It was early December and I was sitting in the parent area of the Noble Dance Kalispell Studio and I was helping Jeffrey with his homework while Kaitlyn was playing and Megan was in her ballet class with Ms. Carol. The company dancers were in the big studio with Natalie and then I heard the music that they were rehearsing to… it stopped me right there. Everything I was doing came to a screeching halt and I had to know who this was. I sent a text to Natalie that I knew she wouldn’t get until after she was finished with her class asking her. You know how it is right? You hear a song and it just sucks you in. It brings back a memory or it creates an emotion. When I heard “Film Credits” by Olafur Arnalds that first time I could smell the tall pine trees, I could taste the below zero air entering my lungs, I could hear the sound of Lake Superior slamming against the ice on the shore and I could feel the cold snow breaking beneath my boots while walking along the north shore of Minnesota. Film Credits instantly transported me to one of my favorite places on the earth.
For Noble Dance instructor, Natalie Molter, hearing “Film Credits” complimented and catapulted a creation that was already stirring inside of her…
When I first thought of choreographing a contemporary ballet to highlight my dancers, I knew right off the bat that it was going to be in stark contrast to “Clara’s Dream,” which is absolutely colorful, fun, very upbeat and almost bouncy. I had the general thought of “winter” in my brain. I was thinking simple, plot less, ethereal. While I was mulling this over for a couple of days last August, a former student sent me a song by Olafur Arnalds, which I listened to for 10 seconds, literally 10 seconds, and immediately knew I had to choreograph to it. She had never sent me music before and hasn’t since- serendipity! It was completely out of the blue. When I went to purchase it, I saw the vast amount music he had created and knew I had hit on the through line for my ballet. All music would be composed by Olafur Arnalds. It was a bit melancholy but had enough range that I thought it would work for the winter thought.
When I go about choreographing a ballet like this, I seek a common thread. Like the idea of winter. What does winter mean? Is it slow and cold? Is it tea a warm blanket and a fireplace? Is it loneliness, Isolation, or perhaps death? So I get all these ideas floating around in my head and I let them fester. Then my process becomes very unclear and I make a CD of about 15 songs that interest me. I listen to it while I am driving everywhere. I get to know the songs and decide which ones to toss aside and which ones to really begin to study. The songs I choose grab me and pull me in. If you see me crying at a stoplight, don’t roll your window down, it is all part of the process! I see movement when I listen to music, so I begin choreographing while driving around town, writing little 8 count phrases on the back of random envelopes and bank receipts. I start to see specific people dancing to certain pieces of music. Sometimes, if I have a specific rehearsal coming up, I will listen to the cd with those people in mind looking for an innocent sound when working with less experienced dancers, or looking for a lighter sound when just working with two dancers. Certain songs will stand out when approached with different “ears.” Sometimes when I hear a piece of music I can see right away which dancer will be dancing to it and the specific steps they will be doing.
As I watched A Quiet Season performed for the first time I was shocked! When I saw the complete work on stage with lights, the song and costumes I drove away from tech rehearsal thinking that I made a huge mistake putting it before intermission. I felt like it should have closed the show, a spot reserved for the best piece. I was really kicking myself but I had only seen it in the studio, where I picked and corrected and stressed about the little details, the lines, and the musicality and on and on…. I knew the dancers looked great, but during that first show the dancers became mature, artistic performers. They were present, committed and fully IN the piece. They moved me as I watched them from Stage Left. They were beautiful and breathtaking. I was so proud of them and all the trust they have put into me to allow me to guide them into this beautiful experience where they took the reins and made something spectacular!