Lips of Their Fingers, premiered in 2011 in Chicago, at The Drucker Center’s Fasseas White Box Theater. It grews out of the historic tradition of pantomime as a part of dance. With a musical score by the Beastie Boys, _Lips_ brings new meaning to the phrase “body language.” Gradually peeling off layers of clothing, the cast of five pits intensely physical movement against the most inanimate of objects to pose questions of embodied communication. _Lips_ brings to light the questions that constantly plague modern dance – Is it possible to see the body separate from the dance? And more simply, what does it mean? – asking the audience to accept this repurposing of body parts as “they try to make lips of their fingers.”
Choreography: Lizzie Leopold
Music: various selections by the Beastie Boys
Lighting: Joshua Paul Weckesser
Dancer: Melissa Bloch, Natalia Negron, Jordan Newmark, Nicole Romano Uribarri, Laura Vinci de Vanegas
Videography: Matthew Hughes
Some Thoughts From Jordan
Last weekend I missed rehearsal. I was up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin teaching yoga to families who were escaping the city for a few days. But Saturday afternoon, I was able to sneak away from the group and I had my own private rehearsal. I might have been miles and miles away from the Chicago Cultural Center, where we have been rehearsing all summer as part of the DanceBridge Grant, but I was rehearsing at the same time as the rest of the Leopold Group dancers back in Chicago. I turned the music on and went through the whole piece, Lips of Their Fingers. I reviewed phrases and marked timing. And even though I was alone in a small cabin in the woods, the message of Lizzie’s dance came through to me. Lips of Their Fingers is a dance about dancing. I was energized. Creating this work over the course of the summer, we have jumped, crawled, turned, fell, leapt, kicked, and wiggled. You name it, we probably at least tried it. Through it all there was excitement in the air. I was amazed to feel that same buzz so far away from everyone. It made me look forward to Monday night when I would get the chance to dance with my fellow Leopold Groupers again. We just finished that rehearsal. Now, more than ever, I am excited to share it with you, the audience.
DANCEBRIDGE AT THE CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER
one night, two perspectives
TEHILLA JOY FREDERICK – Leopold Group Summer Intern
Slicked back hair and makeup accompanied harmonizing floral dresses on Nicole and Melissa as they prepared to perform for the works in progress showing hosted by DanceBridge on Thursday.
As they stretched and geared up for Lizzie’s new work, _une elephante,_ a casual discussion ensued about how dance has developed today, touching on everything from Merce Cunningham to the hit TV show _So You Think You Can Dance._ They are modest about the fact, but Melissa and Nicole can perform switch leaps with the best of them, though they were spared the pleasure during this showing (insert here a hilarious picture of both ladies attempting to do switch leaps and kick-ball-changes with some tap moves peppered throughout). Instead, they tackled Lizzie’s demanding 30 minute piece of choreography. Deep breaths and loose limbs seem to be the key here in order to stick with it and not cave into exhaustion. The dancers proceeded to take the audience on a well thought out journey, with some pleasurable things to observe and some challenging things to take in.
DanceBridge hosts a question & answer session after each presentation, and it was during this time that I found a most thought provoking inquiry. One gentleman asked, “What is the payoff for the audience after watching this piece?” Lizzie answers this question much more eloquently than I can in her “program notes”:http://app.aeplatform.org/organizations/leopold-group/experiences/109 regarding this particular piece, but I found myself pondering it long after the performance ended. What sort of payoff do we expect when we go to watch dance? To be enlightened; to be entertained; to be thrilled; to be challenged; to be comforted; to escape…and if we don’t get exactly what we expect are we disappointed? Consider the following statement and its superficialities: In an age where commercial dancing has conditioned audience members to expect a certain payoff at the end of their experience, modern dance has often prided itself for pushing the envelope or exploring new ideas and challenging the viewers by doing something out of the ordinary. In this instance, both dance cultures have been put in a box of certain expectations that, I would say, have formed into stereotypes. What is the payoff and what do we expect to be the payoff when we watch dance? Do we expect commercial dancing to be always entertaining and never thought provoking, or modern dancing to be completely over our heads in its quest to be deep? If we receive something other than what we expected, how do we cope? It can be a beautiful phenomenon; entering into a piece after reconciling the fact that our initial expectations have or have not been met. It is in this place that I believe Lizzie invites us to join her in discovering interesting new thoughts and ideas during her piece une elephante.
SOME THOUGHTS FROM SUMMER INTERN
This is it. It’s getting to be crunch time. And Melissa’s hair has fallen out again.
The Leopold Group has resigned to be wet and slippery throughout all of rehearsal as they befriend the hot moisture in the air and brightly colored leotards. The cool blue for Natalia, the spicy red for Jordan, the classy purple for Nicole, Melissa gets the soft violet and Laura gets the orange that screams “ha-cha-cha” whenever she goes by.
Being busy with various jobs for Lizzie while interning for her, I have had the opportunity to observe this group in action for the past five weeks as they suit up for their August show.
Posters: check. Costumes: check. The relief felt as the meaning of the dance dawns on the dancers: check. This is the season where separate, seemingly incongruent thoughts start to slide together and dancer and choreographer alike reach the “aha!” moment.
As I struggle to figure out how to make videos of these artists, Lizzie is busy putting periods on the ends of her intricate sentences and smoothing out rough edges (unless they’re meant to be rough, in that case she usually encourages more). Long rehearsals of working out transitions, talking with the cast, and figuring out tricky partnering fill up the time so that hours go by quickly. I walk through the dancers while they rehearse, camera in hand, and catch their animated faces with their expressive leotards. There is more than one reference to the floor which is uncannily similar to a slip n’ slide amidst all the sweat and heat. As camera and faces get close and personal, I’m struck by the simplicity of the dance they are rehearsing, _Lips of Their Fingers_. The movement is complex and original, holding the attention with layers of choreography and plenty of scenes and props to draw meaning from. But at the end of the day, saucy smirks and smiles are all around as the dancers do simply that—dance! It makes me want to wiggle. The more I think about it the more I’m convinced that the desire I feel to dance after watching this piece is the desire that Lizzie wants to leave with all audiences—and the permission to do so. So don’t be intimidated, wiggle to your heart’s content! I’ll promise to join you.
WE NEED YOUR HELP! (and click here to watch a video of Lips of Their Fingers rehearsal)
We just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help us make the final push from studio to stage as we gear up for “dancing.”
After much brainstorming, we came up with the best rewards we could think of! We know you can’t resist these one-of-a-kind incentives! Thank you all for your support and generosity.
$10 – A LEOPOLD GROUP TEMPORARY TATTOO (We know you’ve always wanted one. And if you wear it to a Leopold Group performance, you’ll get a free ticket!)
$25 – AN AUTOGRAPHED PHOTOGRAPH OF A LEOPOLD GROUP DANCER’S STAGE DEBUT (Keep in mind most of us started dancing at age 3. These photos are completely authentic and completely embarassing)
$50 – A LEOPOLD GROUP DANCER WILL CREATE A UNIQUE DANCE MOVE IN YOUR HONOR (You will provide the inspiration and direction and we will provide the move. Videotaped and shared with the world, soon everyone will be doing “The Nicole.”)
$100 – A COMMISSIONED VIDEO-DANCE, CREATED & DEDICATED IN YOUR HONOR (You chose the music, the costumes and the theme. We will do the dancing and editing and post a new work in your honor.)