Monday, 14 April 2014

"Seasons changed, and the years went by but Roxaboxen was always there" : 'Really Is, Always Was' - Julia Corrigan

This weekend Goucher College held its annual Dance Concert in the stunning Kraushaar Auditorium. My friend Julia presented her choreographic work Really Is, Always Was at the concert. There was something very moving about the way her dancers moved through her choreography. There was a real sense of intent that drew me in from the outset. As well as making me want to go straight to the studio and dance, it also made me want to write. So here is a little review/stream of thoughts about Julia's work.

Julia Corrigan's Really Is, Always Was is a profoundly moving and driving work that was adjudicated in ACDFA (American College Dance Festival's Mid Atlantic Conference) in March 2014. Corrigan's work explores the idea of embodied memory and childhood. What does memory look like when manifested in our bodies? The work is influenced by the children's book Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran. Roxaboxen explores the imagination of a group of children who create their own imaginary town in the desert, using the sand, cacti and rocks around them. The incorporation of intense child-like happiness that can be found in freedom and play, is manifested as human curiosity and exploration in Corrigan's choreography.

The evocative and driving La Grande Cascade, Salento and Noel Aux Balkans composed by René Aubry sets the sincere, reminiscent tone of the work. Aubry's accompaniments drive the bodies through the journey of the choreography. The quick bursts of guitar and the driving piano melody match the dancers' bursts of energy and suspension as they spin, swinging and snaking their arms through the movement. The dancers crawl and cling and reach out with long graceful arms; longing for something lost, something distant, something out of reach.

The sense of melancholy created by the music is counteracted by the sweeping momentum of the choreography. Corrigan's beautiful use of her dancers serves her well in her choice of spatial formation that highlights the driving force behind the music. Dancers gather together in a tight clump on their knees, peeling away in canon and quickly travelling to the opposite side of the clump, before suddenly slipping back into the swinging, spinning momentum. There is a growing sense of overwhelming energy as the dancers seem to turn and fall and spin between the divide between memory and reality. Some seem to get lost in their memory, sinking deeper as their bodies lose control of what's real, while others seem to balance precariously on the knife edge between the two realms.

There is a sudden eruption of child-like delight as two dancers leap and jump across the empty stage. The space is theirs and suddenly the atmosphere becomes lively and full of human vitality. Two other dancers grip each others wrists and spin like children in a playground. It is at this point that the wondrous timelessness of McLerren's children's book becomes discernible. This careful amalgamation of child-like delight and poignant sincerity is incredibly powerful and thought provoking.

At last a single dancer walks calmly through the mass of bodies spinning and turning and falling through space. Among the chaos and storm of our memories there is still calmness and rationality. We all remember the sun-burnt blue skies of our childhood and familiarity of the grass between our toes. But how do we disentangle the divides between memory and reality? And what we can and can no longer have?