Above: Laura DiOrio of Lydia Johnson Dance
Since my blog has gradually made me privy to experiening dance rehearsals of companies great and small here in Gotham, I've seen danceworks at all stages of development. But I don't think I've ever been present this early on in the process: stopping by on short notice at Lydia Johnson's studio on a cloudy Sunday afternoon to find the choreographer and three of her dancers just beginning to sketch out phrases for a prospective new work.
Lydia Johnson Dance recently presented CHANGE OF HEART at Riverside Church as part of Tony Morales' CONTRASTS evening. So I was thinking Lydia might take a break before resuming her creative activities. But when I was heading down to Dance New Amsterdam to check out Sunhwa Chung/Ko-Ryo Dance Theater's preparations for their upcoming performances, I casually asked Lydia if she'd be in the Battery Dance (just a few blocks north of DNA) later in the afternoon and she said, "Yes! Stop by if you can!"
The three dancers on hand: Katie Martin, Laura DiOrio and Blake Hennessy-York (above). Lydia worked with them on a trio passage, building phrases and trying and discarding various elements along the way. Following her successful and extremely beautiful work CROSSINGS BY RIVER, Lydia is again exploring the music of Osvaldo Golijov. The composer's rhythmic variety, his rich sense of instrumental colours, and the many influences to be heard in his music - from tango to liturgical, from folkish to jazz - give the choreographer an endless supply of movement possibilities and moods.
The dancers quickly assimilated the ideas that Lydia presented and as the rehearsal progressed the shape of the phrases grew steadily clearer and more meaningful.
In an interesting development, Lydia had Laura dance a solo passage to a rather romantic-coloured musical motif. Laura, a dancer who has positively bloomed artistically over the past couple of seasons, did a beautifully expressive rendering of the solo. After pondering for a moment, Lydia turned to another Golijov track: a vocal work with an ethereal, spiritual quality and asked Laura to try dancing it again to this different setting. Seamlessly aligning the movement to this new pace and feel, Laura's dancing took on a different hue altogether, even though the steps and port de bras were virtually the same.
So, this is how dance gets made...from the beginning. The dancers went off on their separate ways, and Lydia and I adjoured to South's, a delightful restaurant on Church Street, for a little supper and a long discussion about dance, music, life and love.