Experience Post - "Works & Process" @ the Guggenheim - Avi Scher & Dancers

Performing IT MAKES ME NERVOUS by Avi Scher (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
It's really hard to perform freelancing work when you are dancing on contract for 40 weeks. For this reason, I didn't do much outside work while dancing with big companies. When word started to get out that I would not be returning during my last season with Pacific Northwest Ballet, I received a few facebook messages and emails from people to see if the news was true. One of those people was an old friend of mine, Avi Scher. He checked in to see if there was the possibility that I would be available to work in October. Lucky enough for me, I was.

Avi and I first met during our final year of training at the School of American Ballet. He had been training at the school since he was a young child. He even got to perform as Fritz in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker. Since Avi grew up in New York City, he had always lived at home. Being his final year of training, he chose to really immerse himself in the SAB experience. Although he lived only a few blocks away from the school, Avi moved into the dorms and into one of the rooms in my suite. We were in the same class and we got to know each other during that time, but he left mid-year to spread his wings down at the Miami City Ballet school. Avi has had a varied dance career, dancing as a company member and freelancer with many companies across the country. Though he has enjoyed a stellar dance career, he has also received much acclaim for his skills as a choreographer. He choreographed while at SAB and while moving around the country dancing. Eventually, he slowed down his dance career to focus on choreography and start Avi Scher & Dancers. His company has become best known for bringing in stars of American companies and mixing them with excellent-quality dancers from around the country, while still offering evenings of dance at an affordable price.

Although Avi Scher & Dancers didn't produce the evening of work I would dance in, he had been asked by the Guggenheim Museum to create for their regular educational series Works & Process. This specific series was dedicated to the music of Elliott Carter. The Guggenheim had a pretty fascinating idea to procure an evening of new choreography to his music with two choreographers creating dance on the same piece of music. Emery Lecrone and Avi both offered their choreographic voice while a moderator posed questions and offered the audience to get involved in discussion prior, inbetween, and after the performances. It was a pretty great concept.

 Avi Scher's IT MAKES ME NERVOUS (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Around the middle of September, I came up to New York to begin preparing this project. Although Avi and I stayed connected through social networking sites and word of mouth over the years, we hadn't seen each other or chatted much since we left SAB, aside from a random, awkward pass-by as he got off a plane I was about board (I had taken an anticipatory sleeping pill for the 6 hour flight and was moderately incoherent). It was great to catch up and to get to know each other as adults. But for the most part, we had to get down to business since we only had about 2 weeks to create/learn choreography to the 6 movements of music. Not only were we short on time, but the music presented challenges. Elliott Carter did not create a typical piece of orchestrated music. The composition was atonal, plucky, and extremely complex to count. This presented a few problems. Obviously, it was difficult to count. It was also difficult to choreograph to and equally difficult to listen to for extended periods of time. I enjoy choreographing as well, but I really give Avi credit for creating his work, IT MAKES ME NERVOUS, to this music. I would have a hard time finding much inspiration in this particular work. Somehow, Avi was able to make it work and created an interesting work that was quite well-received and enjoyable to dance. In fact, Oberon's Grove said, "IT MAKES ME NERVOUS made me want a second look in order to take in all the visual polyphony."

The cast of Avi Scher's IT MAKES ME NERVOUS
Aside from dancing on an important stage in the world of dance education, the best part of this entire experience was getting the opportunity to spend an extended period of time in New York. After spending 8 years away from the east coast, while living in Houston and Seattle, I felt like I had lost many of my dance connections. Aside from getting to reconnect with Avi and meeting the amazing dancers/new friends that were a part of this project, I also had the opportunity to reconnect with a great part of the dance world that I left behind when I moved across the country. I remember the first day that I returned to Steps on Broadway to get warmed up for rehearsal. I must have run into at least 10 people that I hadn't seen in anywhere from 1 to 10 years within minutes of arriving. For this reason, I call Steps the "Cheers of the ballet world." Being so far away and isolated from the core of the dance world for 8 years, I was pretty positive that most people had forgotten who I was or that I even existed. It was exhilarating, rewarding, and heartwarming to see that I still had this great connection with so many great friends and dancers even after such a long hiatus. This experience was a great homecoming. Not only did I have this wonderful dance experience, but I also had a wonderful life experience. Sometimes, living the life of a freelance dancer can be full of great surprises and rewards.

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