ALL RISE: Court Dance was influenced by several experiences I had in a courtroom: As a juror, a character witness, and as an assistant at a trial to a dancer with Huntington’s Disease, who was the victim of a crime. I participated with an open mind, excited and eager to engage in a process that represents the essence of our country. In all three cases I met people who were dedicated and caring, some even graceful. It was the system that left me disenchanted; a malfunctioning machine taxed by ridiculous delays, physical access issues, a sleepy judge, and a victim who was denied the opportunity to speak because her speech was impaired by her illness. In my role in the courtroom I was powerless to broach any of this, BUT I could choreograph a piece that shared the lens of my experiences.
I have a fascination (and a knack) for finding humor in just about anything. Humor is trustworthy; a powerful and connective tool. Though the initial idea of the ALL RISE project comes from some very serious experiences, the intention of ALL RISE is to suggest that there is inherent good and bad in everyone. I am not minimizing the serious and important nature of the judicial system but using a few thoughtful pokes of humor to open our eyes and minds to facets of topics that might otherwise be difficult and unapproachable.
Try as I may, I cannot seem to escape the use of props in my work. My work is conceptual and very visual; I tend to think equally about visually framed moments as well as kinetic ones. My past work has included hundreds of DAWN dishwashing detergent bottles, irons and ironing boards, a stage floor strewn with potatoes, piles of suitcases, a cityscape of assorted cardboard boxes and video projections of Ireland I shot with a hand held camera. ALL RISE: Court Dance is no exception. The idea of the dancers constructing and deconstructing the set was at the helm of my initial idea. Three dozen foam cubes are used as weapons, the Bible, stepping stones, courtroom props and furniture, and a projection screen. They are part of the cast; the work would not exist without them.
The work would also not exist without the inclusion of CATA’s Moving Company. I believe in taking the societal measuring stick of our very vertically focused world, and turning it on its side; leveling the field to the horizontal. This provides for the mixed ability aspect of my work. The inclusion of adults with developmental disabilities is not so charted in the dance world. I am fascinated with what is possible when the stage is a democracy for the moving body.
ALL RISE: Court Dance integrates a group of dancers who are innately and purely honest. Traits that are the bedrock of our country's judicial model; One that claims to be fair, just and based in truths, but one that I believe has strayed.
I am grateful to Ella Baff and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival for their support and endorsement of my work. Without the Creative Development Residency and The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award Initiative, I would still be in the imagining phase of this concept. Additional thanks to my Community Access to the Arts (CATA) colleagues, Bettina Montano and Berkshire Pulse, The Honorable James B. McElroy, Steve Ball and Shakespeare & Company, and my very trusting cast!
ALL RISE: Court Dance
Photos: Brittany Brouker & Christina Lane
Cast: Lorimer Burns, Ali Flynn, Dawn Lane, Kelsey MacEachern, Louisa Millonzi, Leslie Nelson, Diane Prusha, Marissa Rose, Tracy Salvadore, Teresa Thomas, Olivia Wilber