Marimba: Still Entranced by Lar Lubovitch

As a sophomore in college I had the distinct honor of dancing Lar Lubovitch’s Marimba. John Dayger, long time Lubovitch rehearsal director and dancer, set the work in a number of marathon weekends- a process that proved to be my first REAL introduction to professional dance.

REWIND

I entered college from a dance studio owned by a couple of ‘adagio’ dancers. I studied ballet, pointe, jazz, and tap.  I taught classes to children. I dabbled in a little choreography. Dance notation to me, meant the notebooks filled with either stick-figures with counts or short-hand representing choreography that the studio owners created and I was to teach my classes. Choreography simply meant an assembling movement together and that movement was intended to demonstrate the skills we’d hopefully developed throughout the year.

When I interviewed for entrance into the dance major program and interviewed for a scholarship, my future mentor asked me my favorite choreographers. Having had zero dance history education apart from what I read in Dance Magazine and a book my first ballet teacher gave me, I listed Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and…Lar Lubovitch.

At this point you might think to yourself, “huh?! These are the three she lists? Kelly (mainstream), Astaire (mainstream), and…..Lubovitch (NOT mainstream for a girl growing up in a rural town in Michigan.).” The thought strikes me as odd, too.

The thing is, my dad likes to arrive places early. And I mean EARLY (especially when he’s anxious).  So, I had about an hour and half to kill in the hallways of the dance department before another auditionee arrived. There was still probably another half hour before check-in.  During this time, I read every article on every bulletin board I could find. Since Lubovitch had been in residence the year prior, his company performing and teaching several master classes, there were a lot of articles about the company’s presence and about Lar Lubovitch himself.  I recognized his name. Honestly. Remember, I was an avid reader of Dance Magazine.  And I thought I had seen some of his work on PBS. (To this day I am not sure that is true). Yet in my mind, in the span of two hours, he’d come to be one of my favorite choreographers.

RE-DEFINE

Magically, I was cast in Marimba during my sophomore year. It was the most intense dance experience I’d ever had. In fact, I think that was the most intense dance experience I have EVER had but mainly due to my age and level of training at that point. Here are some of the things that challenged everything I thought I knew about dance at that time.

Counting: Mostly 8’s. Sometimes 5’s or 7’s. Always consistant.

Lubovitch: 11, 12, 7, 5, 13, 9, 9,…..it was alllll over the place and actually had to be counted out loud by the group in order to keep track. Skipping 6 and 7 of course because the sound resonates into the house.

Composition tools: they exist

Lubovitch:  they are complex, beautiful ideas that shift movement into meaningful visual pictures and contextual ideas. They may also make you want to stab your eyes with forks because they can be that complex and relentless.

Cast:  the people that co-exist with you in Time and Space

Lubovitch:  No man is an island and without these people, you are sunk.  They are your life-line. And if someone happens to make a mistake in the fifth of a twenty-two minute piece that impacts the entire cast and the success of the entire piece, well….you better find acceptance and forgiveness because: 1. sooner or later that person will be YOU and 2. there is going to be another run of the piece in 5 minutes and anger will just get in the way.

Conditioning:  there is this thing called your “center”

Lubovitch:  nothing helps you find your center like running in plie for a 7 hour rehearsal on Saturday and doing it again on Sunday for 5. (Not to mention the 3 hours on Friday night). Weekend after weekend after weekend. (Which follow weeks of dancing 6 hours minimum per day). That kind of knowledge gets you through your 5 hour dance day when still moving (dancing) in the 9th month of your second pregnancy.

Elastoplast® is a miracle product when you have splits and blisters

Dancer’s tools:  shoes, mostly and then calluses

Lubovitch:  Elastoplast® is the greatest invention in the world. Second only to gaff tape (maybe).

RETURN to current day…..

So, this has all come up because yesterday during dinner I had a very powerful movement memory of a section from this piece. Sadly, I cannot remember the full name of the section….it was something like Big Turns, Fast Turns, Sudden Death.  It is my favorite movement I’ve ever danced, mainly because I love turns, speed, and being off-center. Then, when you divide movement by half each time it is repeated it becomes a wonderful, death-defying movement puzzle that keeps you engaged for…..umm….over a decade. Yikes!!

REFLECT

I dance, for most of the year, every single day. But this is the dancing I miss. The kind in which every cell of your being is engaged because your life, or the life you have dared to imagine for yourself, depends on it.

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19 thoughts on “Marimba: Still Entranced by Lar Lubovitch

  1. I remember this very first “Great Work” experience so well…such an incredible experience for our dancers. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories so eloquently!
    Jane

  2. A wonderful post Heather. Not only does this remind me of those marathon rehearsals learning the intricate beauty of “Marimba”, but now, as a dance educator, it reinforces for me the powerful impact such an experience can have on a young dancer! Great Works indeed!
    Thanks for the memories~
    Megan Slayter

  3. This was also one of my fondest memories at Western. All the work, pain, fustration…and intense pride. Pride for learning such a complex piece, finding joy in all the modern movements (I was originally a bun-head), and finding unity within the movement and amongst my friends. Your article is wonderful Heather and so very true.

  4. I loved the article! I too performed Marimba in college (2009 UCSB Senior Dance Company). John set the piece on us as well. Our company had 9 girls and one boy, so I danced Scott’s (original company member) position and had to learn all of the lifts. Learning and performing this piece is the greatest accomplishment of my life so far. I will never forget it. There’s nothing like the euphoric and hypnotic stage you reach at the end of the piece. I also always loved “sudden death,” as well as “increase decrease.”

    1. Best (?) memory at UCSB: Dress rehearsal for our very first performance of Marimba, and during the switchback running circle, the one with THAT plie-run…(I don’t remember all the section names! How could I possibly forget them?!) John Dayger suddenly bellows from the front row “NO MARKING”. We all start crying as we run. and still crying 10 min later as we reach nirvana.

      This article brings it aaaaaall back.

      1. Katrina,
        I love this. I literally laughed out loud and nodded in understanding. And yes, I KNOW that plie-run. I think that is break/unbreak into the spiral. Oh, I remember the bellow, too. AND the crying.
        Thanks for sharing!!!!
        Heather

    2. Katie,
      Thanks so much! I danced Scott’s role, too! (I ended up being lifted, though). We had a fully female cast.

      Maybe you can answer: sudden death ends big turns, right? What am I missing from the name of that section? Big turns/fast turns/?????/sudden death? Is that right?

      Did John still smell like coffee and cigarettes? Did his wife, Ann, do the costumes for your cast? Ahhhh….so many more memories of this experience are surfacing. Wonderful.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond.
      Heather

      1. Hi Heather,

        Go Scott’s! I actually can’t remember all the names of the sections… and like Katrina said, “How can I possibly forget them?!” John totally smelled of coffee and cigarettes, but his wife did not do our costumes. One of our dance faculty, Nancy Colahan, was a Lubovitch company member for many years and worked with John and the costume department for the piece.

        Katrina- I will never forget that!

        Good times.

        -Katie

  5. I love reading “memories” from other dancers. Now that I don’t dance anymore, it’s all I have left–but I cherish those memories dearly. Thank you for sharing this! 🙂

  6. I just came upon this post as I was doing a random search. What memories it brought back and on so many levels. (rehearsals, opening night, fellow dancers). Although I do not actively dance any longer my body remembers so much of the movement patterns. Thank you for the memories and to catch a glimpse of where you are now.

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