fabric as a dance partner - Printable Version

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fabric as a dance partner - HelenaZF - 11-28-2006

A lot of us use "properties" in our dance ministry like flags and other worship extensions, and there have been lots of things written about how to interact with them. But another thing we use is just pieces of fabric. It might just be a simple length of cloth we carry whose color carries a message (like a red fabric symbolizing the Blood of the Covenant) or it might be something more designed and elaborate like a tallit (prayer shawl) that is used not just as an adornment, but to speak messages of covering, protection, holiness and possibly represent other things--like flying, wings, rushing water, etc.

Whatever it is, the fabric becomes your dance partner---not just a piece of your garment, or an object you present, but a real dance partner that you have to learn to work with to achieve graceful interaction. And like any flesh and blood dance parther, you have to become intimately familiar with your partners movement style, capabilities and personality to work together as a seamless team.

Fabric is very capricious. It moves in various unpredictable ways sometimes because of it's own shape, weight and the air currents that swirl around it. So a lot of rehearsal time working with the fabric is necessary before you can integrate it into one of your choreographies. You have to figure out how to gracefully get it from one place on your body to others where it needs to be, and always be aware of the shape of it as it lays on you, or as you manipulate it through the air.

So when practicing with your fabric "partner" try to recreate as much as possible the environment you will be dancing in. Consider whether there are ceiling fans (which change the air current directions) or obstacles that your fabric might snag and pull over. Consider how "wide" you are when you dance with your fabric partner and who might be in danger of getting snapped. Are there candles nearby that you might blow out as you sail by?

Wear the garment you will be wearing for the actual presentation to find out if there are parts that will entangle with your fabric, or cause static "cling". If possible, video your rehearsal so you can see and adjust the patterns the fabric makes as it moves through space.

It all seems very complicated, but if some attention is given to these details in dance preparation....you can achieve ethereal results from your fabric choreographies. The fabric can seem to the onlooker to become a living thing and it's own character in the dance. And that can be a very profound thing.

fabric as a dance partner - DeanZF - 11-29-2006

I have to smile at this thread. Capricious is such an interesting word.

I think of the many choreographies that I've seen where the fabric danced a prominent role, usually by design, but not always. I can remember a few pieces where a part of a banner was brought down to use, to wear, to partner with. I can remember more than a few where the partner was not capricious, but maybe recalcitrant! Smile Would not do what the dancer had in mind to save her life. Poncho type garments with formed sleeves where the dancer could not find the holes, tallit type garments where dancer could not figure out which way to put the tallit across the shoulders and dragged it all around the place almost like Linus' blankey.

One thing to keep in mind when dancing with fabric is your environment and the effect of your partner's moves on the viewers. If there are candles in your vicinity, and you get even the slightest bit close, half the viewers are going to hold their breath 'til you're done, hoping that you don't start dancing a flambeau. The other bit of fun stuff that we find in many smaller (read: lower ceiling) spaces has to do with hanging protuberances such as ceiling fans, speaker assemblies, and chandeliers. Has the same effect on viewers. Can make for a delightful bit of choreography or a fun bit of entertainment as you try to retrieve your partner from around the fan! Big Grin