Fall in Love With Claire

Having duende is a rare gift as a dancer, and if you’ve ever experienced laying your eyes on a dancer who has it, you’ve surely had your socks knocked off! Claire Hancock has duende, or a soulful, heightened state of emotion, different from your average performer who may be good technically, but is just missing that extra something. If you’ve ever seen a good Flamenco dancer, you’ve seen duende in action. Claire makes you yearn for more after you’ve seen her dance. Her lines, grace and technique are obviously eye catching, but then there’s that plunging into the energetic force within her that makes your hair stand on end. She’s simply one of my favorite dancers, and I was so happy to jump into the studio with her, for a couple of short days in New York this Fall, while she was visiting.

I’ve known Claire since she was seven years old, and now she’s a mature artist, making her mark in the dance world as a dancer and talented choreographer, with her own dance company. When I first met Claire, her parents were my teachers at the University of Arizona. Claire would sit backstage and watch as we all danced around her, but somehow she felt like one of us, and we all welcomed her into our big, happy dance family. I saw her mom and dad, Melissa Lowe and Jory Hancock, perform frequently, and they never failed to blow me away.  I also had several occasions to dance with them, lucky as I was, and each time was an energetic high, that to this day, I’ve never quite experienced —  so, I guess it’s fair to say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

Back to NYC, where Claire was using a natural GPS, leading her to experience just about every good thing that New York had to offer, and not just dance. Indulging in every aspect of arts and culture contributes to the educated artist that she is. She comes and goes, but each time she digs her heels in a little bit deeper.  I found her visiting in September, and the timing was right for us to embark on one of my “Jiffy-Mixes.” Time was of essence, as she was soon to leave, but in only two short rehearsals, we whipped together “Drift, “ a dance conveying the idea of transitions in life, and how they inspire putting us in a new places and new directions. I asked her tune into her senses and write about what she was experiencing during our short process together — and we used that text to set the tone. Drift was caught in the raw at the Baryshnikov Arts Center– Misha was in the next room rehearsing — the sun was shining through the big windows, and I was in my ultimate delight — drifting into a deep, emotional place, as I witnessed the best that Fall had to offer.

Mitzi and Claire at the Baryshnikov Arts Center
Mitzi and Claire at the Baryshnikov Arts Center

See some of our rehearsal shots here.

See Drift Here.

Shelter: A Cosmic Experience

Maslow would be proud of me if he knew that I was highlighting the lowest level of his pyramid in a dance! If we didn’t have the handicap of always focusing on how to afford food and shelter, just think how much more we could do for the world. In this dance I used an umbrella and a large, red cloth to depict money, power and greed. Annie had a silver, sequined pair of honkin’ high heels that I had to use (oh no, I think I have a shoe fetish)! A pair of gold lamé gloves found their way into my dance bag, so she wore those, too. Hmm… silver and gold!

This event at the Secret Theater in Queens happened on July 10th from 6:30-9:30 pm. I had 3 hours to make a 9 minute 28 second piece. It happened in 2 hours and 9 minutes when it was all said and done, however. My inspiration was this picture that hangs on my office wall of people running for shelter under an umbrella.

Nicole Renaud, an amazing French composer/accordian player was so gracious to allow me to use her music, and in fact, was delighted to have me choreograph to her work.

I must have been in labor because I only had a few phrases to show the dancers, and the rest  just came with a few pushes. We ran the piece twice at the end with videographer, Marie Le Claire  raring to go. Also, young film maker Amelia Golden, was present the whole time with the task of making a new film of the experience. With all lenses in focus, the the dancers sweat like there was no tomorrow and a new piece was born!

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to do this, which also served as a farewell, but not goodbye to Ryan Schmidt and Julie Fiorenza–both who will be moving out of NYC at the end of the summer.  So sad to see them leave, but life is calling them to new pastures.

After a fun corner-diner experience with the group, I had time to think about the upper levels of the pyramid on my commute back home:  morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts–seems I attained that level in a quick 2 hours and 9 minutes–enough time to make me forget that rent was due!