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The beginnings of a dance are easy, exciting, invigorating, exhausting, and difficult. I know those things may not seem to coexist, but believe me, in creative work, they certainly do. As I begin any new dance work, I am flooded with ideas – about the movement, the stage, the costumes, the props, the film, the music, the dancers – really everything. The tough part is focusing those ideas and really getting to work! It’s fun to sit around and think about what a dance might be, but it is another thing to get to the real business of making everything fit together into a coherent piece of art.
But, it is that time to work. Before heading into my first rehearsal with the dancers several things happened:
I connected with a new composer for our company (Julia Price) and selected one of her compositions for use in our dance (Sun Kiss).
I was inspired by several poems by my long-time friend (Jessica Temple) and asked her to record them for us (sound clips coming soon!).
I ordered (and received) foam flooring to use in our show – both for color and to protect us from any uneven areas in the Artspace floor.
No sewing has started on the costume-front, but I have colors (yellow, blue, green) and textures (voluminous, fluffy ruffles) in mind at this point.
Movement is always the tough part – to start finding your vocabulary for the dance. A few things came right away, but mainly the movement was slowly draw out of my body, through hours spent just moving (improvising) in my small home studio. I did have two solid phrases going into the first rehearsal, which is quite a lot of dance to have so early (but we do not have a lot of time before this show, thus the hurry). I’m calling the first our “16-count Gesture Phrase” and the second our “Phrase in 3’s.” I also had an idea to play around with to have the dancers help generate a bit of movement if we had some extra time in that first rehearsal.
Time for dancers to join the process!
These first few rehearsals are all about throwing the material at the dancers: seeing what works and what doesn’t, seeing who thrives with which phrases, and not worrying too much about the details at this point. I taught the “Gesture Phrase” first, then started putting this phrase into a spatial plan (formations, transitions and levels/dynamic changes). Knowing we only have a short amount of time, as soon as I feel the dancers have this in their bodies, we move on to the “Phrase in 3’s.” This movement is learned all together, then is put into a duet, with timing and spatial changes for the downstage dancer.
I watch Natalee and Kristina perform the duet and am struck by how different they are as dancers. In my mind, I envisioned the duet as two facets of the same personality but what I am seeing is two completely different people having a similar life experience. They are in two different places, having different responses to the same situation. Perhaps this is what the piece is about: seeing how different people live in an environment. When do they approach a problem the same? When do they look completely separate? When do they help each other?
I think these are good questions to ponder as I continue to process.
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)
After having such a great experience creating Finding Place in response to the artwork of El Anatsui (then seen at the NC Museum of Art), I decided to embark on a similar experience this season of creating dance inspired by visual artwork. This time we will be performing in the gallery with the exhibition, so I’m very excited to be involved in a project where the audience is truly surrounded by the inspiration.
I met with Artspace to discuss the possibilities, and we settled on an early fall exhibition titled Dear Nature, with art from Natalie Abrams, Cynthia Camlin, & Mi-Sook Hur. We will perform at September’s First Friday gallery opening (Sept 6) then another, longer performance with an artist Q&A on September 18. These dates are fast approaching, so that means it is time to get to work!
I actually began processing ideas for this new work a couple months ago, but now as we begin rehearsals with the dancers this week I am opening up my process to you through this blog. This is your inside peek at my choreographic process and how a Code f.a.d. Company show comes together. Twice a week I’ll update you with my ideas for the dance, costumes, music, text, and props, and I’ll let you know what we are up to in rehearsals with photos and video clips. Don’t worry, though, there will still be plenty of surprises for you when you come to see the final product!
As I am sharing my thoughts about this new dance work, I also encourage you to share your thoughts and ask any questions you may have along the way. I love to discuss dance and my creative work, so let’s engage in a discussion. Thank you for joining (or at least following) me in this journey, and I look forward to what this blogging process will add to my process and can only imagine it will allow me to delve even deeper into my creative world.
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)
Editor’s note: Kelley showed up at the very first Code f.a.d. Company audition (back in the summer of 2008), and she’s been dancing with us ever since! See her perform next with the company at NC Dances: Sunday, April 28 at Cary Academy (free show at 7pm).
A day in my life would usually be pretty busy and full of constant activity! First of all, I wake up early to get my 7 year old son ready for 1st grade. Getting him dressed, fed and teeth brushed. Backpack in hand; we walk to the bus stop. Once on the bus, I walk home to get myself ready for my day.
I work during the day as a newborn photographer for a local hospital. We do in-room photo shoots of the artistic/creative type instead of old-school baby mugshots. I put on my work uniform, which consists of all black: pants, shirt, shoes and jacket. Glad to not have to think about what to wear… I grab all of my gear, double checking everything is charged up and ready to go. I am loaded down with my camera bag, flash, extra batteries, battery charger, laptop and cords. Not to mention a bottle of water and breakfast on the go!
I normally photograph around four precious newborn babies a day. After they’ve been photographed and edited, I give the parents a tear-jerking slideshow of their beautiful new baby. From here, I am usually rushing home to make sure I am in time to pick up my son from the bus stop. Once home, I am greeted by my other child, who is 16, and they both inform me that they are dying of starvation. Midday snack time!
After getting them fed and settled, we start on homework. It is already after 4pm and I have to be at my second job at 5. The teenager gets to help with the homework so I can change and get ready to teach dance for the next 3 hours. I teach modern, jazz and hip hop. I arrive home at 8pm, once again to starving kids. I cook dinner, get them showered and ready for bed. Sometimes I have some “me time,” but usually I am too tired to do anything but go to sleep myself. I always look forward to the days I have rehearsal with the company so I can get out by myself and do what I love… dancing!
While the majority of the company’s time is spent preparing for our next big show, Finding Place, I decided to take a break to think back to our last big show – Fashion Briefs. (Also, I just sometimes need a break from the creative process to remind myself that even though I may feel blocked at the moment, this happens with every new work and eventually the work will get finished and will premiere!) We have recently received some wonderful photos (by Siobhan Hanna Photography) from our Fashion Briefs performance in Washington, D.C., and so I’m taking this FAD Friday to share some of my favorites. *I especially love how some of the McQueen images capture the ghostly images of the late designer in the background!
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)
Editor’s note: I was introduced to Gerren soon after I began teaching at NC State University, through Dance Program Director Robin Harris. Gerren was an alum of the NCSU Dance Company and lucky for us, was still dancing and living in Raleigh after graduation! He is another one of our dancers who has been with the company since it started; he actually worked with me also for my film project Product, which began before Code f.a.d. was “officially” founded.
It is difficult to say what a typical day in my life would be like because, like most people I know, no two days could ever quite be the same. This is even more true now that I am in my second year of law school. On a typical day during the semester, I wake up around 5:45 in the morning to get ready for school. The first thing I do is make a pot of coffee because I am generally not a functional person prior to having at least one cup. Then I prepare my lunch and any snacks to keep me going for the majority of the day. This helps reduce my temptation to go out to lunch and make poor eating choices, even though I have to admit that Chargrill and Snoopy’s Hotdogs are only two blocks away from school and are often rotated into my lunch plans during the examination period.
When I arrive at school around 7:30 in the morning, I immediately drop my books off at my favorite study corral in the library, as I am likely to be in the same spot for the vast majority of the day. I try to schedule my classes early so I can utilize the afternoons to prepare for any classes or research any cases or laws I may need for upcoming assignments. I will often stay at school literally all day, sometimes not leaving the library until 10 at night, but I do take a break between 4 to 5 in the evening to either go workout at the gym, take a yoga class, attend a Code f.a.d. rehearsal, or even teach a dance class in the evening. One of the things I have learned as being a law student is that it is okay to take a break when you need one and you should often schedule these breaks to avoid taking too much time off or not allowing your brain time to rest in between reading assignments. Plus as a dancer, it is important to not only keep my physical physique up to par, but my mental capacities as well.
Rehearsals require us dancers to have both physical and mental strengths because it is important for injury prevention and to retain the complexities of each choreographic piece. Prior to attending rehearsals and during my off-time, I spend a portion of the day going over choreography and listening to the music we dance to from our in-house composer (Todd Buker) in order to catch certain accents in the music and translate them into my movements.
The last thing I do before my day ends is try to spend some time watching television, specifically the Daily Show or catch-up with Modern Family and House Hunters on my DVR. I think it is important to allow my brain to disconnect somewhat to everything I did prior to that point. This helps me to relax and have an uninterrupted number of hours to sleep.
And this is what is a typical day in the life of Gerren Mobley….thanks for reading.
We are a few days into 2013 now, and rest assured, the company is busy once again after a break from rehearsals for two weeks. Yesterday afternoon Christina, Gerren, and I met to record our stories from Finding Place. (Thank you Chris White for your help with the recording!) While my story has already been choreographed, we have just barely started working on material for Gerren’s (and haven’t started Christina’s at all). Click here to listen to just a short portion of Gerren’s contribution to the text of the piece. As you can probably imagine, the images of those clowns are too irresistible not to work into the piece! Luckily, we’ve already found some volunteers to join our Finding Place cast:
So, the choreography is coming along with new dances and new stories, and good thing because we are only a month away from our First Friday perform at Artspace! We will be showing a short portion of Finding Place in Artspace’s downstairs education room on February 1 – a special preview performance ahead of the big premiere later that month in Durham. Shows will last approximately 10-15 minutes each and will take place at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm that evening. *Don’t worry, we’ll remind you again as we get closer!
Speaking of performances, we are even closer to our next tour performance of Julep; the company will be in Wilmington, NC, next Sunday, January 13 for a 3pm show in the Cultural Arts Building on the UNC-Wilmington campus. See ncdancefestival.org for more info or to buy tickets in advance. If you haven’t had the chance to see this work yet, please come out! We only have one tour stop left after Wilmington (January 25 in Charlotte). Feel free to view again the video clips of Julep online to get excited for the performance. Did you know there is also a 6-person version of Julep (in addition to the trio the company performs)? I expanded the cast last year to set the work on the NCSU Dance Company, and honestly, I don’t know which version I tend to enjoy watching more! Check them both out on my personal YouTube channel and the Code f.a.d. channel.
I know this post feels a bit disjointed – must just be the craziness that is the new year – and double show prep… Our regular rehearsal schedule starts back up tomorrow morning, so you can look forward to some video clips of our new choreography up next week!
(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)