Borderland – Rodney’s Inspiration
Into the Light, Out of the Blue
Music – Kay My Dear- Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters
In the summer of 2006, I experienced a near-drowning experience wading in, what we called as kids, “Lake Marrón” (brown lake). Calm and shallow, Marrón’s waters were welcoming, but with each gust of wind, the underwater plant matter and overabundance of muddy sediment turned the waters vicious. In a matter of seconds, Marrón was known to fluctuate from calm to ocean-like. As a remedial swimmer, my foot became tangled in a web of seaweed whose strength was augmented by the swift gusts of afternoon winds.
Into the Light… is a fantastical exploration of that experience, but told from the perspective of the seaweed that grow from the lake bed. A lake bed that at times was soothing but at times seemingly demonic.
Into the Light… is my curiosity of a particular quality of movement that mirrors, and to some extent, mimics the fluidity of water and underwater currents. Movement shaped by the ways in which those oceanic forces affect sub-aqueous plant matter.
Into the Light… is a fictional personification of these resilient and interdependent living beings trapped by the limitations of their home (Marrón). Beings moved by the fluctuating tides, and in this work, Ronnie Earl’s hypnotic electric guitar.
Into the Light… is the story I tell myself to justify what I perceive as attempted murder by Marrón and the life it sustains.
The movement of this work evolved from a series of improvisation. As I was moving, my goal was to imagine what movement would look like if influenced by a strong outside force (ie. water). I began the exploration by visualizing the ways in which water and underwater currents move, repel, and reverberate against animate beings. Part of it was finding the difference between internally-ignited movement, or those that seem to come from something outside of our bodies. What is the difference between both? And how do we move back and forth between internally-generated or externally-controlled impetus for movement?
Simply, I had to imagine how a human body with its many limitations could mimic and resemble the movements of seaweed. How can a body interpret the macroscopic, multi-cellular, and interdependent nature of seaweed? If a human body was seaweed, how could it move through the space as seaweed does with each wave? Like seaweed, how can one’s physicality grow and shrink in size and shape?
The result of this curiosity-driven exploration has been the development of a quality of movement I call (surprise surprise) “seaweeding.” For me, Seaweeding is an attempt to find a sinewy quality with intention (and that doesn’t result in body surfing/wafting around). Imagining that one is submerged underwater, heavy with the extra pressure, the dancers ignore the demands of their bones, and focus solely on creating continuous an non-interrupted lines with their bodies. There are no sharp or jagged moments, and pressure is equally applied to all parts of your body. One’s body is simultaneously in a state of release as it is holding tension. What it looks like is a series of “S” shapes that happen simultaneously throughout the body. And the impetus for moving can come from the head, neck, torso/ribs, hips, knees, back, ears, nose; pretty much from everywhere.
I often struggle to describe my process, in whole or in part. Most of the people who have worked with me in rehearsals (in this capacity) would describe me as organized scatter. And those who have worked with me in the creation/planning stage would describe me as a flip flopper. I often switch from rigidly methodical to go-with-the-flow/experimental when it comes to creating a piece. At times in the process, I know exactly what I want, how I want it, and fixate over the tiniest idiosyncrasy, and at times, I hold my breath and throw choreographic darts in hopes of landing a bulls-eye (or at least near one).
All of that proved more difficult with the parameters of the production schedule. Early on, I had to really sit down and push as much of the rough sketch of the piece planned and scheduled to be able to finish the piece in time. 12 hours of creation time made sculpting a piece with a brand new and unfinished movement aesthetic challenging. I had to employ both extreme tactics in hopes of keeping to schedule.
For simplicity sake, I have outlined my process into steps.
1. Initial spark
It is difficult to remember whether it was the music or the concept for the piece that came first. As with many chicken-or-the-egg scenarios, it was probably a combination of both. In October, I moved “Kay my Dear” into my daily playlist. At time time, I had also just watched a great documentary the waters of the Red Sea, which was the initial spark I needed to remember my experience with lake Marron. From there the concoction began.
2. Ingredient Search/Research
As with any meal, what ingredients you choose can make or break its taste, flavor, or purpose. I read, watched, and listened. To me research is a slow process, one that I might not even know I’m engaging in. At random times, I played the song, I read a random tidbits about seaweed, or photosynthesis, or under water currents, or the effects of buoyancy on limbs. All of this while developing further and further into ideas and concepts. At this stage, nothing really makes sense.
At this stage nothing happened on paper or in the studio. Mostly it’s my mind making the links, watching as much dance as possible for inspiration, or striking imagery.
4. Initial Planning
I call this the “get-your-stuff-together-Rodney” stage. In this stage, I made decisions on casting, basic concept, space layout, feel/mood. A big part of this is breaking down and intellectualizing the music. Up until then, the music was just the thing I played to help spark ideas, but now the music becomes the guide that needs to be mapped out. The music got broken down into bars, identifiable phrases, and and mined accents. No movement has yet been created.
5. Initial movement creation
I came into the studio with the seaweeding movement and that’s it. Partly choreographer’s rut but partly dissatisfaction with any of the movements I originally carved out.
6. More marination
Thinking. Testing. Self-debating. Thinking.
7. Initial me-to-dancer creation
Plan was to lay down the major movement vocabulary and the closing movement phrase (which I knew would be the quickest and trickiest to get in ones body). This stage was a battle against the clock.
8. More Creation
This process is the bulk of the in-studio time and often includes changes to the original plan, internal debates, dialogue with the dancers, reviewing rehearsal footage. Etc.
Back to the battle against the clock. The daily reminders to finish the piece already!
Last minute touches and detail-oriented repetition to have it audience-ready. This stage is tedious, slow-moving, and physically and emotionally exhausting.
“Put this one on at three in the morning, or any time you need to be healed by a cool wash of soulful blues and bluesy jazz.” Blues Access
As mentioned earlier, music selection and piece conceptualization was a chicken-before-the-egg scenario (although adding Kay my Dear to my regular stay-at-home playlist and watching a couple of ocean documentaries probably helped spark some of the creative juices.). When I reflect on the qualities of Marrón, the embodiment of the seaweed, and the malleability of water, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcaster’s “Kay my Dear “ was cemented on my mind as the only choice. There was something about the ways that the electric guitar riffs seemed to dance against that gritty blues bass and drums that reminded me of the temperaments of water.
“Kay my Dear “ r was released in 2004 in Ronnie Earl’s 16th studio album: Now my Soul. Ronnie Earl, an American contemporary blues guitarist is definitely one of those artists that I will want to be played at my funeral once I pass. His music is reminiscent of the summer afternoons in Haiti resting under my porch and escaping the 43-degree scorchers outside. Music that reconnects me to my tumultuous pubescence, volatile university days, and hyperbolic romances. He manages to pack so many emotions, so much angst, and so much turmoil in 4 minutes of music. Ironically, there is predictability to his music.
Once you hear one Ronnie Earl song, you will be able to recognize his signature guitar riffs. A track of Earl’s, as with “Kay my Dear “, entices you in, flirts with you a little, drags you deep in the coffers of its groove, and takes you for a ride, leaving you with a range of melodic satisfaction. Like a good meal, Earl’s music will leave you full and musically bloated.
“Kay my Dear “ embodies many qualities of Marrón. The wave-like opening coolly creeps in and soothes you to a rhythm that is placid and fluid. A couple of short bursts of winds climb up and down your spine, only to calmly retreat. The bass and the drums continue the ride and once you’re comfortable, a rumble reappear. The waters pick up as the electric guitar comes back full force. At the 4-minute mark, a sudden crescendo of water and music envelops you. Like Lake Marrón, Kay my Dear ‘s musical waves will envelop you, surprise you, and throw you off your feet. It gets better with each listen, so download and take a listen.
THE FINAL PRODUCT
I’ll leave that for you to interpret. Into the Light, Out of the Blue premieres January 28th 2014 as part of Borderland. Audience sizes are limited to only 30 people each show so make sure to grab your tickets early. CLICK HERE for tickets.