.

To learn more about Chris, click here.

 

photos by Tim Aguero

lights, camera

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“What time is it?”

“You know what, I have absolutely no idea.  We’ve been in this black hole for so many hours…is it still Wednesday?”

-A and I at 3:30 pm 3 Wednesdays ago, volleying exhausted sentiments at the end of a 6-hour dance day.  The studio that we spend our lives in had been completely blacked out for our viedo shoot.  Dark curtains covered the big windows, the fluorescent lights were extinguished- there would be nothing for the strangely live dust bunnies to cling to but the fierce lights that spotted us, most times from behind.  With the free Seven Stars lunch (possibly the highlight of an already exceptionally interesting day) still fresh in our gracious mouths, A and I pondered the allusive hour, realized what a long time we had been working for, and exchanged an unplanned nod of pride towards each other.  We had one segment left to shoot, and it was, without a conference, our favorite.

Stepping back into the center of the studio, we took our positions for the “spinny sequence”, between a backpack-sized camera and one blinding spotlight.  As we danced our last section, the two objects moved on human legs, slowly circling around us, mimicking our revolution.  Now this is a real black hole, A and I agreed with our eyes.  Just keep spinning, one more take, and we might be released from it’s spiraling suction.

“That’s a wrap!”, the director led our celebratory applause before embarking on his round of handshakes and high fives.  It was the second week of summer and already we’d filmed a music video- talk about starting off the new season with a bang.

Stay tuned for updates as the music video for Boston’s own, The Bynars, “Time vs. Money”, progresses through editing and into it’s final cut.  Can’t wait until the launch and premiere, so I can finally share the full project!

photo stills from Time vs. Money, via Shaun Clarke

providence, spring suits you

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Yesterday was an exciting day!  It was the second annual Hope Street Block Party, the official opening of the Lippitt Park Farmer’s Market, our Beers for the Ballet beer garden, and (the eve of) Tegan’s 21st birthday!  I thoroughly enjoyed waking up late, strolling down to the Farmer’s Market (where the entire adorable young hipster family population of Providence and their dogs also flocked) and picking up some topsy-turvy poppies for the apartment.  After throwing them in some water, it was time to head over to the block party up the street.  You know what, sometimes I think Providence, and my neighborhood on the East Side/Hope Village to be exact, is the cutest little place in the world.  Strange, but cute.  There was a parade of dancing Big Nazo puppets and a slightly misfit marching band that I wish I could remember the name of working the crowd up and down Hope Street at all times.  All of the Hope Street merchants opened their doors to the block partiers with special sales, craft projects, cookie decorating and all that good stuff.  There were sidewalk games outside Seven Stars and a henna artist across the street, which Tegan and I took advantage of before heading over to the beer garden to work the ticket table.  What a strange experience, checking ids, slapping on wristbands and handing out “beer tickets” for $4 a pop.  It was such a nice treat to have local-band-turned-95.5-legends-of-Providence and Rock Hunt winners, The Ricecakes, playing a concert just a few feet away.  They even sang happy birthday to Tegan and gave us discounted band tees!  Score.

jookin swan

This morning I want to share a fantastic collaboration I’ve just become aware of:  Yo Yo Ma & Lil Buck.  These two names do not seem to really roll off the tongue when put into the same sentence, do they?  But they should…

Lil Buck performs an interesting style of dance called jookin (also known as “gansta walking”), which was created in Memphis, Tennessee.  While there are many different forms of this technique, jookin is often characterized by the dancers’ smoother-than-butter body rolls, arm/hand choreography and footwork (watch the video above and you’ll notice that these dancers spend a good deal of time on their toes- not unlike ballet dancers).  Which is why it would come as no surprise to those versed in jookin (you can probably tell by the way I’m describing it that I am not one of those people), that the music of classical cellist Yo Yo Ma inspires such beautiful movement from Lil Buck.  The fact that it all came together with Camille Saint-Saens’ Dying Swan, a piece of music that everyone in the ballet world has an undeniable soft spot for, really is the cherry on top.

Perhaps what I love most about this video, though, is Lil Buck’s interpretation of the music.  It’s as if there are no barriers between his body and the music.  His ears take in the notes and his body produces what his mind makes of them.  I also love his references to classical culture and the original choreography.  Like that “violin playing” sort of step he does at 2:00, or his hyper turned out “first position” at 2:10.  It would be pretty hard to miss that homage to a “swan arm” at 2:44, and if you didn’t squirm/appreciatively smile at his final “dying swan” pose at the end, you have no soul.

This photo was taken at the 2013 Youth American Grand Prix competition finals, where Nina Ananiashvili and Lil Buck performed Dying Swan side by side…935055_10152783608935188_807652483_n

And a gravity-defying still from Lil Buck’s performance with Yo Yo Ma…Yo-Yo-Ma-and-Lil-Buck-LEAD1-560x245125

Aaaand I leave you with a photo I took from the wings as FBPSchool alum and current National Ballet of Canada principle, Greta Hotchkinson performing Dying Swan at FBP’s Together We Dance Gala earlier this season…427971_3856368736238_108261398_n

Who’s the best Dying Swan you’ve ever seen?