alison cook beatty. tintinnabuli: 8 months at warp speed

alison at le pain quotidien

alison trying on the yellow dress

February 20, 2012. Alison, at my suggestion, or to be honest, intense badgering, has begun to choreograph seriously and asked me to video her new solo piece, danced to Arvo Part’s, Tabula Rasa. A few days earlier, Alison stopped by my apartment to choose a dress as a costume for this dance and I “forced” her to let me shoot portraits in each dress while she tried them on and decided which would work for the solo. After narrowing it down to a few choices, it appeared that the yellow vintage dress would work best with the movement. Now we were at the Joyce Soho studios giving it a try.

I shot stills during Alison’s first run of TINTINNABULI so I could learn the dance before I shot video. The studio was small and the dance used the entire space so I knew capturing something coherent was going to be difficult. As we worked through several runs, I had to follow Alison through the studio, traveling across the dance floor with her, shooting the piece from whatever angle I could based on where she was in the studio space. As we moved through the second and third run through, I realized my ever changing vantage points made the video much more interesting than if I had stayed in one place. As it turns out, this shoot influenced all of my dance shoots that followed. During recent shoots, especially with Ballet Next, I had begun to wander the dance floor during rehearsals but never so aggressively.

first shoot of tintinnabuli. 02/20/12

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Alison’s solo with all the effort I was putting in, I wanted to make sure I got something that worked for me during this shoot I asked Alison to improv some of the movement near the studio’s mirrors. Now, seeing the dance in small pieces, repeated over and over again for my photography, I better appreciated what Alison had done. Near the end of the shoot, Alison mentioned that there were 3 more minutes of music she needed to fill to finish the dance. This music was much more intense than the section already choreographed and Alison hadn’t yet figured out how she would make the transition. I suggested the solo become a duet where Alison would continue to perform the beginning section and a second dancer would replace her to end the piece.

tintinnabuli improv reflection

tintinnabuli improv reflection

My next three months were a whirlwind of picture taking and I didn’t have another chance to photograph Alison. My muse project took off and I began to work more closely with Ballet Next, shooting them several times each week. In May, I finally had a free moment to photograph Alison’s new company, later to be named ACB Dance, so I headed down to the Joffrey studios in The Village to video a new dance Alison had choreographed for nine dancers.

stephanie van doreen rehearsing inishlacken

Okay. This time I was blown away! This dance was incredible. All of Alison’s dancers were so beautiful and seemed to flow across the dance floor like the wind. Almost immediately I got the idea that Alison should choreograph a dance for Ballet Next. At first I thought this dance, Inishlacken, would be great for Ballet Next, converted to a pointe piece. But then Alison asked if I could also video the new version of TINTINNABULI, since it had now become the duet.

The dance had completely evolved over the 3 months since I shot the first video. Alison’s solo had so much more energy and the choreography for the second dancer, Chie Mukai, was intense. Michele Wiles, the co-artistic director of Ballet Next, was looking for a new choreographer to showcase her dancing and I thought this might be it. I thought TINTINNABULI would be amazing danced on pointe.

video grab of chie mukai rehearsing tintinnabuli

I was going out of town for 10 days so I kept my mouth shut and decided I’d bring it up when I returned home. I got back to NY just in time for Ballet Next’s auditions and their fast and furious rehearsals immediately afterwards. It was only when the dust settled after a series of Ballet Next performances that I once again began to think of how I could bring Alison and Michele together.

alison and michele wiles during their second rehearsal of tintinnabuli

Michele kept talking about how she needed a new dance for her company so finally at the end of June, Michele, Alison and I met at the Park Café Diner near City Center studios and talked about the possibility of working together. In my mind I still had thoughts of Ballet Next performing Inishlacken, but Michele really wanted a pas de deux for herself and this really did made sense since TINTINNABULI would be much easier to recreate on a small company. In a week, Michele and Alison had their first rehearsal and it was wonderful to watch. They were like two sisters, feeding off each others words and thoughts. I can’t explain how happy I was, watching two friends work together creating something special. I had no idea of all the surprises the new few months would bring.

To be continued…

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