I just told a friend that in addition to literary exegesis and the ability to bake a decent scone (thank you, The Cheeseboard Collective Cookbook), I can now add “installing a dance floor” to my skill set: in preparation for Dakshina’s performance this past weekend, the estimable Dom Chacon (a stage manager and tech director who was introduced to the OMA courtesy of Emily Cronin, Associate Director of the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, who has a deep theater background) oversaw the installation of a dance floor borrowed from Drexel University with labor contributed by Ani Leonhart, Aaron Madow, and yours truly.
It takes a village to prepare for a dance performance: Dom pulled many strings to borrow this floor from Drexel, since the floor that we would usually borrow from Bryn Mawr was already in service for a weekend series of performances there; Joe Hudgins from Housekeeping arranged a pick up of the floor with folks from his staff who delivered the 8 rolls to Marshall Auditorium in Roberts Hall. Following orchestra rehearsal, Aaron and I broke down the stage set up and helped Dom and Ani install the floor, which consisted of us unrolling these huge panels and then sort of shimmying over them (Ani favored a kind of cadenced hop, Aaron did an Electric Slide, and I basically shuffled) to stretch out the panels and smooth over the bubbles as Dom and Ani taped the panels down and covered the seams. We left Roberts Hall just a little before midnight and left the panels to “breathe” and settle in overnight. From pick up to basic installation, the process took about five hours for something that was literally invisible to the audience’s eye but absolutely necessary for the dancers, given the intricate footwork that is part of the basic idiom of Bharata Natyam dance that informs Daniel Phoenix Singh’s choreography.
On Friday, Kai Xin Chen and Danny Bedrossian from Blast (the student-run tech group that makes magic for student concerts and performances on campus) devoted most of their day to working with Lisa and Todd Mion, the stage manager and lighting director for the company. How hard can this be? It is, as I learned, an extraordinary feat of choreography in and of itself: one part of the process included the activity of sending Dom up in the aptly-named “Genie,” a lift that works when you rub the side of a lantern (no, actually, you have to get the key from Facilities) and enables you — that would be, Dom — to adjust the lights and install the gels that literally as well as figuratively color the atmosphere for the performance. Nancy Merriam, who coordinates performances for the Music department, mentioned that their budget line for lights for the stage is $1,500 a year, which made me very grateful for the instructions that orchestra conductor Heidi Jacobs had given us the night before on how to turn off all of the stage lights, and which newly emboldens me in imparting this message to the resident 7 and 10 year old in my household who believe that lights should be left on in any room that you may enter at some point over the course of any 24 hour period.
All this work for what? A phenomenal performance by an extraordinary dance troupe that includes a computer scientist-turned-choreographer and a world class biochemist. But more on this later….