Dance rehearsals are about to begin in earnest in the kunstLABor now, and that means it is time to roll out the dance floor. Let me tell you – this is an exercise in extreme patience and teamwork!
While Fernando sweeps and mops up the clay that covers the floor after the last few days of artistic experiments (more about that later), Carlos and I, with much grunting and groaning, transport two heavy rolls of Marley from our storage unit to kunstLABor. This special rubber-like substance provides dancers with the necessary balance of traction and glide for ease and safety on the dance floor.
We can lay the Marley either a black or a white surface up, and after a bit of philosophical discussion – nothing can happen among contemporary dancers without a bit of philosophical discussion – about the quality of light and energy and aesthetic of the different colors, Carlos decides for black: white will look dirty, and black matches the empty frames hanging on the walls from the last exhibit.
This means we must unroll, flip and reroll one mass of Marley so the black will face up. Sound simple? It is true that giving the roll a good shove with our feet and watching the flooring stretch across an open room brings a sensation of childish satisfaction, but rerolling the stuff can be quite frustrating. The edges must be perfectly even to prevent any warping, which requires two people placing equal weight on each side of the sturdy cardboard tube, moving very slowly forward to wrap the Marley around it one centimeter at a time, and occasionally lifting the heavy thing or tugging it to keep the correct tension. On a good day, we achieve the desired result on the third try. Today is not a good day.
Next, AKS arranges four long strips of foam on the floor; these act as a little cushion and insulation between the dancers’ feet and the cold, hard linoleum-covered cement floor. This foam covers just a bit more surface, both in length and width, than the Marley will. Aligning the edges so they barely touch without overlapping, and taping them in place firmly enough that they will stay in place stay but loosely enough that the material can adjust when the Marley rolls over it is trickier than it seems like it should be.
After this, it takes a team of four to lay the dance floor over the foam: Carlos and I on either end of the Marley roll, slowly pushing it out, making sure the edge stay even with the outside edge of the foam, and AKS and Fernando crawling backwards ahead of and facing the Marley, pressing air beneath the foam toward the outer edges and smoothing the strips into alignment with open palms. Concentration is key, as looking away even for a moment can allow a tiny gap to develop between the two foam strips, meaning we need to re-roll a meter or so of Marley and try again. And of course, once the first roll is finally down we get to do it again with the second.
A communal exhale sounds as we finally made it to the end. Now we can leave the Marley alone to breathe overnight, and tomorrow it is just a matter of taping the seams closed and taping the edges to the floor. Then let the rehearsals begin!
Welcome to the new blog of dance company NETZWERK AKS, the Platform for Contemporary Dance + Art! We are an international network of contemporary dancers and artists currently based in Millstatt, a tiny town in the beautiful Carinthian Alps of southern Austria.
You are probably wondering, “What can a tiny town in southern Austria hold for a contemporary dance company?” Yes, it is true: many of the dirndl- or lederhosen-flaunting locals would rather drink beer, eat sausage and dance at a Polkafest than indulge in an evening of philosophical movement observation.
But if you woke every morning to an avian serenade intermingled with a breeze through the leaves and jubilant church bells, and watched the mist rise from the silvery Lake over the evergreen-blanketed mountains and into the blue, blue sky, and could rehearse in an old monastery with windows overlooking a garden to the water beyond, and could sit in the evening as I am now, watching the sun painting a trail of pink in her wake as she sinks behind the mountain tops before the moon brightens and the stars appear … well, you’d feel like dancing too! The quiet and natural beauty here accommodate the whimsical ways of inspiration, giving her the freedom to work unharried by the rush, routine and unrest of city life.
We rehearse inside this old monastery
Not to say our choice of workspace hasn’t lent itself to a few challenges: most of the locals are not exactly contemporary dance enthusiasts and large audiences are hard to come by,
(how the locals see our work)
and many in the greater arts community do not seem to take us seriously because they do not believe that High Art can exist in the provinces amongst the sheep and the cows.
(how the greater arts community views our work)
Still, we make the best of it and are happy to be here.
That’s all for now – please stay tuned to hear more about our upcoming activities and adventures! Next stop: kunstLABor.