Posts Tagged ‘Mary Nolan’

A day in the life of Stanford: onstage, in half-an-hour

Thursday, May 30th, 2013
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photo 2How often do you see volleyball team chatting with deans, Taiko drummers mingling with landscape gardiners, medical researchers in a tête-à-tête with major donors?  “It was what a university community should be.  That, to me, was moving,” said dancer Aleta Hayes, one of the performers for last night’s The Symphonic Body (we wrote about the event here.) And she was right.

When a live mic was stuck in front of my face two days ago, I asked the performers what they got out of the experience.  During and after the performance last night, I found out, without any explanation needed.  The sense of Stanford community was joyously evident, at the Bing Concert Hall event, and at the reception afterwards.  Although about 75 “performers” were onstage, choreographer Ann Carlson  worked through about 1,000 recommendations to get to the final cast – a lot declined or dropped out.  So even more people were involved in the experience than might have been  apparent last night.

chocolateheads

Hayes with her dance troupe, Chocolate Heads (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

Here’s how Carlson worked:  she followed the chosen performers around for a day, watching their gestures, listening to their phrases –  “then telling us how to act like ourselves,” said Matthew Tiews, Executive Director of Arts Programs.  Onstage, landscape workers pruned invisible trees, Continuing Studies dean Charlie Junkerman removed and cleaned his glasses over and over again, Philippe Cohen, executive director of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, stood up repeatedly and pointed to something on the invisible horizon.

“It touches my bone-deep and dead serious belief that all movement is dance movement,” said dancer Diane Frank.  “It means that every moment of movement might be transformative, might refresh our senses, if we attend to it wholeheartedly, alert to its qualities in the doing.  Real dancing is an embodied attitude toward movement, not a training regimen.”

Philippe Cohen with project manager Laura Goldstein

Cohen on the job. (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

She added, “Besides, I like to connect with other people and to laugh a lot – both were large parts of the rehearsal process.”

During the question-and-answer period with the audience afterwards, one viewer noted the ephemeral nature of the project – nearly a year of work for a single, one-night performance.  Was the ephemerality part of the nature of the night?

“Definitely.  Absolutely.  I’m not doing this for a career,” said Cohen. “It was incredibly meditative.  At the end of the day, we had to put everything out of our mind.  That was absolutely wonderful.”

TonyDid anything surprise the cast about the performance?  “I was surprised that I was in it,” admitted Associate Dean Debra Satz, to laughter.

As usual, Mary Nolan had the last word.  When someone asked the performers “What comes next?”  Her reply was instant:  “the Tony awards.”