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Ad hoc Ballet: Trying for Truth

by Ilona Wall
April 16, 2007
New York, NY
Installment #2
Deborah Lohse has begun ad hoc Ballet with three female ballet dancers: Amy Brandt, Elizabeth Brown, and Candice Thompson. She has extremely close relationships with all of her dancers which she says is wonderful, but admits can be hard at times. Her approach to her company seems nearly ideal from a performer's standpoint. Not only are her goals for ad hoc Ballet all related to creating a stable environment for her dancers (i.e. paid rehearsals and performances, a pointe shoe fund, regulated scheduling, and ultimately, she hopes, legal contracts), but she also asks each dancer what they feel they need to work on, and angles her approach to accommodate them. As Lohse puts it, "I want to feel like when we come together to work, we're all working on something. I want to be a company where people can come to grow artistically. And I need dancers to bring more to the table than just their ballet training."

Lohse is adamant about using ballet dancers who "have already done sugarplum onstage." She feels this is a prerequisite for being able to work honestly and openly at something other than simply being beautiful onstage. Because of the nature of her subject matter, Lohse describes much of the movement in her new work as "intentionally ugly." When I asked her why she was drawn to this she answered, "Because you have to be really honest with yourself to be ugly onstage. You need to ask yourself, 'Do I dance just to feel beautiful?'" To this end her choreography demands intense eye contact and a tangible connection between the dancers. The more connected the dancers are, the less conscious they are of the audience. The desired effect is for the artists to completely lose their awareness of the audience. Lohse believes this is the most interesting thing to experience as an audience member: the feeling that one is an unobserved spectator in something genuinely happening between others. Lohse also says that "ugly can be beautiful." But one has to really look at what's happening. And the true beauty lies in the fact that because it's real, it's different every time. "I want to be surprised when I see my own work." With choreography that pairs down and places emphasis in something other than "the steps," surprise will surely be a crucial aspect of the ad hoc Ballet inaugural season.

For Lohse, consistency is just as crucial an element of her creation as surprise. She maintains as many constants and possible in terms of dancers, rehearsal scheduling, and studio location. Lohse feels that these constants help her as she continues to find her choreographic voice. In the studio Lohse gives her dancers what she as a dancer wants to be given. She comes into the studio with a basic outline and then gives the dancers phrases of movements to music. She does not specify the counts, but allows each dancer to make the phrase their own and discover their own musicality. "It's an incredible thing to be able to make choices onstage," Lohse says. Through this process, the dancers really begin making their choices in the studio. Each dancer adapts the quality of the phrase so it becomes her own, and this creates the freedom and comfort she needs to be genuinely "in the moment." This is a phrase used all too commonly in reference to dance and other live performance. But when it happens, the audience realizes that there is no better way to describe it. Whether the performer makes their choices by whim or necessity, the audience understands that this performance could have been delivered in no other way. There is a world of mobility within the guidelines of steps and music. When a dancer is completely comfortable with the material, the intent, and the music, something truthful is born for the performers as well as the audience members. This truth is what Lohse is driving at. It is also what we seek when we buy tickets and take our seats for a show. It is a noble quest, and ad hoc Ballet is working with its all to make it happen.

For more information about ad hic ballet: www.adhocballet.com
Ticket info: smarttix; May 11th, 8 & 9:30pm; May 12th, 3 &8pm
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