When the audience is entering the theater and taking their seats, they’re listening to a pre-show mix tape put together by our stage manager, Valerie Oliveiro. It is a hot mix of old R&B and new-soul hipster dance tunes from various sources. The last cut, Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You,” brings us out on stage as a group and we start In A Rhythm from the top.
In A Rhythm is accompanied by music by Leonard Cohen, The Commodores, Donny Hathaway, Nelly, Mike Vargas, and Pamela Z, text by Angie and myself, and percussive tunes by both Steve Gadd and the radiator in the Smith studio. This diversity came about cumulatively: I played various tunes with various sections, responded to the emerging patterns, recognized opportunities for furthering or disrupting the flow of things, and set about organizing time. Some sections came together earlier and easier than others. The last-made sequences hung together and benefitted from the evolution of making and thinking that came before.
Right from the start the piece offers up words—mine and others—as well as dancing. I’m surprised by how good it feels to talk to the people sitting right there in front of me. I have a lot I want them to know, which is different than having text I want them to hear. I introduce the dancers—here they are, and these are their names! There are introductory words about syntax, about reading, about music, about rhythm. After a minute or two the dancers just start dancing, and there we go. The shift in and between sequences of movement, speaking, listening, and dancing are cued by silence and sound. The shifts are strategic, syntactical, personal, and choreographic. I hope what the audience sees, hears, and feels is meaningful to them. That is the best we can do.