Sydney Dance Company’s Thomas Bradley writes:
Milk the cow, separated crossings, lady feint, olympics, migration. While these phrases may seem totally extraneous, they are, in fact, exactly what assist us dancers in Project Rameau.
We’ve generated a lot of movement since we began creating – there’s an incredible amount of detail and richness to the dance phrases we’ve developed. And now that most of the work has been structured, we’re at the point of running sections to the musical scores.
At a recent showing, one man approached me flabbergasted, “How on earth do you remember the steps?” I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what helps!”
Giving quirky names to particular movements, like the ones I mentioned earlier, is a favourite at Sydney Dance Company. With such an abundance of creative minds and energies often these quirky terms come quickly and are highly amusing.
Sometimes it’s about concocting a ridiculous, or very basic, story in your head to fit with a sequence of movement. It may only make sense to you, but as long as your leg is around your head by the count of five, you can tell whatever story you like – providing of course that it’s the correct leg, and your head!
Quite often you’ll see a dancer ‘marking’* through movement, and if you get a little closer you can hear them as well. Subtle, almost inaudible sounds, are usually an indicator of someone trying to remember a sequence. Luckily it’s something that seems to come fairly naturally to dancers because you’re absorbing the same information through different senses. Essentially, you’re involving body (muscle memory) and brain: your muscles are physically taking in the movement while you’re hearing the rhythm of the movement.
The dance we’ve generated is detailed, sometimes very intricate, and the movements need to sit in very specific places, especially during unison work. These techniques help us keep on track, and allow us to eventually sit back into the counts, let our bodies talk and enjoy the music of Rameau.
*’Marking’ is a rehearsal process used by dancers, where they mark simple movements in the dance to save energy. Marking helps to commit long passages of choreography to memory.