Dancing the Great Arc

 

( photos: Whitney Browne)

In a tiny corner of west midtown Manhattan, (when they say between 10th and 11th they really mean corner of 11th) is a snug little shoebox, the Donaghy Theatre at the Irish Arts Center,  where I joined a pretty awesome  team of artists last weekend.

On Oct 26 & 27, I had the chance to sneak back to the city and make a cameo appearance in Darrah Carr Dance‘s new work Dancing the Great Arc. 

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Performing “For the Auroch”

Carr’s style “ModERIN,” is a playful combination of American modern dance and Irish dance vocabularies and aesthetics.  This sensibility was well paired with the oeuvre of her collaborators Dana Lyn and Kyle Sana, whose album, The Great Arc, the company illustrated over the course of the evening. Lyn and Sana take “trad” tunes into new sonic environments, punctuating with unusual pauses, condensing and expanding rhythms, and in this case, layering subtle natural references- frogs, crickets, mechanical sounds.  The evening followed their album in two parts, the constellations, dedicated to extinct animals, and the ark dedicated to endangered species. These were represented in the performance by subtle projection design by Dave Hannon, based upon drawings by Dana Lyn.

The pieces subtly referenced natural images, but allowed the movement and music to exist without imposing a narrative or character.

Some standout moments:

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Alexandra Williamson’s strong and elegant homage to the Stegosaurus, with angular jumps and Irish inflected “classic Modern” moments,  – took my breath away.

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Michelle Esch’s and Trent Kowalik’s rhythmic play between tap and Irish rhythms, while sliding through space with a contemporary abandon, winked at the Blue-tailed Skink.

 

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Jonathan Matthews‘ expressionistic “accidental sound” creation, exploring taps on feet hands, and knees – on floor and walls, dedicated to the Sumatran Orangutan.

 

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Melissa Padham Maass, with characteristically masterful lines, poignantly, gracefully, obliquely penned a letter to the Yangtze Finless Porpoise.

 

p-16Trent Kowalik, slowly and methodically enunciates a Jig rhythm with his feet, gradually  building sliding, scraping and multilayered percussion, decelerating and returning to a meditative rhythm, as if contemplating time passing, honoring the Great Auk.

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New Company member Kendal Griffler shines in highly complex foot patterns and elegant partnering in “For the Trilobites.”

 

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In a subtle nod to conservation, four dancers, Matthews, Kowalik, Esch, and Carr seated at the edge of the stage make music out of refuse. They accompany Lyn and Sana with a percussive improvisation using plastic bottles, gravel, junk metal, and plastic bins.

 

Reconnecting with these remarkable individuals again  highlighted the immense effort it takes to maintain an artistic practice ( anywhere, but in NYC specifically).  The catching up elicited remarkable tidbits: how many applications have you completed in the past few weeks? how many colleges are you working at right now?, and you’re balancing how many clients plus teaching gigs,and you manage to take your children to school? Etc.

I feel an overwhelming  sense of gratitude to these individuals and our broader creative community for continued dedication to generous creative practice despite all the reasons not to.

And to all of the individual audience members who came to share in the experience, without whom the work really doesn’t exist.

*Check out our mention in the Irish Echo – highlighting solos by yours truly and Jonathan Matthews!

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NY Visit: FAMI 2- Head, Neck and Spine & Darrah Carr Dance visit, and show tonight, and…

 

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Mr. Bones, Kinected

Over last weekend, Oct 20-21, with the support of a Kinected Work-Study Scholarship and the OSU Dance Semester Funding Initiative, I attended FAMI 2: Functional Anatomy for Movement and Injuries 2 at Kinected Pilates Center in New York City.
FAMI 2 is a follow up to FAMI, a four-day anatomy workshop held at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai annually in June. Geared towards movement educators FAMI dives into structure, function, and pathology of major body regions and incorporates a gross anatomy lab component encountering prosections of each region.

(Seeing and touching the iliopsoas is much more effective than visualizing it – or trying to spell it.)

FAMI 2 focuses on a specific body region, topics rotating each year, with a deeper focus on assessment and programming for common dysfunctions of that region. This workshop’s focus was the head and neck.

Dr. Jeffrey Laitman, with typical candor and humor described important overall anatomical and evolutionary characteristics of the head and neck region, with specific attention to importance of vocal  chords in maintaining intra-abdominal pressure and function of the inner ear in relation to balance and coordination. You know, listen to how your clients/students/patients are speaking before working their glutes.  Funny. And important. A Dr. Laitman mantra : “the body never forgets and it never forgives.” That doesn’t mean to lament once injury occurs, but to choose wisely how to treat your body to cultivate longevity and optimal function – we only have one body after all.

(Seeing and touching the iliopsoas is much more effective than visualizing it – or trying to spell it.)

Dr. Jeffrey Laitman, with typical candor and humor described important overall anatomical and evolutionary characteristics of the head and neck region, with specific attention to importance of vocal  chords in maintaining intra-abdominal pressure and function of the inner ear in relation to balance and coordination. You know, listen to how your clients/students/patients are speaking before working their glutes.  Funny. And important. A Dr. Laitman mantra : “the body never forgets and it never forgives.” That doesn’t mean to lament once injury occurs, but to choose wisely how to treat your body to cultivate longevity and optimal function – we only have one body after all.

Some activities with questionable musculoskeletal impact, according to Dr. Laitman and most human bodies…

Eliot Fishbein, FMPT discussed rehabilitative perspectives for the region, Dr. Amanda Walsh, orthopedic resident at Icahn,  gave clinical insight into injuries such as concussion and whiplash, and Kinected Director Matt McCullogh demonstrated several practical exercises geared toward balancing stability and mobility of cervical spine: many can be done on the go or at the office, others were variations on classic Pilates equipment exercises. Foci of exercises were balancing thoracic  and lumbar mobility and stability in conversation with the cervical spine, activation of posterior spinal muscle chains, oblique strengthening, and building strength in deep stabilizing endurance muscles like Longus Colli, to counter the tension and pull of superficial muscles like SCM.

Matt McCullogh and amazing client Jim demonstrating lateral flexion, thoracic flexion with posterior chain activation, and a reformer knee flexion exercise with theraband for maintaining posterior chain activation. Notice how  in the center photo by gently maintaining pressure into the theraband while nodding and curling , Jim can avoid leading with his head and achieve deeper flexion in his thoracic spine.

Some consistent takeways – respect healing time, proximalize symptoms, restore balanced functional movement, and consider the whole body in conversation.  Also, you never know the impact you have on others. Keep learning; keep sharing.

Bonus Rehearsal Snippet:

Enroute to the airport post workshop last Sunday I had the privilege to drop in to rehearsal with Darrah Carr Dance and musicians Dana Lyn and Kyle Sana in advance of our performance “Dancing the Great Arc”  10/26 & 10/27 (today and tomorrow!) at the NYC Irish Arts Center. I’ve worked with Carr since 2011,  and walking into the space, I immediately felt the warmth of this particular dance family.

Jonathan Matthews and Melissa Padham Maass, in rehearsal.

By the Way… We made the NY TIMES Dance Picks for this Weekend!

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A note from 14th street.

I do not miss the atmosphere of the subway at 8 am, 5 pm, or it seems the 1 train at any time of day…