My modern dance rehearsal last night was like a breath of fresh air. And my sore muscles are a reminder of how long it has been. I can’t believe I waited this long to get back into the studio! This particular rehearsal was a refresher for a workshop I did earlier this year, a 10-week opportunity to have choreography set on a small group by a professional. Our performance is in a few weeks.
For many of you, modern dance rehearsals (and perhaps the dance itself) may be entirely foreign. Let me see if I can paint a picture:
I changed into my light green halter top and black pants, happily slipping off my shoes. (No money blown on modern dance shoes – we go barefoot!) I walk into the studio – this one is uncharacteristically huge, at about 2400 square feet. It has a soft black dance floor, one wall completely mirrored and ballet barres underneath large windows on the other three walls. One woman is already in the studio, warming up at the barre. The other dancer and I walk in with our choreographer, who chats with us as we join the first woman in a series of leg swings, plies, shoulder rolls to get our bodies warm.
A normal dance class would start with warmups and a series of exercises, but this is a rehearsal. The three of us learned this choreography a couple months ago. The goal of this rehearsal is to remind ourselves of that choreography and identify the trouble spots. We go through it once without music, stopping to try to remember. None of the choreography was written down, so at a couple points the four of us scratch our heads and try out different steps until someone gets it right. I can see our eyes brighten as it happens, and we all dive into the movement.
After a couple run-throughs where we just count out the steps, the choreographer turns on the music. This music is gorgeous – lots of drums! It is also challenging, because the music is fast and the movement does not offer many breaks from that tempo. But we have this choreography in our bodies. By the end of the rehearsal the choreographer marvels at how, throughout the first half of the dance, we are perfectly in sync. Moving at the same time, legs lifted to the same height, connecting our energy. The second half is harder and newer, and it shows. But we have more rehearsals, and by the time we perform we know it will be good. Less than an hour after entering the studio we are cooling down, closing the doors, headed home.
I did a similar workshop last fall. Both experiences have been an honor – having professionals create choreography right there for you, working in a small group, having opportunities to perform. Before I started tango, I was a performer. I thrived on performance energy. I still love to step on stage, but I have noticed a change in my rehearsals now. I am more focused, more in the moment, breathing and relaxing more. I’m not sure if I look any better from the outside (just ask my sore muscles!), but I feel different. Tango is teaching me to dance everything from a different perspective … although I am still looking forward to this performance!