As a small dance company, we have rarely taken the opportunity to reconstruct dance works. With only a couple of performances a year, our resources (financial and logistical, scheduling etc.) have always been tied up in making new dances.
I make a dance, we mount it, we move on and start the next new dance.
This M.O. has served us well in the past seven years, leading to almost two dozen premieres. But it also leaves little time for self-reflection and repertoire building. How can I/we learn from our past if I allow it to disappear after every show? Of course, there are some past productions that I will be glad to let slip into oblivion; not every dance has been a masterpiece. But, there are others that deserve a second time at bat…
On Saturday we will host “Sorry I Missed Your Show,” a benefit and silent auction to help launch us into our eighth season. It is also the first time that we have remounted dance works from our past. We are showing four solos, ghosts of Leopold Group shows passed. Spending the past month watching videos of old shows and re-embodying the movement has been a wonderful gift. I have had the opportunity to reflect on my choreographic voice as it has changed over these years. For the first time, I feel buttressed by a potential Leopold Group repertoire – firm on my feet with strong dances in our past and strong ones to come in the future.
Of course, the process of remounting dances can be (and has been) particularly challenging – both physically and mentally. Some of these early works weren’t preserved well on video and making them presentable for a second time requires a combination of muscle memory, photographic clues, video viewing and a whole lot of patience. Was that foot supposed to be flexed or was she just off of her balance that night? This is how I remember this move, but that’s not how the video shows it… You can imagine how frustrating the process becomes, trying in vain to arrive at some sort of fantastical “authentic” original. But these struggles are what I love about dance, requiring mental and physical flexibility.
In these seven years, I must admit to feeling the necessity for newness at every turn. During the reconstruction process this past month, I have proved myself wrong.
Newness and high-speed forward trajectory are not ontological tenants of running a dance company. Just as stillness and repetition are hugely important choreographic tools, they too are essential tools for the administrative side of things.
This tension between past and present isn’t particular to small companies like us. Many larger dance organizations struggle to balance the dance historical canon with new commissions. Of course a loyal audience loves the comfort of a familiar piece, but they also long for the thrill of something completely unexpected. As an audience member myself, I too am firmly situated on that precipice of old and new, loving a glance in both directions.
So, Saturday night will be the Leopold Group’s first official and public glancing backwards. We will share with you a solo from the first concert we ever mounted – an excerpt from a piece called “Brahms String Quintet No. 1” – an excerpt from “Of Mind & Sky,” one of those pieces that will likely fade into oblivion (although this solo excerpt is quite lovely) – and three other snippets. My hope is that we can share in the past and collectively move forward, without leaving so much behind this time. My hope is that I will start to do a better job of balancing past and present, of (re)constructing a diverse repertoire and of fending off the invented threat of stasis.
Sometimes standing still, firmly, is the right choice.
Plotting the next move, in any direction…