As I think back through time, my memory is both fuzzy and sharp. It's hard for me to remember important things, like names, but I'm keen on small details. Most people who meet me would likely describe me as introverted. That's true, but it's less about shyness and more about how I'm consistently lost in my own head...I'm a total space case...and while I'm in there, I'm gathering a multitude of particulars about the world around me. I can remember exactly what a friend was wearing at a house party twenty years ago, but I have a hard time remembering my middle daughter's 3rd grade teacher's name. (This just happened).
So, when I sat down to write this post, I vividly remembered the showcase I went to on a Saturday afternoon in late May/early June 1996 at the Drake Theater. I even remembered what I was wearing (a late-90s trend: Gap short-sleeve Oxford in blue and green windowpane plaid). But I had to scroll back through my iPhone calendar to figure out the correct date. June 1, 1996.
On that day, my mom and I were downtown. Sixteen, a dancing queen, I was training often, and Saturdays meant that I was taking my weekly modern jazz class with Roni Koresh. After the class was over, I recall Roni saying to all of us, "come over to our show at the Drake." I wanted to be one of the cool kids, so I begged my mom to stay a little bit later in town, and my mom agreed to it, likely because the showcase was free.
It was a gorgeous, mild, early summer day - one of those rare days in the city when it's not too hot or crowded, when everyone is out shopping and staying on the streets a little longer than they'd planned, and I couldn't get enough of the vibe. In 1996, the Drake was still a hotel/low-rent apartment building and the black box theater could still be rented by anyone. It felt like a place where things happened. My eyes were glued to the stage.
At that showcase, I received my first introduction to post-modern dance and that was wild. I believe Karen Bamonte and Melanie Stewart were on the bill. I believe that Myra Bazell was in the show, but again, fuzzy memory. There was an early iteration of Koresh Dance Company. I also saw two performances that literally crashed into my skull and transformed my mind about what dance could be. I saw Rennie Harris leading one of his first crews in "Students of the Asphalt Jungle" and "Endangered Species." Twenty years later, I can still call up how I felt, watching these super-human creatures demolish the stage, and how my heart burst out my chest as I first encountered hip hop as story-telling. (BTW: Do other people have "a thing" in their life like dancing is for me? I hope so, because dance lights my whole body on fire, and if you don't have something similar in your life, go find it). Anyway, I had never seen a dance piece lit or staged or constructed in that way before. It opened up a door in my mind to seeing choreography as something that could touch people. As a medium for making people feel all of the same things I felt when I heard music. As a tool for me to use all of the details and pictures and colors and sounds and ideas I had long collected in my own head. Also, if could If I had to pick one person who continues to inspire me with his humility, drive, vision and plain old badass, MFing-next-level-s### dancing, (I'd add more curse words, but I'm trying to keep this PG-13), it would be Rennie Harris.
I also saw Robert F. Burden, Jr. leading Tap Team Two and Company through a set that included Robert singing, shouting, and leaping about ten feet in the air at various intervals....basically being Robert. I remember looking at my mom and saying "I want to do that." Little did I know that I would be, less than two months later.