Full Radius Dance is one of the most inspirational troupes I have ever encountered. Their spirit and energy uplift everyone in the audience. This Friday and Saturday, under the leadership of executive director Douglas Scott, the Full Radius is performing “New Favorites” at 7 Stages Theater, 1105 Euclid Ave. Their guest artist is Alice Sheppard. She has agreed to give us some insight into her role as a guest performer at one of the most innovative dance companies in the nation.
REFLECTIONS by Alice Sheppard
For the past week, I’ve been drinking my morning coffee quickly and jumping in a car hoping that the rush hour journey from Decatur to the Cobb County studio will give me a chance to steady my nerves. I’m new to town. I’ve been invited to join Full Radius Dance Company for their January concert, and rehearsals are well underway. As the road stretches in front of us, I go over the choreography in my head: turn, scoop arm, flip hand, look, flex the wrist, S around, and … and …. I’ve danced for AXIS Dance Company, Infinity Dance Theater, GDance, Maria Bauman, and Marjani Forté. This is my first experience with Full Radius: I want to get it right.
Being a guest artist in an established company is an odd experience. Every company has a different culture. The basics are the same, but the niceties are different. Is it all right to eat in the studio or should we only drink water? All the company members have years of experience with each other: Their trust level is high, and they are well-versed in that private dancers’ code that people who dance often with each share. They know what each tiny gesture or vibration in the body means and how to respond. Sometimes, words aren’t necessary.
As a guest artist, part of my job is about making it possible to dance without the history. This is especially tricky, as I’ve been invited to learn the role of a former company dancer. His part was created for him, and it plays to his many strengths. His body is entirely different from mine; he’s much taller and undoubtedly much stronger. I worry that the cast will constantly be aware of how he did it. Dancer body memory recalls more than the movement; it also remembers how another person feels, where their body touches, where they are in space, and the qualities they bring. I hope we won’t have to make too many changes to the original choreography. It is Four Years Ago and it is Yesterday is a beautiful, haunting piece.
Luckily, Douglas and the dancers are friendly, open, and supportive. The rehearsals go easily. We warm up together; I study the dancers seeking to match my movement style with theirs. Once we start dancing, I begin to find a flow. Slowly, we work out how to do the choreography. No significant changes, just the usual differences of two dancers. I breathe out. This might actually be possible! By night, I watch the video and make small versions of the movement. At our next rehearsal, my heart soars; we more than make it through a run. I begin to get a sense of how lovely the quartet in the middle is. Some of the music sticks in my head, and I sing to myself as we take our break. With each run through, I feel more secure in the movement and better able to dig deep into the emotional aspects of the piece.
I am excited to be here and honored to be on this journey with Full Radius. I hope you will be able to come and see the show.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.fullradiusdance.org.