What a fun week with Stefano and Rachel. They are fantastic dancers and willing to try so many new things.
On Monday we looked at House Dancing. This technique grew from the Disco era, combined with Soul and Hip Hop to become a complex and rhythmic contemporary style. We talked about rhythm and did improvisation exercises where we danced to the music, and then tried to dance ‘off’ of the music to feel the difference.
We tried some basic House movements like jacking, slides, kick-steps, and then did some 6-steps on the floor. We did a creative exercise inspired by Vogue technique, where we practiced framing our head and shoulders with our arms in fun, angular ways. Here are some pictures of our campers doing all of these movements! They conquered the athleticism needed for this complex, high-adrenaline choreography. What a feat on day one! They are some spunky, creative kiddos. Finally, we put the movements we had learned into a dance phrase that pieced it all together.
Here’s our House dance phrase:
On Tuesday we started out with the FLASH MOB to Happy by Pharrell Williams. Everyone did a great job jumping in and doing their best. It was helpful to have Nigel and Orlando as backup dancers as I demoed. It was a fun way to start the day with group energy.
After the MOB, we worked on Contemporary dance and floor work. We tried walking, rolling and standing back up as quickly as possible. Then did a floor sequence including leg swings and a shoulder stand, and we talked about how using momentum from the swinging motion of the body (arms or legs) makes floor work easier and more fluid.
Here’s our Contemporary Dance phrase. In it, Stefano and Rachel both have solos that they made up themselves. Stefano’s is inspired by the angular arm movements of Vogue-ing, and Rachel’s is inspired by HEATBALL: a game we played with an imaginary ball of energy moving around the body. At the beginning of the dance, you’ll see them walking in counter-balance by leaning away from each other without falling. I showed them a video of Trisha Brown’s work where she uses this lean.
As an improv exercise, we played GRID where dancers move through the space on a series of intersecting lines forming a grid pattern, and they can walk forwards, backwards, or sideways (but only on the grid), and they can also pause, sit, or lay down. It makes for interesting encounters and relationships when working with these constraints. It becomes unexpectedly engaging.
Lastly, they played an improv game with eye focus, where they a) moved their body, then looked at the body-part they just moved b) moved their gaze, and then placed a body-part into the path of their gaze c) moved their body and gaze at the same time. The idea is to try and move quickly and not think too much about what the next movement will be. We did this to a steady rhythmic piece of music. We discussed qualities of movement that are sharp, angular, robotic, and the use of shapes.
On Thursday we worked on a dance inspired by the 70’s TV show SOUL TRAIN where two at a time, people would freestyle down a line combining locking, funk, house, and disco movements. We learned how to Charleston, syncopate our clapping, how to mash-potato, chest-pop, and even threw in a jazz split. For the performance on Friday Rachel and Stefano are going to dress up in fun, colorful outfits for this piece. Cool cats.
Overall this week I was very impressed by how well Rachel and Stefano absorbed complex ideas like rhythm, momentum, spacing, and movement qualities, and have been willing to jump into improvisation scenarios and solo work. They are brave and focussed, and obviously love to dance! I really enjoyed working with them.