Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rhapsody for the Lake

Chicago Daly Plaza 1976
courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

I was one of 250 artists selected for a one-year artist-in-residence grant representing the City of Chicago on a CETA-AIR program, based on WPA projects, during the Carter administration.

The outreach of this program was vast. Artists of all media collaborated. We performed everywhere. Outside, such as here, was a joy. The balance is different when your focus can go out into the city's architecture, the sky, and the huge, wonderful sculpture, in addition to the live audiences.

This dance was created in honor of Lake Michigan! First performed at the very end of Navy Pier. The program cleaned up Navy Pier, put in a Summer Arts Camp for underprivileged children. At summer's end, a weekend of performances and art showings highlighted their triumphs. The Pier has been culturally active ever since.

My memories include: the sound technician pulling me aside one afternoon when I was sweating away, rehearsing at the end of the pier to the crashing lake waves on the jetty rocks, visible through the large windowed arena. Come here, listen, he said, and clapped, showing me where to stand to hear the one dead spot in the place.

Another day I finished rehearsing - this was an incredibly strenuous dance with huge leaps out of a lengthy turning in place to create a vortex of motion and stillness, using ballet, modern dance and Tai Chi - to the applause of the janitors. That brought a huge smile! They complemented me, "She's a pro. She's the one rehearsing." I was one of those performers Fred Astaire talked about, the ones who love the rehearsing and practice as much, but differently than, the performance.

I used live musicians whenever possible. The Navy Pier performance combined a piano piece transcribed for xylophone and viola.

During the CETA program the artists went into all the public schools, including the magnet schools for the performing arts and for the deaf, mental care homes, senior homes, day care centers and more, teaching and performing. It was magical and a lot of hard work.

We created Beautiful Chicago a theater dance piece that was performed about, and for ... beautiful Chicago! Our collective Valentine to the City we love/d.

And, I got to work with video artists, continuing collaborations after this program. We were asked to push the limits of what Sandin synthesis could do and ended up winning world wide awards for Stereopticon and more. These were video techniques that ended up in later years in MTV. The other dancer in the videos, Linda, then moved to join the Dance Theater of Harlem in NYC. We recorded our musician friend's music and used recorded music, including Alice Coltrane's Satchitinanda. Memories, anyone? The colors and effects we pushed in these videos were cutting edge, wonderful and ahead of their time. I remember people not "getting it" and then 13 years later people "got it". Ah, art.