Thursday, December 4, 2008

LCDS: the second year

So the thing about walking through the wind tunnels that are the streets in the City, is that when you're carrying a bass it is kind of like para sailing.

That is neither here nor there- the London Contemporary Dance School project has begun again! I'm excited for this year, some of my favorite musicians from past projects (last year's LCDS and Globetown) are back again for this project and we're already having fun.

Interestingly, there is only one female choreographer, last year I think they were all female. The composers and choreographers have been having their initial meetings and showings of their work all this week. This afternoon they're deciding what the pairings will be for the collaboration. I'm happy to find that there is much more talk this year about how to use the instrumentalists in the dance space which would make us more visually integral to the performance. Last year there was only one piece that didn't involve the whole band playing in the back like it was a pit orchestra.

We warmed up together and moved about the space as an entire group to get the session started. Then the instrumentalists gradually picked up their instruments and began improvising. I moved diagonally across the room playing pizzicato on the bass (a not very subtle attempt to get the day started off with a "musicians can be dancers too" feeling) and then realized that what the music really called for at that moment was arco which meant that I had to walk all the way around the room back to the piano in order to get my bow. This I actually tried to do subtly, which didn't work as a couple of the dancers came and walked with me. So: success for the first thing I was trying to do!

We broke into three groups and were given half an hour to make a piece based on "boundaries" and the breaking of said boundaries. Since I had the largest instrument our group got to stay in the room we would be performing in. (The bass is actually fairly portable, but I'm not arguing.) We discussed briefly how many ways we could set up barriers to break such as having the audience sitting in a semi-circle and walking through them. There was a closet off to the side of the room that I really wanted to see if we could use since it was (I'm going to use the word indigenous even though that is sort of out of place, you know what I'm getting at though, right?) indigenous to the room and making things specifically for specific spaces is always fun to do.

Then the composer, Aaron asked me if I could play while the bass was in the we tried that out and decided that it would be easiest if we just used open strings, but we wanted a different feeling than Tonic Dominant Tonic Dominant over and over again so we de tuned my A string so that we had a tri tone double stop in the middle which meant that when we made an ostinato there was this lovely, gritty, funereal air to it.

So. Closet, semi circle audience, hoisted up bass, ostinato.

We started in the closet with the door closed and me playing. This was very quiet through the door which was brilliant because it meant that the door squeaking open was audible. Then Louis (the choreographer) started processing out while I continued playing and Aaron began lifting up the bass, still behind the, now open, closet door so that the audience still couldn't really see what was happening. Then we began processing across the room, causing the audience to scramble out of the way when it became clear that we were headed straight for them. (The bass was at this point nearly parallel to the floor, my right shoulder got very tired from bowing at that angle- directly out in front of me) We walked through the rest of the room and then out into the hallway where we continued for another 10 seconds or so.

Barriers broken: physical barrier of the audience, barrier of the various doors, using a dancer as something other than a dancer, preconception of how the bass could be played, and if we're looking at the dramatic feeling of the piece- the barrier between life and death. So deep. Aren't we cool?

There was more, but I have errands to run so that is all you get for now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Thanksgiving was wonderful. We had it at my flat and the kitchen is just perfectly sized for a bustling eight person party where everyone is helping to prepare the food and talking over each other and catching up and generally having a wonderful time.

The party came together rather last minute after many permutations of people, locations, and events. We ended up with nine people over the course of the evening- the old school dinner club folk and some new people as well. Meredith, my old flat mate; Tim, her boyfriend; Dave; Sarah who was visiting from America; “Other Tim”, Dave’s friend and new dinner club initiate; Jon; Latana; my friend Kanika whom I stayed with this summer; and myself.

Everyone brought various parts of the feast. We were too last minute to actually get a turkey to defrost, which is probably a good thing since we ate barely a quarter of what I did purchase which was a giant turkey leg and a couple of turkey breast roasts from the meat section at Morrissons (the very good grocery store a short bus ride away from the flat). Everyone showed up about an hour later than they said they would which worked out just fine because it meant that I had time to clean my room and the kitchen and make sure all the dishes were clean and ready to use and things like that.

Dave, Sarah, and Other Tim showed up with bags of vegetables, stuffing mix, and two bags of marshmallows which- for some reason- in England only come in mixed pink and white varieties which is unfortunate as the pink ones are strawberry flavored and gross as we discovered earlier this week when trying to introduce Dave to s’mores. Jon showed up shortly thereafter and was immediately sent back out into the cold to purchase various things that we kept discovering we didn’t actually need once he had already left the house. (This was an unfortunate pattern; I think we sent him out three times.) We had things boiling on every burner and three levels of things baking in the oven. It was a good thing the turkey wasn’t a real turkey as it was much flatter than would otherwise be the case and meant we had more room to shove other things in the oven like stuffing, cheese balls, parsnips, etc.

Meredith and Tim showed up with a vegetarian shepherd’s pie, the aforementioned cheese balls, and three pies made from scratch including two pumpkin pies that they had made from an actual pumpkin. I was very impressed.

Latana showed up right as the food was being laid out which was perfect timing on her part. We cleared off the side board and had platters, sauce pans, and casseroles full of food all over the kitchen. (Meat and veggie versions of everything.) People were serving across the table so that there was this lovely pattern of arms across the table which went nicely with fretwork’s consort music in the background.

The best part though, was that at the end after all the food and the pies and the ice cream everyone cleaned up! There was a giant assembly line of dishwashers, dish dryers, leftovers patrol, counter clearers, and one very special garbage man. It was brilliant, they even scrubbed the roasting pan-all while screaming/singing along to Ben Folds and Bruce Springsteen. Impromtu dance parties were clearly taking place.

All and all a brilliant success- everyone agreed the food was better this year and thought it was A-okay that we neglected to do hand turkeys.