Spotlight on Choreography: Nuestra

We come at last to a very influential choreographic project in the development of Holly the artist. The year was 2010, and I was a senior in high school. I was also something of a failure.

How, you ask? Well, in my ballet company, there were very few graduating seniors, as members either dropped out at a younger age, or ascended to professional ballet opportunities. I had neither dropped out nor made attempts to pursue a professional career, rather intending to go to college and get a ‘real job’. (The reasons are emotional, complicated, and not worth discussing now.)

The year I was a junior, our director had requested the people moving on from the company–some to college, some to professional careers– choreograph and perform a ‘senior piece’ for the spring showcase. They grumbled, but complied, and I salivated from the sidelines, desperately wanting that kind of opportunity.

So the next year, on a frigid day in February, I marched into my director’s office and pitched my idea, trying not to vibrate overmuch with excitement and nerves. Perhaps recognizing the passion, perhaps understanding something I’ll never know, he liked it, and within days I ran around recruiting my dancers. The next three months were a whirlwind of choreography, costume sourcing, and giddy disbelief. It was the perfect storm of conditions: 8 dancers who liked me as a person and were thrilled to be included. Music with which I was deeply in love–the uplifting “Baba Yetu” by video game composer-god Christopher Tin . A theme of togetherness and inclusion, on the eve of my entrance to the big, cold world.

I felt as though I was breaking the mold, having a song with lyrics–because heaven forbid you dance quasiclassical ballet to songs with words?! Joke’s on me this time–that’s not exactly unusual anymore.

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Photo by Kristen Russo, 2010

In layout the choreography was two things: 1) a series of intersecting lines, both horizontal and diagonal 2) one giant crescendo to 2:27. It was the first piece I’ve completed that effectively demonstrates my love of cannons as a method to build excitement and energy in a work, as well as my taste for small featured parts in what is essentially a corps piece. Despite my lack of interest in choreographing strictly a solo, I had one short featured part at the end, which I left unspecified and improvised differently for each of the three shows.

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Photo by Kristen Russo, 2010

Few moments in my life have been so utterly sublime as those three performances of “Nuestra”. My only regret is that I never got to see it performed live, as I was in the piece. Split perspective, not exactly possible. (Obviously I’ve seen video after the fact.)

The audience loved it. The dancers loved it. I loved it.Through the process of creation I realized what I wanted to do as choreographer: to remove people from their daily lives; just for an instant, to be a part of a greater whole.

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Photo by Kristen Russo, 2010

I dislike ultimatums–but I will spend the rest of my life chasing that feeling.

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