I have been remiss in writing this post. It is now Friday of the second week at the Bates Dance Festival. There are two Gala performances. Tonight will honor Marcy Plavin, the festival’s founder and tomorrow’s performance will honor Laura Faure. Laura has been the director for thirty years. She is retiring. I was last at the festival ten years ago for the 25th anniversary. Lots has changed since then. I flew into Portland on Sunday July 16. David Dorfman and his company were performing that night. To be honest, I kind of felt out of place at first. I haven’t taught in a festival setting for ten years. I saw old friends and colleagues – Rachel List, Melody Eggen (an original AVALON cast member from Jacob’s Pillow many, many years ago), Kim Konikow, David Dorfman, and lots of new faculty. Claudia LaVista from DELFOS is also here. Claudia and Viktor Manuel Ruiz created SMU’s Firebird last year. I enjoyed the performance – haven’t seen that kind of work in quite some time – beautiful and generous performers.
On Sunday, we had a faculty meeting at lunch and then that evening, a gathering with students to introduce ourselves and go over festival protocols. When I decided to accept Laura’s invitation to teach, I made a deal with myself, I would do it only if I would enjoy myself. So far, I have kept the deal. I have twenty-five students in my technique class and they are a great group, enjoying the music and my point of view about Classic Jazz. The Repertory class originally had seven dancers. I thought I would either reconstruct a section of Points on a Curve or Mahalia Jackson singing On My Way. I decided on Points. The next day, I had three dancers left – the musical difficulty and idiosyncratic movement vocabulary scared them off.
It has worked out. I really like the three dancers. We are done with the reconstruction and are cleaning. They will perform next Saturday in the festival finale. Their names are Fiona Scruggs, Gabriella Manuela and Kendra Lady.
My technique class has been interesting in a good way. It is a great mix of abilities and ages – all (almost all – why is there always one?) have been excited, open and interested in my point of view about jazz dance. So far, I have taught five swings. I am on to the third combination, Sidney Bechet’s I’m Speaking My Mind. I haven’t taught it in a while and was surprised and how difficult it seemed to the class – did mange to extend the combination with some new material. I may have gone too fast. If there is time left, I may start on the Fred and Ginger choreography from Swing Time or the Cesaria Evora combination I created in the basement of the Minneapolis carriage house for my advanced jazz class at the University of Minnesota.
The Gala was a great mix of performance styles and points of view. My favorites were a solo by Riley Watts, an hysterical piece by Sara Pearson with text (the perfect example of how well written and well performed text can have a great impact) and a short but beautiful duet choreographed by Doug Varone. There was fancy and delicious reception after the concert and lots of heartfelt tributes to Laura.
I did get to have dinner with Cathy Young – lots of tasty food and conversation. Cathy has just been made the Executive Director of the Boston Conservatory/Berklee School of Music. She is basically the President! What an amazing accomplishment for her. I know she will do well and told her so. I also spent some time with Jackie Villamil. Jackie taught ballet many times for the festival. She was one of the choreographers/directors of the Theatre Dance Collection. I danced with them in New York on my way to creating JAZZDANCE. Jackie was so emotional with me – it took me by surprise.
She kept saying things like I created my company from nothing and that it was an amazing accomplishment. One of the dances I performed with Jackie was Rialto Ripples, choreographed by Rodney Griffin. It was set to Gershwin. We did a very sultry duet. She told me that when I took her hand, she was surprised at how rough my skin was and that told her how hard I worked. One of the many jobs I had to make a living was cleaning apartment and then doing the dishes for a high end caterer. (refer back to the Pre-History page, if you like). That was forty years ago and Jackie never mentioned it to me until the gala evening. It took my breath away.
All the faculty was invited to Nezinscot Farm for dinner last night. It is a completely organic farm about a fifteen minute drive from Lewiston. It was wonderful, great food and good wine – one dog and many cats. They have a great store as well. It is only open on the weekend. I heard about their pickled garlic and Carl Landa convinced the owners to sell him a jar and he gave it to me as a gift. It is going in the suitcase – cannot wait to try it.
There are two more performances, the Mill Project choreographed by Stephen Koplowitz and the Festival Finale. It will be back to Dallas on Sunday.