Shannon Kingsbury Behind the Scenes

As part two in our two-part story of the symbiotic relationship between musician and choreographer, Shannon Kingsbury adds her thoughts—and music—to Sue Smith’s post (below) about working with choreographer Karen Kaeja on the GCDF commissioned piece, Crave to Tell

Shannon: It’s a crisp February morning and I am at Temple Studios with the Fall On Your Feet Dance Collective and choreographer Karen Kaeja. Karen is creating a piece for the troupe and Sue Smith and I will be writing the accompanying musical score. Today I have come to observe the dance rehearsal to give some context for the music composition. Sue is out of town so I am the lone singer in a room full of gorgeous women dancers. I feel like a voyeur.
We are sitting casually in a circle with notebooks and pens. The theme of the piece to be is “Secrets”.  Karen has a sentence for us to complete: “The most secret place inside of me is……….”
Scribble scribble go the pens. We share our answers. Karen urges us onto our feet to give physical form to our words. I’m not sure what to do. Karen coaxes me to join the dancers. Yikes! The instructions are clear: we are each to create a movement inspired by “the most secret place inside of me”, and then learn each others’ movements sequentially, creating a series.
And GO! Karen creeps along the floor like a wounded crab. The rest of us replicate. Tanya wraps her arms around herself, her right hand guiding her chin upwards. We add Tanya’s chin lift onto Karen’s crab. Kelly’s slender frame spins and withdraws into itself. 3 movements. Now, my turn.
I try not to analyze or agonize since there doesn’t seem to be any way out of this! With my secret word in the fore of my mind, I feel my body lunge forward, palm extending out beyond my parameters and then reaching sharply back behind me. The dancers copy. Exhilarating!
Georgia corkscrews down into a “thinking man” position, Lynette clasps her knee to her chest, Janet’s wrist flicks and Karen adds a final swirl. I do my best to keep up with the lithe & fluid bodies around me as we move in tandem. I wonder how it is that I can remember thousands of lyrics and musical motifs and yet have trouble with the sequence of 8 relatively simple movements? The dancers cheer me on with their eyes and smiles.
I feel stiff and winded and ask to sit on the side and observe. They are amazing to me—the five of them moving like a flock of birds with Karen at the helm calling out the direction of their flight. The motion of their bodies, the swish of their clothes, the sound of their breath and pattering feet has a hypnotic effect and my lids grow heavy. The dancers become my dream muses and the next thing I know the clock has drifted ahead and they are gathered around me again, sitting casually on the floor as we began.
Did I dream it all?
Again we take to the pages of our notebooks, this time to complete the sentence “I crave to tell………” This assignment takes more time than the first. Brows furrow, eyes seem to glaze over with memory. Pens alternate between energetic spurts and thoughtful pauses. We do not share our answers.
Karen instructs the dancers to choose a few words from their writings. She counsels me to observe and listen from the outside. She directs them into a heap on the floor, bodies completely relaxed and breathing as one. “Now, randomly speak your words.”
I grab my pen and record it all down through the lens of my lingering drowsiness. Sometimes their words overlap. Sometimes they assume each other’s words. Sometimes they even finish each other’s words. There is a randomly beautiful rhythm and cadence to what arises, even a hint of melody:
“Laugh. Wait. Lie. Truth. Up. Up. Up. Crave. Choices. Causing. Wishing. Heartache. Heart. Wishing. Damage. Oblivious. Up. Up. Up. Living. Wait. Oblivious. Wait. Live. Truth. Laugh. Heart. My Heart. Ache. Causing. Heart. Choices. Causing. Oblivious. Heartache. Damn. Dawn. Laugh. Live.”
A shiver runs down my spine at the conclusion of this spontaneous musical score unknowingly being born. I can hardly wait to share it with Sue.
Shannon Kingsbury is a singer, songwriter, harpist and music educator whose eclectic
performance career has ranged from film soundtrack to stage to studio. Along with Sue Smith,
Shannon is Co-Artistic Director of Ondine Chorus, vocal ensemble, and SKSS Productions,
creating unique multi-discipline performance arts shows in support of environmental and
social causes.
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