Friday, March 23, 2007

Uma! Uma! Uma!

On to Act Two of Sonnets.

We open with guest artist Uma Suresh doing another classical form of dance. This time from India.

When I began dancing, I studied with a wonderful teacher named Jack Tygett. He and his wife, Marge, had been dancers in Hollywood. They danced with all the great movie choreographers of the time. Agnes DeMille. Eugene Loring. Nick Castle. Bob Fosse. And Jack Cole. Jack Cole was considered the Father of American Jazz dance. He created a fusion of classical Indian dance forms and jazz music that is still the basis of alot of we see in Broadway shows today. So when I began dancing, I learned some basics of the form.

Now as you can see, although it is a classical dance form, it is very different from ballet. Classical Indian dance has three fairly disinctive features which set it apart. The first is a very intricate set of foot rhythms. These percussive patterns are quite ferocious and intense. Think along the lines of Irish Step dancing, but in bare feet and a very deep plie.

The second distintive feature is a complicated series of hand gestures. This dance was always envisioned as being a partner to Andrea's dance in Act One. Unlike the ballet sequences, which deal with the sonnets in a more abstract sense, both this and Andrea's dance are visual translations of the sonnets. They use dance as language.

The final feature is a very strict set of facial expressions. The eyes... mouth... even the nostrils, have specific places that they need to be to express a certain emotion. While this may sound as if it is a very constricting kind of dance, it is actually very emotive and dramatic. Uma is a very dedicated artist. Very intense. Very formidable. It is a joy to work with her. Especially since we have a very free form kind of company.

We had some very good news and some very bad news today. One of our dancers, Chelsy, had been out because of an injury that she sustained at a photo shoot. She came back today, a bit shaken but ready to go. we were all happy to see her back. Unfortunately, another dancer, Shannon, injured her foot during class. At this point, it looks as if she will be unable to perform in the show. What makes this sadder is that Shannon had been dancing very well this year and was coming into her own as a dancer. So tomorrow, we will begin the process of replacing her in her various roles in the show.

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