Known Once: Listening to their stories

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Known Once premieres this week! Get your tickets HERE (early bird discount of $10 per ticket until May 15).

From artistic director Liss Fain:

Known Once is about personal stories, memory and perception. The students and seniors we worked with dove into this project with openness and energy, letting us into their hearts and giving us stories that we treasure.

The piece is in part choreographed directly to their stories and movement, and in part I worked with broader concepts of memory—what remains important to us over time and how these deep undercurrents and fragments of images shape the trajectory of our lives. The installation for Known Once, with a wall behind and a moving wall in front, represents a life expanding and contracting. The choreography reaches into the past and enfolds the range of emotions and experiences we carry forwards.

Known Once developed through a deeply collaborative process with the dancers, in which they individualized phrases and created movement from prompts that are designed to be interpreted liberally and personally. Through the movement, the dancers brought their own memories into the piece.

Hear the voice of Walter Kanat, who is 93 years old and one of our senior collaborators, get a peek of Known Once in rehearsal, and hear a little preview of Dan Wool’s score in the video below:

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Known Once: The working process – always surprising.

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Pictured: LFD dancer Sarah Dionne Woods-LaDue, Charles Carey, Walter Kanat

We had the final workshop at The Redwoods on Thursday. I asked them to talk about their parents; I thought it would be interesting to hear people in the 90’s reflect on their parents. It was that and much more. Walter described unlacing and taking off his father’s shoes when he came home from work; how he felt it was an honor to do that. There was so much caring and thoughtfulness in all their voices.  Here is one of the many very moving things they talked about—Letty told us that her husband had to help her get out of bed because she had had a stroke. Once he had taken her hands and pulled her up, he put his arms around her and slowly danced and sang the Tennessee Waltz.

Here’s Patsy Cline’s version of this iconic song:

In rehearsal now, we are grappling with how to use the final story in the piece, told by Walter, one of the seniors. His story begins descriptively and energetically, then reaches into my heart. His voice has energy, warmth and cadence. It is a wonderful problem to work on—how to convey his appreciation and joy, frustration and sadness in movement that is only slightly representational but also not overwhelmingly dancey.

There is a lot of gorgeous dancing in Known Once—thanks to the remarkable dancers. And we are nearly finished, with lots of detail-oriented work to do in the final weeks. Now I am thinking about how to make clear, when there is no spoken voice in the score, that the stories and movement we gathered in the fall underlie and inform the choreography. This is partly in the score. Dan Wool has brought in his first version of the first part of the score, and we realized it needed more of a sense of time and more voices to establish the human elements anchoring the piece.

I really like the back and forth of different points of view that happens all the time with a group of opinionated and assertive individuals in a rehearsal. Sometimes what I thought would work does not work at all; and I am not clear about the path I think the piece should take. With this last story, we are at that indeterminate place.

Traveling forwards with Known Once

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“WOW!! I really was taken by the concept that all, not only professional dancers, can learn to express thoughts and feelings by body movement.”
Walter, age 92

A huge THANK YOU to our wonderful seniors from The Redwoods and students from 826 Valencia for diving into our workshops and our newest project, Known Once, with us. Their stories and movement are the seeds for this new large-scale performance installation.

  • Anna, age 13, about things she cared about and lost: “Sometimes it is alright to lose things… everything in life has a cause. Every mistake and success, every gift and loss, every choice you make effects you or who you want to be.”
  • Letty, age 93, about herself as a young child and her mother: “I loved being cuddled by her and held by her. But, mostly I didn’t see her. I’d see her through the plate glass while she was teaching.”
  • Charles, age 94, about living on a boat as a nine year old: “There were times at night–it was a great sense of power–we took watches… At night, the magical time, when my time at the wheel was up, I would make my way forwards on the boat and lie down on the deck. I would lie there for hours.”
  • Walter, age 92, about his dog Sadie: “The dog was a little, nervous, crazy dog. Sadie would be nervous, undisciplined, untrained. So, I had a conflict really: how do I exist with this kind of dilemma? I learned that I had to accommodate.”

Known Once premieres May 18-21 at Z Space, San Francisco.

We begin rehearsals this winter–drawing on the audio, video, and written text from our fall workshops, and developing our own movement stories. Along the way, we’ll be teaching more workshops and continuing our connections with our vibrant middle-schoolers and seniors.

Help us bring Known Once to life. Support LFD’s work in performance and with seniors and students. Donate via our website HERE

Sponsor:
A dancer for a day – $80
Rehearsal studio rental for a day – $140
A dancer for a week – $400
One costume design – $500
The set design – $5,000
The musical score – $5,000
The theater rental – $6,200

Liss Fain Dance is a 501(c)3 organization. Contributions are fully tax-deductible

Watch the trailer of our 2016 premiere TACIT CONSENT:

Watch a video about our fundraising campaign to bring KNOWN ONCE to life in 2017:

Help Liss Fain Dance make Known Once

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DONATE NOW TO HELP US MAKE KNOWN ONCE

“I have a clear picture of each of you moving in designs of such beauty and grace. You have left me with a magical memory I can slide out to rescue myself from stubborn moments of pain, loneliness, or complaints from others. I think of you as family.”
from Charles, one of the seniors LFD worked with this fall

When our work touches someone, we know to keep moving forwards.
LFD’s intensive workshops developing personal stories and movement with seniors at The Redwoods, a mixed-income residential community in Mill Valley, and middle-schoolers in a partnership with 826 Valencia, a San Francisco organization that supports writing and literacy in young people, are the roots of Known Once, a large-scale installation work that will premiere at Z Space in San Francisco, May 18-21, 2017.

Join us in bringing Known Once to life.
The support of our audience members and friends is essential to Liss Fain Dance. You make innovative projects like Known Once possible.


We are partway to our funding goal of $15,000. Help us reach 100%!

You can help make Known Once. Donate via our website HERE.

Sponsor:
A dancer for a day – $80
Rehearsal studio rental for a day – $140
A dancer for a week – $400
One costume design – $500
The set design – $5,000
The musical score – $5,000
The theater rental – $6,200

Liss Fain Dance is a 501(c)3 organization. Contributions are fully tax-deductible

Known Once: Update #5 – Thank you to our seniors!

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Update #5 – Thank you to our seniors!  You can catch a glimpse of our work with the seniors and hear LFD dancer Sarah Dionne Woods-LaDue talk about the experience in the short video below:

From Liss: We had no idea how moved we would be by the openness and thoughtfulness of the seniors who we worked with at The Redwoods in Mill Valley, by their stories and images that have deepened over decades.

Charles telling us about living with his family on a boat and taking the night watch—the darkness, the rocking, and the water surrounding him with peacefulness. He lay on the floor and rolled side to side as he described the joy of lying alone on the deck. He told us about the chores involved with living on a boat, and how he wished his own children had experienced that.

Walter shaking his hands non-stop and taking small tentative steps when describing his family’s neurotic, nervous dog. This 93-year old gentle and sophisticated man became his dog. Later, in telling us the story of how he met his wife, he asked me to dance the story with him—he sat on the floor and improvised her movements from 65 years ago and I improvised his. How wonderful for me to be invited to join in his story.

Letty with her hands up as if pressed against glass as she told the story of looking through a window at her mother teaching dance to children, not being able to go into the studio.

Katherine recreated living in Saudi Arabia, where she taught Saudi girls in the 1950’s. The desert sand was worn by the wind into perfectly spherical grains; she danced this, bending low and swaying side to side while moving across the floor.

A few of the 90+ year-old seniors talked about the limited time they have left. Their vigor and depth belie that. It will be so interesting to show them pieces of Known Once as we build it, and so wonderful to have them see the performances in May.

Charles, Letty, Walter, Maria, Katherine, Joyce, Toba—you are so spirited and gracious. Thank you so much for sharing your lives with us.

If you would like to follow along as we create a new evening-length performance installation for spring 2017 inspired by our work with the seniors and middle school students at 826 Valencia, please sign up for the LFD Email List and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. We’ll be sending news to the folks on our list and posting updates when we return to the studio in 2017!

Known Once: Update #4 – 826 Workshop Finale

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Update #4 – 826 Workshop Finale: Inventive, touching, funny, exuberant, thoughtful. The middle-schoolers at LFD’s five-week 826 Valencia workshop transformed memories and ideas they wrote about into fresh new movement. At our showing on November 5 at 826’s Tenderloin Center, the kids taught their friends and family some movements they had made to express the texture of different words (burning, crumple, jagged) and performed solos, duets, and quartets that they made to express things they had written about. What they accomplished was impressive—writing each week, making maps of their stories, setting their movement to their maps, and designing duets, a quartet and solos.

After the students performed, Sarah and Megan showed a duet they made based on a duet that two of the kids, Amina and Viva, had created during the workshop. Megan and Sarah developed a parallel phrase in the studio that incorporated Amina and Viva’s movements and qualities —Amina uses her arms and chest expansively and with strength; Viva is loose and moves like water.

Check out the students’ work and listen to Liss talk about the project in the video below:

The students developed so much insightful writing and individualized movement that we can’t wait to work with when we return to the studio in 2017.

Ana, whose words and movements are emotional and energetic and precise, wrote about three things she cared about and lost: “They filled my heart with light… sometimes it’s alright to lose things… loss can make you more careful, more thoughtful, wiser.” She placed her hands in a very particular position over her head and one arm made a full circle, a movement symbolizing a clock and the passing of time. And she skipped and turned with flying arms, for joy.

Thank you to 826 Valencia and our amazing students–Ada, Amina, Anna, Brianna, Katie, Laurence, Natalie, Rachel, and Viva–for sharing your stories and diving into this project with us. You can see videos of each of their pieces (a duet by Ada & Rachel, solos by Natalie and Laurence, and a quartet by Katie, Anna, Viva, and Amina) for their final performance HERE.

If you would like to follow along as we create a new evening-length performance installation inspired by the students’ work for spring 2017, please sign up for the LFD Email List and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. We’ll be sending news to the folks on our list and posting updates when we return to the studio in 2017!

Known Once: Update #3

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From Workshop to Rehearsal:

Charles made the most intricate, unusual movements with his hands as he was relating a story of visiting China fifty years ago and traveling by boat down a river surrounded by high and jagged mountain peaks. Looking at the video of this phrase, the company tried to replicate his precise, somewhat gnarled hand movements and his expansive arm movements.

[This is the video of Charles that Liss and the dancers studied in rehearsal to duplicate his improvised movement.]

He crossed, uncrossed, recrossed his hands and wrists 10 times as they descended from above his head downward; each crossing of his hands was slightly different and moved from his right side at the top to his left as they lowered. We spent a long time learning exactly what he did  so carefully and insistently. At another point in his phrase, his fingers got momentarily caught as his hands pushed through and away from each other—a delicate moment that was hard to decipher and rhythmically wonderful. Being attentive to every nuance threw us back into his story. A wonderful experience. We added leg movements and level changes to turn this into a full-body phrase that retains Charles’s gestural clarity and his spirit.

[This is the phrase that we built from Charles’s movement.]

On Thursday we show the seniors and their friends what we have done with Charles’s phrase and also a phrase we are making from the 826 Valencia students’ stories. But the best part of Thursday’s workshop will be the seniors combining their personal stories and their unique movements, moving though their stories as they speak them.

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Help make Known Once: we’re fundraising to support this project that brings together storytelling and dance for kids and seniors. Make a tax-deductible donation of any size HERE.