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Letter from the Editor – Bourgeon Vol. 1 #1

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I received an e-mail from Daniel Burkholder some time ago with an announcement regarding Feldenkrais classes that he teaches.  In the e-mail he included a quote from Moshe that states “(Feldenkrais) makes the impossible possible, the difficult easy, and the easy effortless.”  I instantly knew that the same was true of my field: ballet. Ballet makes the impossible possible, the difficult easy, and the easy effortless.  On reflection I have come to believe that every type of dance makes the impossible possible, the difficult easy, and the easy effortless.

In this newsletter there are words from post-modern, modern, and classical practitioners. Each writer addresses some facet of what dance offers, and though one might be more drawn to one approach – one tends to be drawn more to one approach – it is difficult for me not to feel the similarities.

I regret that there are so few voices represented. I look forward to the opportunity for this particular forum to broaden and allow discourse which is more inclusive.  It is terribly difficult to pin down what passes for dance these days; in this city alone there are people creating work in African, Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Modern, Indian and Improvisational dance that simply cannot be adequately contained by those titles.  Whatever you call your favorite particular form, whatever the nom de guerre of the work you love and/or make, I am certain of one thing. That work – if it is dance – is healing. And with practice, it makes the impossible possible, and the easy effortless.

R. Bettmann, Artistic Director
Day Eight

P.S. The contributors and I would like to thank all with whom we dance, and who make our dancing possible.

Elam on Misnomer

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Last week I finished the NYC season for my company, Misnomer Dance Theater. A fantastic run for Misnomer, followed this month by a show in Providence, a project in Ireland, a TV pilot for VH-1, and a short dance film. It is a fruitful time to be making art.

My most recent piece is called “Toes of a Snail”, and was born out of a two-month project in Cuba, during which I choreographed on Marianella Boan’s DanzAbierta, Cuba’s leading state-sponsored modern dance company. Upon my return to NYC, Misnomer spent five months developing the piece through a process of training and rehearsal.

For me, “Toes of a Snail” looks at the connections formed between people, ranging in texture from pleasing to disruptive, as they pursue their lives in a way that remains true to them. In the “Toes” community, efforts are made, flight becomes possible, and grounding looms. The piece draws from my exchanges in Havana, where I was struck by the earnest efforts and creativity of people negotiating their lives despite exceptional and often-changing circumstances.

While riding across Cuba on a bus, I was shown a surreal state-sponsored film which repeatedly presented images of snails sliding across the streets of Havana, with people bending down to examine them closely. Reflecting on the film, I imagined the toes of a snail, an impossible detail that comes into existence only in the moment that you envision it, and then vanishes upon the realization of their improbability. Likewise, the dance conjures improbable and exceptional circumstances with minute details that become intensely real for the performers in the moment, only to dissolve and reform in the next.

Next week, my new piece “Heavy Train” premiers, and then I start work on “Throw People.” Please visit and enjoy my website: www.misnomer.org.

Chris Elam, (Artistic Director and Choreographer) graduated from Brown University and received his MFA in dance from NYU Tisch. He has been on faculty at Brown University and The State Conservatory for the Arts in Turkey, and has served as guest choreographer at eight universities. Mr. Elam’s study of traditional dances informs the technical and conceptual complexity of his contemporary choreography. In 1999 Chris spent seven months with a Topeng dance master in Indonesia, training and performing in temple ceremonies. Misnomer accompanied him to Brazil in 2001 to perform and teach. The following year, Chris taught for six months at the Conservatory in Turkey; and in 2004 he spent three months in Havana choreographing on DanzAbierta, a national dance company of Cuba. In 2005 he performed in Ireland on a European Cultural City Commission, which led to a commission in Holland in 2006 with the interactive technology group Blue Noise Dept.

Letter from the Editor – Bourgeon Vol. 2 #1

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I am fond of saying, “it ain’t grace if you let ‘em see how hard it is.” As one who appreciates athletic dance, what I enjoy about it are not the physical acts, but what the acts allow me to feel. Well, ok, sometimes I like the moves themselves. But more it’s what the moves make room for. Though occasionally a choreographer may be attempting to show exhaustion it is more common that the choreographer is trying to show a feeling or thought which simply requires great exertion. The professional dancer learns to project ease and a grace under strain.

This is the third issue of Bourgeon. The first two issues – published in ’05 – are still available. For fifteen dollars I invite you to become a subscriber to Bourgeon. The subscription entitles you to home delivery of the subsequent three issues (the remaining two of ’06, and first of ’07.) Donations would also be gratefully accepted. All checks should be made to “Day Eight.”

Grace is a goal, and not a destination. On behalf of myself and all of the contributors, I wish to thank those who inspire and assist our work toward grace. In particular I would like to thank the Editorial Advisory Board: Gretchen Dunn, George Jackson, and Naima Prevots. The assistance of new staff member Brian Buck and the Board contributed importantly to whatever grace may be contained herein.

-ed. [Robert Bettmann]