Tutus and Lasers

Ten years of dancemaking has created quite an accumulation of stuff.  There are two lime green chairs, a couple of lamps, rolls of marley, rolls of astro turf, nearly 100 glass jars, nearly that many leotards of various colors, a handful of tuxedos, brown pants, black pants, blue pants, dresses, sweaters, sports bras and bike shorts galore, a bag full of sparkly deely boppers, a giant red curtain, white tutus and colored tutus, a beed curtain, Christmas lights, extension chords, and the list goes on.


Each item is a dance that I made, or a dance that I almost made, or a dance that I wanted to make.  Each piece reminds me of a theater or of a particular dancer, her initials usually inscribed on the inside tag.  The initialed tags tell a story of dancers that came and went, of dancers who married and changed initials.  It’s a closet full of my most cherished memories.  But the thing is, it’s not a closet at all.

Apartment living does not leave much room for all of the Leopold Group paraphernalia, so my father has graciously housed all of it in his factory for years.  He makes titanium coils and racks and I make dances; the tools of our respective trades live side-by-side – tutus and laser cutters, lathes and leotards.  The Leopold Group costume closet is actually a titanium fabrications factory.

As I was rooting through the boxes today, pulling items for our show this weekend, I was fantasizing about space.  I think all dancemakers fantasize about space – affordable and available rehearsal space, empty store fronts as dream dance studios, and well, storage space.  But I came to the conclusion that I like where my stuff lives. I like the proximity of lycra to aluminum.  I like the idea that my dad is a maker of things and so am I.  I like that our tools share a room – tutus and laser cutters co-habitating.  Untitled-1

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We have a show in one week.  It will be the first show that I’ve ever produced without dancer Melissa Bloch.

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I met Melissa on my first day of college and I learned how to dance ballet by standing behind her at the barre and taking copious mental notes. “She dances so big for being so small.” “She’s never afraid to fall over.” “Her face dances.” And so on… Melissa was fearless and beautiful and I wanted to both dance like her and be her friend.  Good news for me, she didn’t mind my stalking.

By the time we graduated college I had convinced her that I was a choreographer.  She came with me to Chicago, and New York, and San Francisco, so that I could make dances for her to dance.  Starting out as a choreographer is doubly hard when you aren’t interested (or capable) in performing yourself.  In order to make my dreams come true, I needed Melissa to dance my dances.  She obliged.

We made lots of great dances.  We made lots of mediocre ones too.  She stuck with me through all of them.  And she was an honest voice through the whole journey.  In her book The Creative Habit (yes, I once read that book…), Twyla Tharp says that a great gauge for choreographers is taking the temperature of one’s dancers.  If the dancers that you want to work with don’t walk out on you in the middle of rehearsal, chances are you’re on the right path.  Melissa was my most accurate gauge.  She stayed. She worked hard. She told me when she wanted to walk out.  She challenged me to fall over and she picked me up when I did.

In 2007, I produced my first ever concert as the Leopold Group.  One of the four works on the program was a new duet called Visiting Hours.  Melissa and I danced it together.  It was about the recent death of my grandmother (who on her deathbed had disclosed some pretty juicy personal information that sent my entire family into a tailspin).  I loved dancing that work with Melissa.

We have a show in one week. It will be the first show that I’ve ever produced without Melissa Bloch.  We are presenting a restaging of Visiting Hours.  So, it won’t be a show without Melissa afterall.  She will be present in each step we take (oh, and she’ll probably also be taking tickets and holding my hand).   I have joked that my relationship with Melissa is the longest one I’ve ever been in…all artists should be so lucky.

Much love to future physical therapist Melissa Bloch, my Muse-lissa.

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