THOUGHTS FROM NEW LEOPOLD GROUPER LAURA VINCI DE VANEGAS
Dance and the Art of Muscle Memory/Mnemonic is not spelled with a silent “p”
Pelvis thrust. Through the loop. Play the piano. Wrist. Elbow. Sumowrestler prep. Degas. Catch.
That is not just me typing my stream of consciousness (I’m not that honed in on myself to do that…but as a side note, I’d be way too pleased if the term “sumo wrestler prep” was part of my everyday uncontrolled thought process :-)). The words above are me giving you insight to the ways in which learning new movement/new styles is/are often done: by creating markers. The markers are dance mnemonic devices. When choreography changes feet and angles and arms so rapidly, one has to come up with a way to aid you through the process of getting your muscle memory to pick it up and take it away. The “markers” that are created in a dancers’ rehearsal process may be widely ranging from choosing poses that mark sections, or pathways that guide you through the choreography, to searching for directions in the room, and creating names for specific movements that simply help you remember what comes next. So, until my muscles can stand on their own, and remember the pathways and fuse the transitions between the sections that I have given markers to keep me on track, the mnemonic devices are key.
The coolest thing (ok…ONE of the the coolest things) about dance and about working with a choreographer for a prolonged time, is that after time, living and rehearsing with a certain style, you develop the ability to leave (some of) the mnemonic devices behind and your body begins to remember the “feeling” of a choreographers impulse for
movement. You pick up more of the details at a quicker pace, because the basic skeleton of the intention of the choreography has been constructed over time in your muscle memory. We can all agree that choreographers create a wide range of work, but its comforting to find out that there in general, there are certain truths that are carried
between the works, even if they are only apparent to the dancers and not the audience.
That being said, I am a new addition to the Leopold Group rehearsals, so my mnemonic devices are working overtime, and at times, if said out loud, may give the impression that I am a few grapes short of a bunch. (:::wonders if that phrase is correct, but assumes you know what I mean:::)
swim. dive. sustain. fake jump. sly foot. switch.
I’ve concluded that in artistic endeavors, yelling out (in your inner monologue) random words at yourself, is nothing short of necessary and perhaps entertaining. Maybe even a good marketing tool…I mean would want to see choreography that goes from “sumo wrestler prep” into “degas”…I’m just saying.
….and maybe I enjoy just a bit that this “choreography code” can only be cracked by those who are a part of the rehearsal experience (or by the significant others who have heard the code out loud as we mark through the steps while waiting for the coffee to be done in the morning…). The CIA should really think about assigning movement to
their most protected information.
In the creation of this new work, I have have found the movement to be at one time or another fluid, balanced, unbalanced, groping, defined, quirky, technical, quick, hippy, sequential, flexed, backwards, inverted, right-side up, specific, and weight-shifty. Yes,
it’s a cornucopia (::rejoices over finding a use for the word cornucopia:::) of impulse, line, and pathways. It is driving and makes us all sweaty.
As a newbie to this group of wild dancing women with dazzling personalities, I have to admit, I’m lovin’ it! (yes—I am aware that I just quoted McDonalds to describe how I feel in the Leopold group rehearsal…perhaps its because its 7am and I want a egg and cheese biscuit). But in all seriousness, I think and feel that working with a new choreographer and a new group of dancers is a good challenge for me. Its a new style but not completely foreign, and trying to remember choreography as quickly as Lizzie teaches it gives me the chance to test my own versatility. It is certainly good for my
vocabulary as I create my mnemonic phrases (cornucopia, haha).
If this piece had a theme, I think i would be “work fast and sweat hard”.
Squeeze toothpaste. Iron man. Whats up. Flick flick.
coffee’s done. (that’s not a dance code word, I’m really about to put sugar in it and drink it)
(photo above is from a collaboration called Synchronous Objects between OSU and Forsythe’s One Flat Thing Reproduced. )