Letters from Rehearsal: A Meditation on a Rite of Spring (working title) Day 4

Hi Everybody!

This is Jenna Riegel (one of the Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Co. performers). Nice to meet you all who are reading in from afar… I guess I am officially the first from BTJAZ to log a daily diary so here goes…

It is early Sunday evening and finally cooling off after a nice hot and humid day in Chapel Hill. I have just arrived back at the Residence Inn after a pit stop at Whole Foods to stock up for an early Cinco de Mayo/ May Birthdays Bash that we are planning for our day off tomorrow. Let’s hope the T-storms hold off and the Sun graces us with its presence so we can bathe in it by the pool as we grill and play our newly invented “Rite of Spring” drinking game (you either count the Augur section correctly or a shot of Tequila goes down your drain!). Though we are becoming quite adept as a team with those damn Augurs, I fear we will all be drunk in no time attempting to take on this challenge solo…

I began my work day this morning on the hotel “veranda”(really just a slab of cement that extends from the main building), sitting in one of the eight or so rocking chairs. A family of four was playing out on the grass in front of me. I chose the rocker with the most direct sunlight hoping to get a good dose of vitamin D before heading indoors for rehearsal. As I sat and rocked I began the ritual meditation of pounding out the Augurs on my chest, mimicking what Talli, LaMichael, Barney and Akiko had done in their composition yesterday. I found it strangely soothing. As I neared the slow 7 I felt a presence to my right sit down in one of the other rockers. I didn’t look over, as I was deeply concentrating, and whomever it was respectfully abstained from interrupting. When I finished, I looked to see who my quiet companion was and found Jenn Nugent, eyes closed, mouth curled into a slight smile, rocking back and forth in the sun…

Anne was not in rehearsal today, so it was officially a “dance ’til you die” day lead by the mastermind Janet Wong.

We started with BTJAZ technique class with Janet. We reiterated much of what we learned on Friday and started to move through the exercises at a much faster pace. Right away I noticed that fatigue and soreness from the last three days of work had finally set in. I found myself attending more to taking care of my body than lending a hand to the SITI folk if they needed guidance, for this I felt a little selfish and guilty… When I did finally tune into the room I realized that though I had been inward, others were happily paired off going over the class phrases. This relieved me and helped me trust that it was okay that I had taken that time for myself. As a collective, we would take care of each other. Towards the end of class we learned a new rhythmic traveling phrase, which we later incorporated into part 2 of The Augurs of Spring section we have been building all week. We also began learning the first 10 shapes from a piece in the BTJAZ repertory called Continuous Replay.

One thing that is so inspiring to me is the SITI company’s work ethic… In every spare moment one of them is reviewing movement material we did in class, their own or their partner’s “dance ’til you die” phrases, or counting the Augurs to themselves… I have noticed that their efforts are contagious and I find myself and others joining in early at the end of lunch break or our 15-minute break to independently go over material.

The first part of our afternoon we spent reviewing what we had created for part 1 of the Augurs section and then tinkering with the last lift of the section. It just so happens that I am the one being lifted in that last lift so I can give you a good first hand experience of it (tee hee!). Essentially, I get to be passed from one strong set of hands to another doing a back walkover in the air. The lift finishes with me sitting on Dwayne’s right shoulder and reaching to the back of the room with my left hand. The secret irony of this scenario is that although I am a fairly small, 5’2″ woman surrounded by a bunch of six foot-something, 190 pound guys, I would much rather be the lifter than the lifted… Hahahahahahahahahahaha! That said, it is always a delight to get so close to experiencing flight… whether it is suspended, slow motion, astronaut-like flight or hurtling through space like a shotput and being deftly caught by trustworthy arms (GO AKIKO!).

After lunch we continued to work on the Augurs section, but on part 2. Bondo got to experience his own astronaut-like lift. I loved watching him in it because he simply held an almost Christ-like position and allowed himself to be rotated upside down and then right side up again. If he was at all nervous, it never showed. While half the group assisted in Bondo’s levitation, the other half of us (under the leadership of Rrrrrrapido) devised a swirling eddy of lifts that trail behind Bondo’s and sweep upstage. Antonio lifts Barney, I lift Ellen, Erick lifts Akiko… and so on and so forth. It is great fun and madness all at the same time!!! Yeehaw!

Though we all wanted to get finicky and perfect the timings and finesse of each partnered moment, Janet kept pushing us forward, eagerly wanting to sketch out the whole section. We powered through and got a good chunk of it mapped out. Highlights include: Stephen bustin’ through a jigging subway crowd, Erick pulling the whole group downstage like a little tugboat pulling a barge, Akiko’s shotput extraordinaire, a fast forward reiteration of the opening of the Augurs section, and finally Antonio dancing himself into a stunned death, falling backward and being barely caught by Barney, Dwayne and Talli…

There are 15 of us negotiating timing, spacing, weight-sharing, momentum and musicality but the way we worked today you would think we were all plugged into a motherboard… I was shocked at the coherency we could all maintain and yet, at the same time, was not surprised at all… Forgive me for being redundant, but it really does feel as though we have all been working together for much longer than 4 days.

Til Tuesday… Signing off.


Jenna Riegel is a performer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

This is a series of diaries from members of SITI Company and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company as they dig into their new Rite of Spring collaboration. They are currently in residency at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. To view all entries, click here.