A Rite of Spring Update at Last! (Letters from Rehearsal, Continued)

Hello all!

This diary entry has been a LONG time coming and as I have a WEE bit of free time I took it upon myself to update everyone on our AMAZING adventure thus far! So I asked Leon to get the address up and running so we all could be in the loop.

First off…it’s Wednesday June 27th, if you can believe it, and I find myself back in the city yearning to be back in the room with the Bill T. Jones gang! Only one more day until that moment!

When last you heard from this Rite of Spring diary Bondo had given the bittersweet farewell from North Carolina.

Well we just finished an INTENSE three weeks, for SITI Company 4 weeks, at Skidmore College for our combined summer intensives. SITI had, as usual, 60 participants and the Bill T. Jones gang had 40 students. Miracle of miracles the collaboration between our groups went FANTASTICALLY well. The dance students were incorporated into the final compositions beautifully, many spoke a lot as well as danced, and our SITI students got to take dance class as well. It was a fantastic marriage. HUGE thanks to Leah and Nicole and the whole Company at Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane. I think it went way beyond what we could have hoped for. Truly an inspired and inspiring intensive both for us and our students.

Now to Rite of Spring.

Actually, not yet…

SITI Company was invited to be a part of the Bill T. Jones season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in June, dancing in Continuous Replay. This dance I believe was a solo Arnie had made years ago that Bill has expanded and blown out. I could be way wrong about that history, but in my mind that’s how it goes. It’s a beautiful piece, really beautiful.

Anyway, over the years Bill has invited many guest artists to dance in this piece. All one needs to do is to learn the 45 gestures REALLY well, and then also learn the structure of the piece, which for much of it is quite open. Oh, and NUDITY is optional! Yes you heard that right. The piece starts out with the beautiful human body as it should be and over the course of the dance the dancers acquire black clothing, slowly moving to white clothing until by the end everyone is in white performing the whole sequence in unison as fast as can be. IT IS BREATHTAKING!

Well as you can imagine us older folks at SITI were turning the nudity thing over and over in our heads. Would we do it? Could I do it? Would one person do it and get everyone else on board or shame everyone else into doing it? As it turns out being naked wasn’t the hard part, spacing, finding freedom and staying with Rapido, the “Clock” was the hard part. It was cold so Rapido went extra fast!

Yup, we all got naked and you know what? That’s what that dance wants. It makes a difference. It needs to start out with everyone fully naked. It’s like and Edward Myerbridge, stunningly beautiful, and so the progression to being clothed and ending with everyone in white makes a HUGE impact. Everyone of our participants and my loved ones were BLOWN AWAY by that dance and DEEPLY moved.

For us, it was a rush, thrilling, terrifying, hilarious. The cross around alone was hilarious everyone running butt naked, and it was COLD!!!

But we got to see “D Man in the Waters” TWICE! Once in tech and once in performance. I remember that dance well from seeing it years ago. It killed me then and it still does! An ass kick for the dancers and a THRILL for the receivers! One of my favorite dances of all times! So happy to be in the room with it again and know the folks performing it!

As for Rite of Spring we hit the ground running. When the Bill T. gang joined us in our second week, their first week, we dove right in making new material and brushing up on the stuff we made in North Carolina. We didn’t have much time, just Tuesday and Thursday evenings and all day Saturdays but it was enough to throw down some new stuff with revisions. Janet Wong, as always, continues to be INSANELY on the ball. And she makes it fun and funny all the while. She blows me away!

I won’t go into much detail but our final showing the last Wednesday of the last week of Saratoga for all participants and the public was a THROW DOWN. I mean we threw it down! All of us had been in class all day everyday and to pull that out, at least for my 46 year old body was AMAZING!. The showing was like a MARATHON or a Short Track relay. It started at 100 and STAYED there! It was profoundly moving and productive and I couldn’t ever have imagined doing it with any other people than this particular group. We did the showing in the big theater, the JKB, on an unforgiving floor. Needless to say, my feet, ankles and knees were sore for DAYS afterwards.

Truly SITI and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company are simpatico in a CRAZY WAY! In fact, I feel like I’ve met colleagues and friends for life. They got into our summer ritual of “Porching” and would join us over at our porch or we would stroll over and hang at their porch. MUCH LAUGHTER.

But I think my favorite memory from the last month is of doing a spontaneous group improv to the entire Rite of Spring in the tiny little living room of Antonio and I-Ling after a long day of teaching and taking class. Talli was the one who really got the ball rolling and I didn’t think I’d have any energy for it, but it was AMAZING! No one said a word the entire time, just dancing, sometimes making sound, really getting to be with the whole piece of music. Part of the impulse behind this I believe, was that we hadn’t as a group actually sat down together and listened to the entire Rite from beginning to end.

So this spontaneous improv session inspired us to do a Viewpoints improv to the entire Rite at the beginning of each rehearsal from that point on. I found it intensely useful not to just generate material but to really get the score in our bodies from beginning to end.

Which brings me back to our Rite showing on the final Wednesday. We all did morning classes and then met in the theater to go over the evening. I was already pooped out by the time it reached 7:00 but the adrenalin kicked it. We began the evening, as we did in Chapel Hill, with the Dance of Death. Each of us was to dance our own particular phrase as long as we could, then when we were spent we had to raise our right hand as if we were being sworn in, and exit the stage. I went longer than I ever had in the past, which was cool. It ended with Jenna, I-Ling and Antonio duking it out while the rest of us were off stage shouting encouragement to keep going. It was INTENSE and incredibly moving! Jenna was the last person standing…unbelievable! Then from their we went right into a FULL ON Viewpoints improv to the ENTIRE Rite and right after that we showed the set material we had made. All in all it was about and hour and twenty minutes of full on dancing and physicality. Amazingly everyone came out of it alive and no accidents with the stools we have been using for our set. I saw Jenna backstage at the end and I said something like, “Oh my God that was INTENSE!” and she said, “Welcome to the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company!” It did feel like a right of passage of sorts and my body felt it for days after.

Another delightful aspect our our summer together was the kids. Every summer SITI’s kids, Paddo, Imogen and Amaya-Nan, have a reunion in Saratoga Springs and get to hang together and play in their imaginative worlds. It’s very beautiful to see them growing up together and if they don’t see much of each other during the year it’s as if no time has gone by when they next meet.

This year they had a new friend Mieke (sp?) who is Jennifer and Paul’s daughter from the Bill T. Jones gang and the same age as the other kids. As kids do they became fast and instant friends! Watching them play and bond was fantastic and so nice as an adult to see. I think when they had to leave each other they were very sad.

So that about wraps it up, I’m leaving a lot out as I don’t want to bore you. But it was a fun, funny and intense time.

This week we have only two rehearsals here in the City, then we won’t meet again until September. I hear we may be learning some vocal music this week…hmmmm!

Sending love to all.



Barney O’Hanlon has been a SITI Company member since 1994 and collaborator with Anne Bogart since 1986.

This is a series of diaries from members of SITI Company and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company as they work on their new Rite of Spring collaboration. To view previous entries, click here.