Tony Powell with members of Piel Morena Contemporary Dance. January 22, 2010. photo by Anne Gollenberg. from l to r. Alejandra Gonzalez, Laura Blatterman, Laura Tomlinson, and Meghan Grantin McDermott • North Shore School of Dance

Receiving a pair of back to back commissions to make new dances for two completely different companies – Piel Morena Contemporary Dance in Chicago and Baltimore Ballet in Maryland added to the, already there, optimism that swept in with the new year.

© Tony Powell

The past four days here in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago, have been filled with many hours in the studio, culminating in a public showing tonight of excerpts from “Las Mujeres,” (The Women) which when completed, will receive its World Premiere here June 25 -27 at the Vittum Theater in Chicago. The creation of this new work is made possible by the very generous and serious arts patrons Michael and Linda Sonnenreich. I’ve been making this new female quartet at one of Illinois’ most respected studios –  the North Shore School of Dance, founded and directed by Lisa Gold.

© Tony Powell

I’ve been given 8 rehearsals (4 hours a day) here in which to make a finished work, and only 6 rehearsals (5 hours a day) for the Baltimore Ballet piece (with dancers from ABT and other major companies) which starts next weekend, so I’ve had to thoroughly prepare for each.

© Tony Powell

photo by Anne Gollenberg

What intrigues me most about the all female Piel Morena Contemporary Dance is its mission to present Latino inspired works in a contemporary context. While half of my heritage is Brazilian – my mother is from Belem du Para, a city on the banks of the Amazon estuary in the northern part of Brazil – I hadn’t explored it as a source of inspiration for a dance until now. My original plan was to create a piece set to music by all female composers but as I got closer to the start of work I began to feel the pull toward the Latin American side of me.

DAY 6  – Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just when I thought I knew how the piece would shape up I met the brother of one of the dancers after the showing and he suggested I might listen to the music of Brazilian body percussion group Barbatuques. Always attempting to remain open I went back to the hotel and found their music on iTunes. After hearing only a few bars of their wholly original sound – a hybrid of a cappella vocal maneuverings and amplified body slapping – I decided to change the music for the entire piece. Just like that, halfway through the process! That’s never happened before.

DAY 7  – Monday, January 25, 2010

Up all night until 5am trying to figure out how to edit the new Barbatuques music so it would “fit” the amount of choreography I’d already come up for the last section – which had been set to other music (Rodrigo y Gabriela.) After 5 or 6 hours of splicing and rearranging the new Brazilian music in Apple’s Soundtrack program I decided to keep the original music for the last movement and only change the first two sections. There had been some reluctance on my part to mix music by different artists for this piece especially after hearing the strength of the new body percussion group’s music. However, after playing it all together, the variety in music styles wasn’t as disparate as I told myself it would be. It’s actually a nice contrast to go from amplified Brazilian body percussion to a percussive Mexican guitar duo. This piece is turning into one the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had creating a dance. Today’s rehearsal was probably the most productive yet, yielding over 2 and half minutes of material. It took me the first 3 days here to accomplish that amount. At this rate the piece will be completed tomorrow and the following day – Wednesday – for cleaning it all up! Now all my attention is focused on the ballet I begin this Sunday in Baltimore with 8 dancers from American Ballet Theatre, Baltimore Ballet, Roxey Ballet, and New Jersey Ballet.

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Comments
  1. Melora says:

    Being in Ballet was fun.
    Ahh, the good ol’ days.
    = 3 =

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