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04/13/2010: "Ballet for Boats - Back in Berlin, by boat"

music: Carnival of Animals
mood: Playful

A few years ago, I found myself looking out on the Havel River -
which flows past the fabrik, a center for contemporary dance and performance in Potsdam,
like the Mississippi flows past the Nicollet Island Inn in Minneapolis -
and I thought, someday someone is going to use this water as the stage for a beautiful performance.

I mentioned this to Sven, one of the fabrik's directors. He invited me to come to Potsdam in May of 2009 to get the perfromance started. And now it is happenning!

I'll do my best to keep this as a rehearsal blog for the Dance on the Deep Sea - a Ballet for Boats.
Tanz im Tiefen See - ein Ballett für Boote.

Meahwhile, here are a couple of links to actually see,
in video and photos, what I am writing about:
Link to Facebook

& Link to youtube
(Click on my name there, and it should bring up at least 7 very short videos of the rehearsals)

March 23, 2001
The performance on May 12 doesn't seem so far away, but we got out on the water today! The Anna Maria, with skipper, Günther Schauder sailed into the Marina am Tiefen See to pick up our core team, Patrick Scully, Susann Roge, and Mariona Naudin. Günther came in all the way from Werder. He took us out onto the Deep Lake, our stage. (The German name, Tiefer See is Deep Lake actually, but Deep Sea is so much more poetic!)

The Anna Maria is an old crab trawler, and we got to see how she moves on the water, what she looks like, up close and from far away, and we got to be out on our stage aboard her. The most exciting thing about the whole rehearsal process is discovery - noticing things that I hadn't even imagined. Being open to surprises. Anna Maria brought us a big surprise. Traveling at the maximum speed allowed (our stage has a speed limit for boats) she leaves no wake! None. The absence of a wake is a big deal, because many boats with motors traverse this lake within the speed limit, and leave a considerable wake. These waves are a problem for racing sculls, (Olympic row boats). I can have these sleek boats a lot closer to the Anna Maria than I thought would be possible.

We also discovered that she takes 8 minutes to travel from downstage, nearest the audience, to upstage, not quite a mile away (1.2 km). She takes 5 minutes to go from stage right (near the Aldi grocery store) to stage left (the Babelsberg beach). Dry details, but very important for a choreographer with 50 minutes to work with. Noteworthy regarding the Anna Maria is that she has a beautiful mermaid on her bow, and when her propellor is in reverse, her stern end can swing nicely to either side.

Check in with us often as this dance develops. Special thanks to fabrik/Potsdam for the chance to focus on a creative project for these two months.

March 25, 2001
We hit the water today with the kayaks from Potsdam per Pedales! Again the excitement of discovery! As the kayaks lined themselves up along the shore, getting ready to all head out on the water, I was reminded of an orchestra tuning up. When they finally, in unison, moved forward, it was as if the entire orchestra played the same major chord. I could exhale, after holding my breath for too long.

Other discoveries:
• Unison movement in these two person kayaks is challenging. Because of strength and body size differences you can either have:
a). all the boats moving together at the same speed
b). all the paddles entering and leaving the water at the same time.
but it may take a lot of work and practice to be able to get both a). and b). at the same time.

• It is very satisfying to watch the paddles move in and out unison.

• Unison movement applies to two paddlers in a single boat, as well as to looking at all of the boats at once.

• Contrasting slow motion paddling with real time paddling creates a very dream like, cinematic kind of magic on the water.

I am sure even more discoveries await us, not just with the kayaks, but as the rehearsals begin with the others: racing sculls, sailboats, Huckleberry's (small pontoon rafts with motors) and a few other big boats.

An upcoming to be solved puzzle: Do we incorporate the passage of a water taxi into the middle of the dance, or change the start time to avoid it? The "water highway" will be closed for the event, but we may have to/get to deal with this one taxi.

March 28, 2001

It was hard to not feel a bit let down as our rehearsal this evening started. Three days ago it was much warmer, sunny. Today it started to rain. And it was colder. But we got started, and low and behold as we experimented with ways to get kayaks to do si do around each other, the sun broke through, and we were paddling on a lake that had one end of a rainbow stuck right down into it. We learned how to have several boats make an arc across the water (the inner curve slow, the outer fast) and not lose formation. Then the almost full moon rose, and we were treated to a copper sunset. The do si do is fun, and we figured out two different ways to do it. Two boats head toward each other, passing close on the right side 1. The back person in each boat grabs the right hand of the rear paddler in the other boat - just as they are about to pass, so that the boats swing around each other. 2. The front paddlers grab right hands, while this time the back paddlers continue paddling forward...It looks more awkward, and very different from the back hand grab.

If you can't picture it, you'll either have to check out our videos, or come see the show.

April 2010
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