Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Baby's first LecDem

Today was Dance in the Community's first community performance!! We danced for half of the 5th and 6th graders at the campus school. We technically had a gig on Sunday, but we didn't do our full program and the goal was just to entertain rather than entertain and educate, so I don't think it really counts. I have a lot of experience with community performances; I joined my studio's performance group when I was 10 and we performed on a semi-frequent basis. The most elaborate gig we ever had (in my seven years of performing) was pretty simple. It's a toss-up between the day we performed Peter and the Wolf three times in one day and the day we did two completely different ballets for one school. The latter was more fun, because it was one of the only times we danced at a city school, the kids were hella smart and asked really intelligent questions, the program was more varied than usual, and they bought us pizza. Actually, the triple show was at a city school, too; interesting coincidence.

We danced for an arts festival, terrible community theater productions (that's right, Towne Players, I'm looking at you), a few nursing homes, for fundraisers, and a girl scout precinct meeting (I don't think that's the right word, but it was all the troops in a hefty chunk of suburb, so there were a ton of people there), but my favorite venue was always the schools. Fun fact: Suburban schools in the Western New York area all have the exact same floor plan, and by my third year, I had it memorized. The campus school is laid out in much the same way, and when I walked in, I almost swooned from nostalgia. It was so familiar! The only thing that was missing was the super-elaborate movable set from Peter and the Wolf (which included a house frame to which a gate attached, a wall that several dancers had to stand on/dance on at the same time, a wooden tree, a fake potted ficus, and a pond) and the costumes made of spandex, feathers, and faux fur.

Our lec-dem was much less elaborate than Peter and the Wolf. Every dance has to be explained, and we had to sort of...stall at times where the program wasn't as well-developed or thoroughly rehearsed. First we had to introduce ourselves, then we started with an African dance called "Funga Alafia." (Coincidentally, I learned the song in elementary school when a group did a lecture-demonstration for us! I don't remember if they did the dance though.) Chelsea, a lovely girl who taught us the dance originally, talked the kids through the song and told them about African dance, and we had them sing while we danced and Marilyn (our professor) drummed. It got a little awkward when their clapping didn't exactly line up with the drumming, but they fixed it rather than give up completely, which was impressive.

From there, we went into "Steam Heat" from The Pajama Game. That was my baby, so I got to talk about it. I'm really proud of my speech, but it requires some backstory. When we did Peter and the Wolf in schools, my teacher Lisa had a speech that she'd go into beforehand, breaking down every character and the distinctive way they moved that made them look like whatever they were supposed to be. (For example, the bird had feathers that she fluttered, but the duck held her feathers in a different way because she swam.) I knew this speech by heart by the time I graduated, and it really was well-made. It was designed to engage the kids (who were often just shy of babies, like 3 or 4 years old) at the time and to keep them engaged throughout the dance. Children tend to get bored if they spend a long time watching something without words or anything specifically designed to get their attention. When Lisa showed them the movements, even with the narration to tell them what was going on, they could think, "That must be the bird! Look at the feathers! I bet that's what birds do when they're scared. I hope she doesn't get eaten!" and feel like they were a part of the story. I wanted to do the same thing, so I told the kids about Bob Fosse having a kind of weird body, and told them to look for round shoulders and turned-in feet while we were showing them the dance. I think it worked! They definitely seemed really interested, and a bunch of them were already familiar with the dance, so they got super charged up.

After jazz, another girl from the class demonstrated some ballet. She had never rehearsed this and didn't have any music, so she was really nervous. We were all there with her and we called up some students (several of whom were dancers. You can always tell from their gait and hair.), and all things considered it went really well. She did the positions of the feet and I did the positions of the arms in French and English, getting the kids to repeat the names back to me. Thank goodness for the Grade Four exam. I have a feeling that CCA exam theory is going to come in handy in this line of work. I think I've mentioned before that I get sort of wise-crack-y around children, and that happened again today. Dry humor, a sort of "let's be frank" attitude...I think it worked, though. I definitely got a few laughs and everyone was paying attention, so I call it a winning technique. I was sort of amazed that everyone was so excited about ballet--even the boys!

Next on the program was cheerleading. Lisa is a mover, not a trained dancer, but she was a cheerleader for three years and we all wanted her to show off her stuff, so she taught the kids a routine and showed them some jumps. That was also not very rehearsed, but she works with those kids so she knows them well, and came across really well. To close out, we did a hip-hop dance to "Baby" by Justin Beiber. I feel really stupid doing that dance, but it is really fun. Everybody loved it! They all wanted to come up and dance, and Jaritza did an amazing job getting everyone excited and energized.

This was just our first gig and I loved every second of it. The people in my class are so talented and chill, and in a few weeks we'll be really outstanding. No wonder Marilyn does this for a living--I'd love to do this every day!

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