Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Color Palate of Dance (Pt. 4)

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The Color Palate of Dance
Kaleena Miller Dance Company – SHIFT
The Southern Theater, Minneapolis
June 22-25, 2017

NoahShift

Day/ Performance 4

BLACK & WHITE

Black and white. Dark and light. Yin and Yang. But combined makes gray. Collaborative, cool, dark yet lighter than black.

Today’s performance brought a non-solid color to the stage. Beautiful black and white geometric style printed shirts and black shorts. I love black and white. It’s probably the most “color” I have in my wardrobe and I just happened to wear a black and white dress to the show. It’s classy, yet fun, playful but modern. However, this change in wardrobe brought us from solid colors to a combination. Once again, I’m not sure Kaleena had a vision for the wardrobe changes (I would guess YES?), but going from the stark, serious white to pink then red onto a playful black and white combo was perfect This was performance 4; the last show. My assumption was that most, if not all the dancers, would be pulling out all the stops today. Why not? The choreography was so extraordinary. If you know it, go for it. Whether it was over the top technical feats (Galen), more triple steps (Bruce) or creative facial expressions (Everyone), this show had it all.

This afternoon’s performance was a commissioned, pre-recorded piece from Reid Anderson. A little bird told me it was the company’s practice music so they knew it very well. Would this lead to even more surprises? There are two that stand out for me. One was the Kaleena and Galen duet which had music for the first time. I mentioned this before, but the addition of music to what once was an acapella piece transforms it into another dimension. This is not to say either version was better than the other, but to this music fanatic, being able to watch how dancers interpret music into their dance is magical. No matter how well you know your choreography, the right music will bring it to another plane. Kaleena and Galen HAD FUN during their time to shine. They were laughing almost the entire time and the crowd was right along with them. Sitting in the front row (yet again) was out of this world. It’s like being able to sit in on a private conversation without the couple knowing you’re there. But it’s not awkward, creepy or weird. It’s more about people-watching and seeing if you can interpret what each is saying only by body language. These two have that part mastered and I was honored to witness it.

The second surprise was an addition. In the first half of the show when the entire company is in a line doing the same choreography, each dancer had been taking a short 4 count solo and then moved back into line. In today’s performance, each dancer walked towards the audience, stopped for a second and walked back into line. It was a quick but somewhat intense moment. Most did not smile, so it was up to us to determine what the emotion was (or lack thereof) as they returned to the line. Having been there the other 3 nights, this to me was almost a thank you without the bow. But, it was also deliberate and meant to make you look at them AS INDIVIDUALS. Every dancer so unique but part of the whole—Gray.

After that small change, it hit me that we were heading towards the crescendo. The last dance of the night, the highlight, the finale. I couldn’t help but sit and compare each show to the other, trying to figure out which one was “best.” But I luckily stopped the comparisons to stay present. It’s tough to watch 7 people dance at the same time, especially from where I was sitting, but as the minutes wore down to the final number it was all I could do. The freedom and intensity—both of which were present in that last number. You could see the bittersweet smiles on each of their faces as they danced so beautifully so intently. I didn’t want it to end.

FINALE

Unfortunately for all of us in that small theatre at The Southern, this run of performances had to come to completion, but we weren’t letting the company leave without a roaring standing ovation. I could tell the dancers were so proud, so happy. And as the other 6 pointed at Kaleena to make sure she got extra kudos, that smile of hers couldn’t get any bigger. This was AWESOME. Art had come alive.

Even after a week of writing my thoughts here, I’m still left with so many emotions. Honored that I witnessed this stunning performance, humbled that I was in the presence of master dancers performing only feet from where I was sitting, inspired to continue my quest to become a dancer and beyond proud of these 7 ordinary people who have an extraordinary gift. They are Dancers; Dance is who they are.

Dancing is part of my soul and over this last year I was lucky enough to unearth it and tap into it again after so many years. I had been searching and yearning for something I couldn’t put my finger on until recently when I participated in my first formal dance recital. After seeing these chosen 7 dance, it became more real to me what dance is. It’s not just something to sit and watch or to ogle over. It’s not something that is easy or hard. It’s part of who we are as human beings. We all may not be master tappers, but hopefully we can all move, sway, or just close our eyes and FEEL.

Thank you, Bruce, Galen, Megan, Noah, Madelyn, Audrey and, of course, Kaleena Miller. For without you, I wouldn’t be writing these words, seeing magic and feeling so much love.  I believe in being at the right place at the right time. That the universe gives you things when you are ready. I was ready; you all were ready.

THIS was SHIFT.

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The Color Palate of Dance (Pt. 3)

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The Color Palate of Dance
Kaleena Miller Dance Company – SHIFT
The Southern Theater, Minneapolis
June 22-25, 2017

MeganShift

Night 3

MAROON

Red. It represents many things within our world: Energy, Dominance, Passion, Love, Danger, Attention, Power. When red is present, people take notice. Tonight, whether we all knew it or not, we were on notice.

The definition of red in one dictionary caught my attention: “the hue of the long-wave end of the visible spectrum, evoked in the human observer by radiant energy.” Radiant Energy. I’m beginning to think Kaleena had a plan in mind.

However, this wasn’t just any red. Remember, Night Two we had a blush pink. Not the “normal” pink one thinks of when that word is spoken. So tonight, we had Maroon. A color that “represents an action that is more restrained and sophisticated.” Now it all makes sense. As a side note, I only interacted with Kaleena a few times before these shows, but even if I had never met her and ONLY saw her dance, this would be how I would describe her as a person. She’s powerful, yet restrained; sure of herself and sophisticated. She stands out, but not one of ego or boasting. A powerful silence, a muted brightness, but not dulled to the senses. Maroon was the perfect color for tonight.

Last night there was a shift in energy; a subtle color change, a playful mood, a rowdy crowd and a transformation in music styles. Tonight, though, SHIFT moved to another plane. This night, Night Three, the dancers were on fire. The crowd was fully involved and it was the largest of the three nights. We all felt it, even if someone hadn’t been there any of the other nights, you’d be able to tell tonight was something special. We were in for a wild ride.

The music has evolved each night just as the dancers have. Intense and structured to playful and free. Once again, nothing here is good or bad. They are each their own, just as the music is unique and created by a different composer or artist. It’s extraordinary when you sit back and think about it.

As tonight came around, there was yet another assumption that only the music would change and maybe a few improv performances, but there was one major change: The Noah and Bruce Dance-Off had music added to their choreography. When the music started, I thought maybe their duet had been moved to another part of the show, but knowing that the choreography had to stay the same, what was going to happen? As anyone would expect when music is added to a dance, what got created is almost impossible to put into words. As an aside, much of this write-up has taken me days to write as I’m trying not to repeat words and explanations for things I can’t seem to find the right phrases for. This is one of those times I just need to show you a video of their performance (and I hope there is one!), but in the meantime, I will note here that it was one of the highlights of the entire 4 performances. These two guys DANCE and they work off each other in ways that only masters can and I don’t use that word lightly. It was gorgeous and fun. The music brought a less intense element from the other two nights, but there was still a cool darkness and unique collaboration that I hope many, many people get to see in the future. Thank you, boys.

For the night, overall there was less interaction on stage, but the dancers were “in tune” the best so far. There was a freedom present, whether it was from the music or it being the third night, that allowed all the dancers to shine like they hadn’t Thursday and Friday. For me, this was the “Best” show of the three. But once again, do I need to compare? I could pick out individual parts of the show each night that were the “gold star” of the entire run. But for now, I can say that Night Three saw Kaleena’s vision of SHIFT being realized.

Intense. Moody. Modern. Connected. Musicial. Freedom.

THIS was night three of SHIFT.

The Color Palate of Dance (Pt. 2)

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The Color Palate of Dance
Kaleena Miller Dance Company – SHIFT
The Southern Theater, Minneapolis
June 22-25, 2017

SHIFT_post_maddie

Night 2

BLUSH

Night two I arrived with my daughter. Excited, no nerves this time and feeling deeply connected to the dancers after meeting a few of them the night before. We chatted, they told stories, we laughed and hugged. As I’m writing this, I realize that I’ve never had this experience before. Six out of the seven dancers didn’t even know me, yet, when we connected to say hello, there was a bond already present. Was it me? Them? How is this possible? Just thinking about it leaves me a bit perplexed, but the only sense I can make of it is that we were all REAL, true to ourselves and happy. The night’s show was over. It was time to celebrate, make new friends and enjoy the wave of joy and connectedness that got created in less than an hour. It takes a special kind of something for that to happen.

The dancers are just like any one of us, though. They have friends and family who are proud and love them, they work hard, they do what they can to make their life work personally and professionally. But, one major thing makes them extremely unique and different from us—they DANCE. And not just dance, they TAP. It’s who they are and they have no other choice but to. That difference doesn’t matter, though, when the tap shoes are off and the performance is over. We are all just lovers of art, dance, music and the excitement of smashing them all together to create something brand new, something that inspires.

 

Night Two brought a new energy and a shift in hue—Blush. The definition is “a slight red or pink color.” If we want to get less technical, we can say Pink which is “of a color intermediate between red and white.” Does this mean Night Three is Red? I won’t dare guess. From the audience though, I admit I couldn’t tell what the exact color was (pink, tan, khaki?), but it was obvious it wasn’t white, and I believe, that’s what mattered. Subtle changes can make a major difference. But, with the energy shift from opening night intensity to more of tonight’s chill vibe, this made sense. These changes continue to have me intrigued with Kaleena’s thoughts and “story” around this performance. I tend to always ask: “But what does it all MEAN?!” when it comes to art, but right after I say that, I know what the answer is—it means whatever you want it to mean. It’s art; let it speak to you. So I did.

I have no idea what the crowd numbers were on Night One, but there were barely any seats left once the lights came up tonight. The audience also created an energy that turned electric rather quickly. Within the first few minutes, claps started for each dancer’s intro, hoots were made when a solo was nailed. This allowed the dancers to then continue with that energy, enjoy dancing, let go and take some liberties with their improv. Was this really the same routine from last night? I checked myself as I kept thinking something got added, but I was wrong. This is exactly what art creates. New energy, a change in music, letting go of the nerves and creating something unique. Trying to explain to you, the reader, what that even means to me is impossible thru words. All I know is that I’m blessed with what I’m seeing, feeling and experiencing with this show.

It’s hard to say whether I enjoyed tonight’s show “more” than last night as it was so different (and no, the choreography didn’t change!) and when you switch the music to Leah Ottman with her violin of layered sounds and looping pedals, it’s unfair to even compare. I did ask most of the dancers what their experience was in relation to the night before. The consensus was that they were “looser, sweatier and had more fun.” Because the music from Night One was all over the map, as I mentioned, the dancers had to be their own metronome. NOT EASY. Between opening night jitters and an avant-garde type of music that has a dancer constantly thinking, listening and watching, it’s understandable how tonight’s show brought a bit of color back to the dancer’s steps.

Awe. Inspiration. Joy. Play.

THIS was night two of SHIFT.

The Color Palate of Dance (Pt. 1)

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The Color Palate of Dance
Kaleena Miller Dance Company – SHIFT
The Southern Theater, Minneapolis
June 22-25, 2017

ShiftFlyer

Night 1

WHITE

I was nervous. I sat in my seat front and center as my friend and her daughter were adamant we do so. I felt naked, which was odd. I always want the front row at shows, but oddly enough at concerts, I never get that opportunity, unless I really work for it. Tonight, however, we were first in line. The theatre was ours. My dream of just walking up to the front row and sitting center stage came true—with hardly any effort. This is how I knew I was in the right place. That this, what I thought was an impossible dream of being involved with the tap community no less a (new) dancer myself, was now my reality. I was Home.

I believe in being at the right place at the right time. That the universe gives you things when you are ready. Although sitting in a particular seat in a theatre may seem like a very small thing, almost insignificant. But for me, being right there to watch the dancers—some I knew, most I didn’t, but it was like I was there to see my favorite band and they were playing just for me. I got to watch their feet fly, drag and flutter. Hear the click-clack, scrapes and soft shoe slides. How awesome would it be to tap like that one day? And in a moment, I was inspired. I watched the almost hour performance with a smile on my face, laughed at times and was in awe of the art of dance. My nervousness passed.

But then, there was the music. Music from JT Bates, the first commissioned piece, was playing before the show. It was percussive, beautiful and intriguing. As I listened, I could picture the choreography, but how? Some of the music was all over the map and I had no idea how it would be incorporated into this dance that was created BEFORE the music was even written. The entire idea blew my mind when I heard about it, but being there to witness this show, this performance, this beautifully choreographed, yet created-on-stage-in-certain-moments dance was beyond what I could have imagined.

Not knowing what to expect (and I wanted it that way) the dancers arrived to the stage dressed in all white. An extremely beautiful touch. Their shoes were unique to each of them, but white shorts and white button-up shirts was the costume style of the evening.

But of course, this all leads to the dancing. The tap. The tap–offs, the music, everything. The connections between each dancer and the group was palpable. They spoke with their eyes, nods, smiles, smirks and the sound of their taps. THIS is what my soul yearns for—the connection of artists to other artists and then that transfer of energy flows to their fans that love them and embrace their craft. There’s no other feeling like it.

The skill of this group—not being able to truly tell what was improvised and what was choreographed— was astounding. Solos were had, duets were argued, trios and quartets were arranged… Sextets and septets were loud, beautiful and joyous; intense, fun and symphonic.

Each dancer, their own personality, their own “way” of tapping, yet, it all melded together perfectly. Like the most beautifully written song, it must contain a solid melody, deep lyrics, a shocking bridge and the perfect resolution.

THIS was night one of SHIFT.