I kept asking, “what have I gotten myself into?!” Now, surprisingly, no saying would be more appropriate to describe my first few months with the Steps Repertory Ensemble then those wise words from the Artistic Director, Bradley Shelver, “it’s like being shot out of a cannon wearing nothing but duct tape and Crisco.”
Out of the cannon and into learning new work while simultaneously catching up on the old rep. Although, of course that is to be expected, I have never had to switch gears more than when I was learning both “3114 BC” (Shelver) and “Limbs Theorem” (Forsythe) in the same rehearsal…Better grab that duct tape and hold yourself together!
Once I was starting to feel comfortable being shot through the air at high intensity speeds, here comes Jae Man Joo to flip us around again. I like to think of him as the Crisco in this experience. Jae, formerly of Associate Artistic Director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, worked with us a lot about finding a dynamic fluidity to our movement, like oil dancing across water.
It was an honor getting to work with him. He is such a kind and supportive soul. Performing his piece, “Recur”, this past weekend at the Ensemble on Ensemble performance at Steps on Broadway was like nothing else. It required a calm and collected head space that is not normally what you are feeling when performing the first piece of a show. It set a wonderful atmosphere for the rest of the pieces to come.
Once we finished the choreographic process for the first section of Jae’s piece, we said our goodbyes and then a week later said hello to Mike Esperanza, the winner of the 2014 REVERBdance commission. It has been such a fun experience working with Mike. His piece is very different from anything else we have in our rep. I think we all had to get in touch a little more with our inner swagger.
For the purpose of my continuing metaphor, I will refer to him as the landing. After being shot out of the cannon, taped back together only to loosen up again, somehow you have to find a way to still stick that landing. You have to look cool, confident, and in control (even if you don’t know what is going to happen). That is Mike’s piece — Finding this alter ego of yourself that is 100% in control of your body in every crazy situation that might arise.
We will continue working with him through the end of the week and so our feet have not quite touched solid ground yet. You will all just have to come out to our next show and see the landing.
So the basis of my first three and a half months with Steps Repertory Ensemble is that it has been a crazy whirlwind of an experience, and I would not change a thing. I’m being pushed mentally, physically, and artistically like never before. Bradley, and Rehearsal Director, Nicole Corea, have been an integral part of the whole process. They are the ones that are there to keep us growing and exploring once we have “finished” a piece. The experience is never over they constantly remind us. They are a wonderful team.
The last group of people I am compelled to mention are my fellow dancers in the Ensemble. They leave me speechless every day. It is such a wonderful working environment. Our constant desire to improve as individuals keeps the group aspiring to be the best version of themselves in each rehearsal. My respect for them as artists and people continues to grow and I cannot wait to see what the rest of this season has in store for us.
More later. . .
-Allie Mae Gee
1st Year Ensemble Member
photo: P. Goode, Artistic Director Bradley Shelver working with the Ensemble