I was talking to my friend last week, Lawrence Ewing, Executive Director of Marin Ballet, and he used the phrase, “beauty awakens.”
Our conversation was revolving around dance workshops, concerts, awards and the process of assisting dancers and audiences in emerging from an imposed sleep. We talked about it as a process of leaving the virtual world to discover, awaken, re-invent, the connections between the live performer and the live audience.
Our First Live Performance Since Lockdown
On March 20, 2021, The New York Baroque Dance Company and Dallas Bach Society gave a live performance to an audience one could touch. There were masked people in chairs gathered in a basketball court with a simple set suggesting the ancient columns of Greece, a metaphor for classical beauty at the root of Western art. Our own music and dance were rooted in 18th Century ideas of beauty and the Enlightenment, but it was not the serious genre we danced, it was the character and the comic which graced the stage. It was not the entwining geometry of six or twelve dancers, but the geometry of one. In total there were five dancers, all doing solos and presenting 18 characters.
Yes, as one of the Graces of No Age, I was one of the dancers. We were all masked in 18th century full face or half masks made for us by Jane Stein and Stanley Alan Sherman. (Our dance company was founded in 1976 and today, some of the masks are older than the dancers wearing them.) Our costumes and masks and the very steps we danced, many reconstructed from dance scores published in 1700 in Paris, were awakened by each dancer as they individually prepared for the March 20th concert. We all came together in a studio on March 16th to craft the flow of the show conceived and directed by me. It was only one hour long and no intermission…but it happened on March 20, 2021!
Hybrid Performance: Live (in person audience) Livestream (virtual audience) Recorded (ongoing audience)
After one year of cancelled performances we were delighted to be dancing again for a live and virtual audience. Pre-pandemic the concert would have been only for a live audience and I would have been working with each dancer two months in advance, creating complicated group works with all the dancers in a studio and the show would have been twice as long and in a theater with lights and a backdrop. But now, we are grateful to perform solos (safer than a group dance) and for the basketball court and our carefully spaced live audience.
After a Year of Sleep…
Beauty awakens. We are all different. And as individuals we came together, one by one, to bring beauty and comedy back to the stage, even if it is a basketball court. The audience will never experience the same feeling as they did on March 20, 2021 when they awakened after a year of sleep and saw their first dance concert. Because of Covid precautions audience members were all spaced apart. They had a perfect view of an intimate performance which felt as if the dancers and musicians were literally performing in the grand hall of a great 18th century house or perhaps the horse stables. Before Covid the number of tickets sold at a concert made up a large portion of the budget, but with Covid this is not possible and we can only have a small attendance. When the new normal is established, ticket prices for live events may be much more expensive and the audience may not choose to go to a basketball court.
As a performer, I felt as if we were passing through a ritual experienced so many times over the centuries…coming back…awakening after a war, the plague, economic disasters. On a personal level, as one lives a full life, one is called to come back from so many things. Aging gracefully is having the courage and spirit to come back, recognizing the changes but drawing from the layers of experience to help guide others in this return. Our job is to comfort the younger generation who are still tender and not yet protected by the sturdier roots of regrowth after battles. We need to give a rational direction and hope, but not stand back from the young to let them do all the work. We need to sweep them up in the dance and to all be grateful as beauty awakens…and that is exactly what happened.
Tickets to a recorded version of the performance are available: https://www.dallasbach.org/bachvirtual When you reach the page scroll down to find the dance performance.