Working with Dancers

As 19: The Musical, my musical-in-progress about the 19th (women’s suffrage) Amendment, takes shape, the collaborative part of the process becomes more and more important. Choreographers Danielle Marquis and Angela Norris, along with dance captain Kristen Briscoe, have been adding movement to each song. With the show still under development and the cast still “on book,” the dancing has been a key part of our workshop performances. It gives the audience something visual to follow. Their choreography is a combination of impressionistic emotive statements and precise representations of the story’s action. As the dancers set the dances, the music I have written has necessarily become more codified. I can no longer take the liberties I once took in accompanying the songs on piano. And conversely, the more the music finds its true shape, the more precise the dancers’ movement becomes. It has been a lesson for me in the shape of collaboration. We have a few semi-staged readings coming up, as we prepare this show for completion by next year—the centennial of the Amendment. If you’re in the Washington, DC, area, I hope you can make one of the shows, which are listed below. I’m on piano at every performance, so if you do make it, please come say hello.

The Mother of All Lists

I am a list-maker by nature, so the idea of making a list of New Year’s resolutions is eminently appealing to me. I make one every year, and it is the mother of all my other lists. Of course it includes some of the standard items like “lose weight” and “learn French” (that one has been appearing on my list since 1988). But it also includes some very actionable goals. #6 is “Study modern choral music from England.” I may not put a check mark next to that and call it “done,” but I am looking forward to the pursuit. And I see that #22 this year is “make better lists.” So meta. I hope your list this year includes many achievable goals, and a few that really stretch you artistically.