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Bending the rules – dancing with water

By Emily Yewell Volin.

Lori Teague’s relationship with water is not unique, but what is astounding about it is her ability to notice, interpret and choreographically present insights about her experiences.

“I grew up not near a body of water but in the swimming pool all the time. Then I became a lifeguard. I just love water and I love being in it. I’m a very fluid-based mover,” Teague said.

BEND is Teague’s most recent foray into water exploration. It has taken shape as a dance-for-camera collaboration with videographer, photographer and spouse Mark Teague. The project was inspired by Emory College Center for Creativity and Arts’ chosen 2012 theme of water. Lori has created other performances based upon the theme, but BEND is her first time working with dance on camera.

The research Lori has conducted for this series of performances ranges from interacting with Emory-invited sculptor John Grade’s creation built of thousands of Dasani water bottles, to extensive reading of Theodore Schwenck’s titles Sensitive Chaos and Understanding Water, as well as researching the creeks that run through campus. She and Mark also took a rafting trip to celebrate her birthday and gained more inspiration from that experience than originally planned.

Lori Teague 'BEND'

Lori Teague in ‘BEND’. Photo by Mark Teague

“We were coming on a rapid and Mark and I both fell out. He fell on top of me and he hit the bottom. He said it had him pinned to the floor. I was getting tossed and turned in it. I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to die on my birthday.’ I can laugh about it now, but that was really scary. So I started thinking about how much I love rivers and that around a bend it can either be beautiful or ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a rapid.’ That is symbolic of what is ahead in our future in terms of water resources and how we take care of the water we have.

“The project is about enjoying the beauty of water through the body and becoming more conscious and aware of our relationship to it.  I’ve also thought about BEND in terms of how to be more flexible and integrated with our natural world as opposed to pushing through in our urban settings and ignoring our natural world.”

The creation of BEND required honing skills for both site-specific work and videography.

“Almost everything I created in the studio didn’t work in the river or in the lake. I had to build it on site while I was in the water dealing with balance, stepping on rocks, falling, the sun in my eyes and the temperature. I think I’m a pretty strong improviser, but it really honed my performance skills and my choreographic skills because Mark would be saying, ‘We’ve got to get the shot now because here comes the sun or here goes the sun.’”

Lori Teague Emory University dance

Dana Lupton and Lori Teague in a work called ‘Drowning’ about risk-taking, fear and friendship. Photo by Mark Teague.

Lori chose not only talented, but also creative dancers to feature in BEND. She said, “I picked the best cast ever. These artists have been in the field for a very long time and I gave them authority. When we first got to the river I gave them hours to just play.  They explored and improvised. They were laughing and having fun. Then I gave them an assignment. I wanted them each to make a solo and find a part of the river they connected to, whether it was a certain way the water came between two rocks, or a place where the water was calm, and allow their internal life to connect to that external life and see what happened. I helped shape it but let them live their own pieces.”

Lori’s hope for BEND is that the water itself is a much a star of the work as the dance and dancers.

“There is such beauty in nature,” Lori said. “I hope that watching the water’s timing and patterning actually steals focus sometimes in the scenes that we shot. It is as amazing as the mover in it.”

To learn more about BEND and Emory Dance visit http://dance.emory.edu/.

Photos by Mark Teague.

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