Dancing Semaphore

A late afternoon session at my sewing machine, buried in piles of netting, finishing the costume for my current dance project Semaphore:

I’m excited to be presenting this new wee solo Semaphore tonight and tomorrow, at a coffee house presentation put on by students of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre (my Alma mater). I’m friends with Megumi Kokuba, one of the current graduating students there, and we decided it would be fun to work on something together for her last student coffee house. We settled on Semaphore Flag systems — in both English and Japanese — as an inspiration point.We choreographed together, Megumi is performing and I’ve made the costume and set, comprised of giant paper airplanes (it was fun learning how to fold them online. I was never a big on making paper airplanes as a kid, so I had to look ’em up, now I’m hooked).

Megumi models the costume in studio B (I have spent many hours of my life in this room, taking class, rehearsing, teaching class, choreographing, sigh):

The work literally uses Semaphore Flag positions to spell out the words “remember” and “solitaire” in English and Japanese. We created choreography using the flag symbols as a starting point, tracing their lines through the space. We also walked the points used in semaphore flagging across the floor. Megumi and I worked fast (we spent just 3 hours in the studio together, yikes!) due to mad schedules for both of us and I’m really pleased with the result. The music we used is by Buck 65, a fantastic Canadian artist. Both his music and lyrics in the song Paper Airplane speak to me of longing and reaching across space and time. A beautiful, lilting song, it felt like the right fit for this dance.

Check out a 3 minute clip of Semaphore I’ve compiled on vimeo. It was filmed during the tech run, first time under lights and with the “living set” of 3 dancers that walk with paper airplanes across the space and around the dancer throughout the work.

Rudi and Gene (3 1/2 years and 6 months respectively) both came to some of our rehearsals and also sat through the technical and dress rehearsals — they are superstars with focus and patience that belie their years and months. They actually enjoyed sitting in the dark theatre (for the most part, Rudi was a bit freaked by the super-dark between dances and the cheering from the fellow performers attending rehearsal) and watching the magic unfold under the theatrical lighting. Rudi’s quiet little wonderings were so charming, “Where’s the music?” (a legit question, oh contemporary dance in silence!), and “I see ghost shadows!” (oh massive shadows thrown by theatre lights!). As a mom it’s so rewarding to still be able to practice my craft and involve my wee kids in what I do. I love that they won’t remember the first time they attended a theatre event, it’s just part of their lives.

Well, as we say in dance before the show, merde (instead of break a leg, that’s for the theatre folk) and may your weekend be gorgeous.

Click here for details on the show Coffee House: Dark Roast.

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