25 January 2013

National Choreography Month Recap, Days 21 - 25

Crazy couple of days around here. Last night the Oilers played the craziest hockey game I've heard in a while. Down 1-0 with just over a minute to go in the game and Nugent-Hopkins scores -- and then it gets called back due to a totally ridiculous 'goaltender interference' call.

And then with 4.7 seconds left, Yakupov scores. The game goes to overtime. (Or, as Jack Michaels called it: 'ooooooooooo-ver-time!')

And then Sam Ganger (remember him?) scores the winner.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Oilers-hating-referees. Way to almost cause a riot.


Last post, I had a just-barely-attainable goal on the National Choreography Month side of things: Finish Fly Eagle Fly.

So Monday morning (Day 21) I woke up, ate breakfast, then sat down and began composing. I worked more or less until six pm, then had dinner and went for Bible study in town. At this point I had five measures (phrases, bars, whatever... I'm a choreographer, not a musician) left in the song. Assuming I got back home at about ten or ten-thirty, I should easily be able to finish by midnight, giving me a full nine days to devote to The Dance.

So I went to Bible study, got to see a friend who'd kind of dropped off the face of the earth for nearly a year, witnessed a heck of a discussion on the work of the Holy Spirit within His people, accidentally threw a wrench into the 'college and career' program plans they've been working on for two months (because I'm just that talented), and got back into the rattletrap to listen to my RDA of White Heart as I drove the twenty minutes back home.

Two minutes out of town, the rattletrap overheats.

It's happened before, so almost on autopilot, I pulled over into the next driveway (thank you for the use of your driveway every three months when this happens, person with two driveways and the old country-style cottage surrounded by trees), shut the van off, and called my longsuffering dad to bring me some coolant (because for some reason the jug that had been in the back of the rattletrap was no longer there).

I hung up the phone and settled back into the still-cold seat in the strangely quiet van surrounded by the vast Alberta night sky. Literally thirty seconds later it hit me.

Fly Eagle Fly.

Oh crap.

It was already ten o'clock. By the time my dad got there it would be pushing 10.30. Then it was a twenty-minute drive back. I would have an hour to finish the dance.

Five measures (phrases, bars...) doesn't sound like much, but I had absolutely no ideas at all for them yet (and usually I have some vague vision in my head). It was the most difficult part of the dance -- I wasn't quite sure what I wanted out of this one little section, and thus had no idea where to even start.

But still... I had accomplished quite a bit earlier that day... maybe... maybe...

My dramatic self was on the verge of hypothermia by the time my dad arrived (why is it that when the rattletrap 'overheats' it's never actually anything close to warm?). The rattletrap behaved better with more coolant in it and we went home. I rushed down to my room and hunched over my little table with my iPod and my pencil, willing my brain to come up with something brilliant in the next hour... please...

And it did -- but only after it came up with something else first that I wasted half an hour writing and then had to erase. By the time I finished the dance and looked up at the clock it was 12.45. In the morning.

I had failed.

I had fallen short of my goal.

There aren't a lot of words to describe how crushing that was.

I had set a goal, and I had missed meeting it. I think the only thing that could have made it worse was if it had been the 31st of January.

But it was not and after much ranting about the rattletrap on Facebook and a few hours' sleep, I began working on The Dance.

It's going beautifully -- I'm quite surprised. I think it might be because last time I wrote a piece with more than three people it was the middle of December. After microanalysing every little thing that two people are doing for the past month and a half (to make sure they're complimenting each other but not doing the exact same thing), giving my brain six dancers to play with was like hearing your favourite band is getting back together. Or at least how I imagine it would be (*cough cough* notthatI'mtryingtotellyouanythingWhiteHeart *cough*). Add to that the ridiculously easy counting structure of the song (eights, all the way through), rather than the gorgeous-but-slightly-epileptic tendencies of Mark Gersmehl's synthesizer, and my brain is doing absolute cartwheels of delight. My problem now is keeping up with the notating, not getting ideas. And that is definitely a good problem to have in this line of creativity...

21 January 2013

National Choreography Month - Day 21

Still working on Fly Eagle Fly. This third chorus is a pain the neck. I had nearly the entire dance sketched out for myself in my head before I even started -- except for the third chorus and the synth ending.

But up until that point, it was going pretty well. Of course, I would have to see it on stage to truly see if I succeeded with my 'story,' but I think it's turning out rather well. My only real problem with it so far is that there are far too many flying hops. I had the same problem with Climb The Hill earlier this month; so I'm thinking taking flying hops out of my choreography vocabulary entirely for a couple of months may be in order. Nothing gets boring in a dance faster than the same thing over and over again, and nothing is more difficult to learn as a performer than a half-dozen barely-existent variations on exactly the same thing. And anyway, the limitation will force me to be more creative.

As of right now, I'm stuck quite firmly in the third chorus -- the line Up into the sky... One dancer is holding her pose, and I have no clue what the other one is doing.

The problem now is that if I'm going to stay on par, I have to finish this dance by 11.59 tonight. I have one minute and forty-four seconds to go. I think the most I've ever choreographed in a day was that 1.16 on Day One -- and that was a soloist. Here I'm working with two dancers doing different -- but complimentary -- things. It takes at least four times as long to choreograph a phrase for two people as it does for one, and even longer when the two are supposed to be kind of feeding off each other as I want them to here.

*deep breath*

So. One minute forty-four seconds. In twenty-three hours and ten minutes.

17 January 2013

National Choreography Month - Day 17

Finally finished Unchain on the 15th. It was supposed to be finished no later than the 14th. My pacing earlier the previous week had indicated that I should have been able to finish on the 11th or 12th. I had the entire ending sketched out on paper by then, all I had to do was notate it. And the 'to notate' list somehow expanded with every passing day, making sure that I never quite got it done that day. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next. It required me to pull a 4.30 am bedtime to finally drag it across the finish line. I do believe it was kicking and screaming a little too.

I can't complain too much though, because I adore that song. And the dance turned out pretty great too.

Actually, I was surprised how long it ended up being, page-wise. I knew it was a five-minute song, but there were only three people in it, and the first verse was mainly solo. Last night I was cataloguing the statistics for all my completed dances (because I'm a nerd and because my notating brain wanted a break). I was quite surprised to find Unchain had 1,675 frames. Even Speechless, that grand five-minute symphony of movement for twelve dancers in their intricate patterns and slightly staggered rhythms, only came out at 1,932 frames. And that wasn't even the biggest number, though the dance is definitely my biggest and most complex to date -- Glory To The King (remember that one?) has a whopping 1,981 frames. It's only four minutes and it has half the dancers Speechless does.

Anyway, back to the actual work being done (or not...).

Right now I'm working on Fly Eagle Fly... just notating the second verse now. I'm officially two full days behind, thanks to the miracle of the endless Unchain. And I am officially freaking out about The Dance now. I had hoped that with that rocking start on Climb The Hill, I would wind up picking up speed with the other two White Heart tracks and thus wind up with an extra three or four days at the end of the month to dedicate to The Dance. Unfortunately this doesn't appear to be the case...

I'm kind of apprehensive about Fly Eagle Fly. For the first time, I have some semblance of a story that the dance is portraying -- well, not so much a story, more like trying to capture a few fleeting moments of connection between two souls (which makes the concept all the more tricky to nail down). But while having a fairly definite pattern to follow is great, the fact that said pattern even exists and I'm not just flying blind and seeing what happens (like I usually do) is unnerving... especially under this timeframe. What if I completely destroy it? What if it doesn't turn out as beautifully as it currently is in my imagination? Will I wind up cutting corners just to get the thing done by the 21st? (Also, apologies for the adjective abuse in those last couple of sentences.)

It's the growing pains of my craft, I guess. Either this will fail horribly, or it will be a huge leap forward in my ability to capture a moment.

13 January 2013

Name Change

So I'm changing the blog's name. Thoughts From The Asylum doesn't accurately reflect me anymore -- I came up with that title while in the depths of delusional depression. It seemed somewhat poetic to me then, but kind of ridiculous and contrived now. I'm a different person now. I have a purpose in life and I know there are people who care about me. And now that I'm focusing more on learning about God and using my gifts to serve Him, rather than how much I think life sucks and everybody hates me, I thought I'd find a less bitter/more appropriate title...

So within the next few days, this blog will begin to be called The Edge Of The Dream. (Points if you know where that comes from... if you've been reading for the past two or three months, you'll probably be able to take a good guess.) Because that's where I am -- the edge of a beautiful dream that God has put in my soul. (There is an actual story behind this choice, but that's for another day... preferably a day when I'm not terribly behind in National Choreography Month.)

For the time being, the blog's actual URL will stay the same, however, I'm considering changing that too. I'll let you know before I do, though.

Did you guess where it comes from?

Here's the source.

07 January 2013

National Choreography Month - Day 7

Am now choreographing Unchain, having finished Climb The Hill on Saturday night. And I have found a con to choreographing a song from my favourite band in a time-bound contest -- every time I start listening to the song to get the timing for the next phrase, I wind up listening to the whole song. Because it's such a beautiful song and I get lost in it. Since the song is five minutes long, I've long since forgotten what the phrase was by the time the song ends, so then I have to listen to it again.

Which, of course, ends up being a repeat of the above series of events.

On the bright side, I get to shamelessly listen to this song almost every waking moment all. week. long.

03 January 2013

National Choreography Month - Day 2/3

Worked on Climb The Hill pretty much all day (I'm over half done now!). After midnight I decided to take a break and listen to the new Flyleaf album (which is really quite good for the most part). I just started back on more choreography.

So now I have Lacey in my head going 'Fire from the tongues of liars' and then Rick going 'Oh climb, climb the hill...'

And my brain is going, The heck...?

02 January 2013

Day One Recap - National Choreography Month

I have some catching up to do...

National Choreography Month (the official one) is in January. Hence, it started the same time 2013 did. And after two weeks of agonising and listening and re-listening and imagining and narrowing down (and trying desperately not to get any more really fantastic ideas), on 11.54 pm on 31 December, I finally had an official setlist:

Climb The Hill -- White Heart (Ballet for two)
Unchain -- White Heart (Faux jazz for three)
Fly Eagle Fly -- White Heart (Ballet for two)
The Dance -- Servant (Faux jazz for six)

This works out to just less than a minute of music per day throughout the month of January -- or just under one dance per week.

So, at approximately midnight, I started work on Climb The Hill. After erasing most of the first page and starting over (I forgot I was choreographing for two people -- not one), I ran into a different problem.

The same rhythm structure that makes the song so breathtaking is a devil to try to count.

I didn't even attempt to count the first fifteen seconds -- it was long synth notes anyway, and the dancers are holding their opening poses throughout, so it didn't really matter.

Then the phrases are as follows (as far as I've gotten): four, three sets of five, seven, another three sets of five, six, eight, seven, two sets of four, and six. Seriously. Yes, they're dancer's counts, but seriously.

Also, that Servant one is freaking me out. I've been wanting to do it for a long time, but two days ago it suddenly hit me... My vision for that thing is full of ripples. I hate notating ripples. It makes my brain hurt. Also, turning. That also makes my brain hurt and I almost always get them wrong the first two or three times. What's more, person-to-person contact. I have never notated person-to-person contact in my life. And I think sizeable portions of the dance are made up of everyone doing something slightly different than everybody else. Meaning I have to notate each person separately -- six times as much work. Not that I can't do that, just it takes up so much more time...

It so freaked me out that I nearly substituted White Heart's Jerusalem at the last minute (hey, that one has a different lead singer!), but after listening to both songs, decided to stick with The Dance. I may or may not wind up regretting my decision...
(I just realised something -- all of those White Heart songs in my official setlist actually do have a different lead singer; they're just all from the Florian era. Jerusalem was from the Scott Douglas White Heart.)
(/music nerd)

However, there are good-scary things happening too. I choreographed David Meece's Early In The Morning and One Small Child in December. Both turned out fantastic -- far and away my best work (to date).

And the same night I was just finishing off the last couple of phrases of One Small Child, my friend from the dance team emailed me, asking if I would be willing to choreograph a ballet solo to round out their setlist.

I was going to say 'of course I will,' then I looked at the papers beside me. One Small Child is a solo. Sure, it's a Christmas song, but it's still a ballet solo. And I already had a dress in mind, one I already owned. Long story short, it looks like One Small Child may get staged in the near future.

Holy cow. Holy cow.
That just started to sink in. Holy cow.

I didn't have any of this a year ago.

Anyway, weird 'what-the-actual-heck-are-you-trying-to-do-here?' rhythms aside, Day One of National Choreography Month produced one minute sixteen seconds of choreography. Not bad. Of course, that was mostly soloist stuff, but it's definitely a nice number to start the month with. Hopefully I can build on that...