“Young dancers are like leaves- blow on them, and they move.” –Sir Frederic Ashton
And indeed they do. Seemingly twirled by brazen breezes and tumbled by gusts like ghostly guffaws, the dancers of The Wooden Floor (www.thewoodenfloor.org) create flurries of gestural movement as they flow across the Santa Ana studio space, rehearsing visiting choreographer Ivy Baldwin’s “Time-Lapse Alphabet” for Sunrise, next week’s 30th anniversary concert at Irvine Barclay Theatre (www.thebarclay.org ).
One of a trio of brand new works being presented- the other two are returning choreographer Mark Haim’s “The Land of Nodding” and Artistic Director Melanie Ríos-Glaser’s “Billowing Bubbles”- TWF newbie Baldwin describes her piece, which is set to an original composition by Justin Jones, as “sculptural, yet influenced by many, many, disparate elements.”
“My movement vocabulary changes a lot,” she explains, as we sit down for a chat before the rehearsal begins. “For instance, much of what’s generated for this piece is from improvisation with the kids here, yet you can still see through it a line of themes that are interesting to me, such as weather systems and time- lapse videos, renaissance architecture and elaborate hand and arm sequences. Then I’ll bring it all together to create something new.”
Baldwin, a New York-based performer, teacher and choreographer whose eponymous company Ivy Baldwin Dance (www.ivybaldwindance.org ) has toured both nationally and internationally, says she was excited when Ríos-Glaser called her about coming to Orange County to work with The Wooden Floor for the very first time.
“I spoke with a couple of friends and colleagues who both said ‘if she offers you the job, take it!’” she remembers. “It sounded intriguing, working with the kids, and it has turned out to be one of the most amazing, inspiring, creative processes I’ve ever had for work.”
“The mission of The Wooden Floor (which is empowering underprivileged youth through dance) has turned out these kids who are super-dedicated, talented, and super-committed,” Baldwin continues. “We have 4- hour rehearsals, and that’s a long time to focus and to dance, especially right after school. It’s impressive! They have great imaginations, and I think their openness (to new ways of moving) is a testament to the people they have worked with. They’re used to doing experimental, abstract modern dance. It doesn’t really faze them too much.”
“You do have to stay on your game,” she says candidly, reflecting on the challenges inherent in creating a new piece with more than sixty 12-17 year olds. “People of that age are so energetic, it’s exhausting the amount of energy it takes to make it all work! When I am with my company, there’s a lot of up and down time, and maybe only six people in the room total. That makes a difference.”
It may be her first time working with younger dancers, but Baldwin is clearly up to the task. (check out their early rehearsals of “Time-Lapse Alphabet” at: http://vimeo.com/55956554 and http://vimeo.com/61734508 ) And she remains committed to using a similar creative process to the one she uses with professional dancers and her own company.
“I’m starting with a blank slate, making a piece that is both for and with them, and that’s really important to me. It’s been a combination of asking them to do movement from me and also having them create some set material in a collaborative, improvisational way. All the ingredients, all the little pieces are creating the context, and we’re finding meaning in what we’ve made.”
“It’s just been really exciting to be in a very different process than I’m usually in back in New York,” she concludes. “It’s important to do different versions of things you love in your life. Being here has reinvigorated my love of dance. It’s important to have this.”
The Wooden Floor presents “Sunrise” May 30th through June 1st at Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine. Performances are 8:00 p.m. nightly, plus a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $20 for General seating and $50 for Benefit seating, which includes a $30 tax-deductible contribution. There is a half-price discount for children under 13 and for students. For more information call (949) 854-4646 or go to http://www.thewoodenfloor.org .