A year after my first piece “Day & Night” premiered, I created another piece in more or less the same situation. Same summer intensive. Same show. Different people.
The band Mannheim Steamroller has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember, and not just for their infinitely more recognizable Christmas music. They have a series of 8 “Fresh Aire” albums and this song is off of the seventh in that series. The song, “7 Colors of the Rainbow”, is a musical interpretation of a rainbow, with different instruments representing the colors based on a slightly convoluted scientific explanation you can learn about here and in this crazy chart.
Image: Chip Davis, Fresh Aire 7
This choreographic exploit was not a success. The music was abstract, I had difficulty wrapping my head around what my vision actually was, and the dancers didn’t buy into the concept.
I got this crazy notion that each of my seven dancers could partially choreograph their own sections, with my oversight. Turns out this bunch of 12-14 year-olds were not down to improvise or do the work themselves, and I ended up pulling steps out of thin air with far too little time left till the show.
Each of the seven dancers embodied a different color, and I instructed them to dance only to their specific instrument group. This proved to be a problem to two levels: 1) the whole thing is a bit discordant and difficult to parse out if you weren’t me and had listened to this music for years and 2) myself, as a dancer in my own piece, was the color yellow, which happened to be the only track to play continuously throughout the whole 5 1/2 minute piece. The other color-tracks faded in and out with long rests. In my head, it made perfect sense to be yellow, as it meant the other dancers had less work to do. One might assume it was I wanted the spotlight–the exact opposite was true.
I wanted everyone in a semi-circle, egalitarian and balanced, but my director took one look at me “bouncing away in the corner” and intervened, moving me up to the front and center.
The take-away message at the time was that as a choreographer, I needed to do the work ahead of time. I needed to have a clear, explainable vision for the piece and what I expected of my dancers. Complexity is wonderful, but it is a glissade & jeté away from chaos. Someday perhaps I will be able to redo this piece. There is so much I’d love to do with digital backgrounds and spotlights….and the rainbow will come to life in such a way to make me and Chip Davis proud.
(Again, this was back in 2006, and so no digital photos or video exist. Thankfully.)