Sunday, February 11

a dream of the possible

Early in the morning or on my days off, I sit in the empty auditorium, gazing at the stage. I am envisioning a variation from my repertoire, imagining, in detail, first how I will look in costume, then how I will enter the stage and from which wing. As if watching a movie, I then dance the variation in my mind the very best that I can, or even better -- the leaps a foot higher, the space covered double what I have done in the past. I picture the expression on my face, the use of my arms and hands, and the speed at which I move. A dream of the possible, glorified, runs on an imaginary loop through my mind, sometimes in slow motion, sometimes accelerated.

At first, I run this imaginary film to rhythmic counting alone (without music, melody, theme, harmony, etc.) -- creating a blueprint of mathematical time. For example, I launch into a leap on the first count (or beat), float through the second and third counts, and land noiselessly on the fourth. Next, I rerun these movements, adding, in my head, the melody of the music in place of the counts. Each of these processes I repeat multiple times.

Now I am ready to make the imagined concrete. Up on the stage, I rehearse what I have envisioned -- step by step, count by count, without music, over and over again. Sometimes I spend as much as two hours on a dance sequence that is perhaps one-and-a-half minutes long. During these repetitions, I count the beats out loud as I dance, even rehearsing how I will breathe. I also practice the dance movements in three different tempos : slow motion, ideal, and accelerated (in case the orchestra conductor has an adrenaline rush during the performance). I am now prepared to handle any tempo that may emanate from the orchestra pit.

To end my practice session, I dance the entire variation, singing the melody as though it were an aria. Sometimes as I dance, I speak out loud to an imaginary audience. I comment on what I am doing and sell it to them: "Watch this! Did you like that? Here comes the biggest leap!"

-- Jacques d'Amboise, from "The mind in dance" Dædalus Summer 2006

The Dancing Hiker