Cedar Lake dancers rehearsing Jill Johnson’s The Copier
Yesterday afternoon I stopped by Cedar Lake‘s theater to catch the end of rehearsal for Jill Johnson’s upcoming installation, The Copier. The dancers were working in the theater, and the stage was now set up in a T shape with plenty of room around the perimeter for the audience to observe the installation from different vantage points. Although the dancers might step off of the stage during the installation (as they did in rehearsal), the set-up clearly indicates where the dancers will be performing and where the audience will be watching. What if the audience walked onto the T-stage to interact with the dancers? I’m tempted to try this, but is this really “allowed” or is it overstepping the audience-dancer boundary? Since we’re all copiers, if one person does it, I have a feeling others will follow.
Jill Johnson working with the dancers
While observing the dancers, I was amazed by how much the piece had progressed since the first rehearsal. The initial task-oriented exercises had developed into longer, more complex phrases of movement to David Poe‘s beautifully rhythmic composition. It was interesting to see how a group of four dancers, who had been working together on the first day, incorporated their initial improvisations into a larger, more complex framework.
At times, Jill and the dancers seemed to be speaking a foreign language, communicating with key words or short phrases to signify what part of the choreography they were about to review. At other times, they merely made eye contact to identify an important count in the music for starting or stopping. The fact that Jill and the dancers were able to understand one another and be on the same page through all of this is an indication of how immersed they are in the creative process. It also made me aware of how disconnected I was (and am) from the process. An audience usually just sees a finished product, and their connection to and understanding of the work is therefore solely based on that experience. Dancers and the choreographer – Cedar Lake and Jill, in this case – have an entire rehearsal process in addition to performances to build and contribute to a piece, and eventually form a connection to it. I’ve been lucky enough to peek into some of Cedar Lake’s rehearsals and observe the process, and this will undoubtedly enhance my experience while observing the installation next week. However, I’m realizing that even a few glimpses do not allow me – or any viewer – to absorb and connect to the piece the way that Jill and the dancers do. I can certainly appreciate rehearsals (and I’m fascinated by the evolution of a work), but unless an individual is immersed in the creative process as a dancer or choreographer, it can feel like an unknown world.