Wednesday (yesterday) was a fairly typical day for me. After a couple cups of coffee and a banana, I grabbed a camera and two c-stands and headed over to Our Lady of the Lake University on the westside. I met up with Amber and her dancers. She was presenting a piece from her dance company, SpareWorks.dance, later that night at W-I-P Crème (this is the season’s best works from the Works in Progress series). Amber needed the c-stands because the piece, “Taken In Arms,” involves a translucent plastic sheet to be hung in the center of the stage. And she needed me, because I would be providing the video projection.
“Taken In Arms” was previously performed for a SpareWorks.dance fundraiser a few weeks ago. In that iteration, Amber was one of the dancers because of scheduling conflicts. So, one of the things they were working on for the Wednesday rehearsal was to get Jenny Been Franckowiak up to speed on the piece. The other dancers were Laura Beth Rodriguez, Charles Perez, and Eric Flores. This isn’t a particularly good photograph, but it’s indicative of these wedge-shaped tableaus (tableaux?) Amber creates out of bodies. These assemblages look incredibly striking with theatrical lighting.
The next stop was to drive home and load up some equipment to video tape a performance over on the southside. Among URBAN-15’s various outreach programs is the teaching of drumming and dancing to kids, mainly elementary and middle school children. I was asked to video document a final performance at New Frontiers, a charter school on S. Presa. I met up with George, Catherine, and Jonathan at the URBAN-15 studio, and we carpooled about a mile or two south to the school.
There was an assembly room with a stage area at the far end on the second floor. Beautiful. Hardwood floors, large windows along one wall, high ceilings. I set up my camera on a tripod and tried to guess the audio levels. George warned me that the acoustics were horrible. And as the kids began filling up the space, I realized what he meant. The kids were typically unruly, but the stamped-tin ceiling and the wooden floor were making the chatter a mushy wash of high decibels. Here are a couple of kids mugging for my still camera.
It was to be a short performance. I’d been told in advance that we’d start off with the young drummers. Next, the drummers would be joined with the kids from the dance class. And the final piece would be drumming with the dancers (lead by Catherine) moving into the audience and getting the kids and teachers to join them. I was curious how this final bit would go. I wasn’t sure if the teachers knew it was going to happen. They seemed overwhelmed as it was, trying their best to utilize some strange social engineering sign language to get the kids to shut up — a sort of countdown with three fingers, two fingers, one finger, and a fist. There were words shouted as well, but I couldn’t make them out over the general din. For the most part, the kids were quiet by the time the fist appeared. (Maybe it was supposed to be a zero instead of a fist….) Whether or not the teachers received the memo that fifty hyperactive kids would be given permission to join a chaotic conga line, I don’t know, but it was exhilarating to watch when they knew they were expected to join in. The photo below just doesn’t do justice to that sweet moment when the whole sea of kids collectively lost their shit.
Next I drove home and swapped out equipment. I loaded up an old standard definition camcorder, my laptop, a tripod, a computer monitor, and a shitload of various cables. I drove over to Say Sí for W-I-P Crème.
There were seven acts, I believe. And we only had about an hour to rehearse and tech in the space. I needed to set up my computer and monitor in the wings. I put the camera on the tripod, and hooked it into my computer with the longest firewire cable I have. I snaked a 70 foot s-vga cable along a side corridor to hook it up with Say Sí’s projector. I was having an issue with the output image which eventually resolved itself. (I hate when electronics “fix themselves” and you never know what the problem was and when it might happen again.)
Here’s a picture I took just before showtime out the window of Say Sí. The “Art Is” is part of a longer quote stenciled on the glass. Some generic art-positive bromide, which seems not so precious and patronizing when it’s floating in the clouds.
We were up first. The plastic sheet was set up. (This was to define the space for the performers, not to project upon.) A large white plastic cube was placed behind the plastic sheet. It had LED lights inside which slowly morphed different colors. And the projection was hitting a screen on the back wall. My camera was perpendicular to the back wall, allowing a side view of the action behind the screen. I used a VJ program to shift the imagery between video scenes of the dancers shot on previous occasions as well as the live camera feed.
The performance went off fairly well, I assume. I wasn’t in a good spot to see what the dancers were doing or even how the projections looked. All in all, it was a great line-up. I loved Fabiola Torralba’s piece, which I had missed at the last W-I-P. Amazing! And it was great to see Zombie Bazaar perform “Polly” again. He’s an out-of-focus Instagram. That’s talcum power in the air.