Thursday, December 11, 2008
Randy Granger, Composer; Debra Knapp, Choreographer
Music, rhythm, movement, peace and grace all in less than ten minutes. There is something so ephemeral about music and performance, yet eternal. Last weekend was the premiere of a dance piece “Peace Dance” set to music by me called “Ancestor’s Dance.” The music was commissioned by the NMSU Dance Program and choreographer Debra Knapp. We had worked together on a multi-media project last year so I was honored and very happy and excited though wondered exactly ‘when’ I would be able to get to it. I stopped by their dance studio on my way out of town to perform and watched what they had so far, took notes and filed in my creative storage room of my mind to let it stew. Debra said she had been to Hawaii recently and was struck by the peacefulness of their native culture and how it didn’t seem to have the violent history (I called it cultural baggage too) that our mainland tribes have. She wanted to dance to give a a sense of coming from the ancestors through the generations. I understood what she was saying and in my studies of Polynesian cultures I had sensed that strong self-identity and peaceful grace based around water that is reflected in their dances, music and art.
Randy Granger & Candance Williams, Dancer
I ran into Debra at the Renaissance Faire where we were both performing and she said she loved the song….but that it was just a tad too fast for the dancers. I laughed imagining them passing out during the performance. She said if I could slow it down a touch without offending my artistic vision it would be helpful. I’m not a purist by any means so agreed. When you watch the video below you see how athletic and physical the movement is. The premiere of our collaboration was December 6, 2008 as the finale of their Tis the Season program at the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces, NM. I was really looking forward to the dance but was surprised when Debra introduced me in the audience to the packed house of over 400 and said that the dance would not have been possible without my music and was grateful to have such a talented composer living here. Needless to say I was pretty embarrassed but grateful. Before the number came on I hid in the back of the theatre to tape it and avoid the tomatoes if people hated it….
I needn’t have worried. The dancers were really amazing, sensitive and emotive. They were really beautiful and I was so so proud of them and truly happy as if my spirit was actually smiling and beaming. Debra’s choreography was brilliant and told a story of a people’s movement through time. It was wistful and emotional. I thought how beautiful is dance that you must be attentive to it as it happens because unlike a CD, movie or book once it is done only the ghosts of movement are left on that stage. Knowing that my music, my creation and assemblance of notes and instruments inspired dance movements was pretty fulfilling. I used the Ocean drum to simulate the sound of waves and water, the Native American flute to represent the voice and both the Ding and Gu sides of the Hang drum. I added harmonized vocals that fall off at the end of phrases like I’ve heard the Maori singers do. I look forward to working with all sorts of artists. So far I’ve worked with Poets, jewelry makers, sculptors and dancers. Hmmm what’s next?
I’d recommend listening to the dance video with headphones to fully hear the low Gu part. Sorry it is so dark but it was pitch black in the theater. I’d love to know what you think of it. - Randy