Wind, rain and cold will all be a part of a new dance work at Interlochen this weekend. The dance will be performed outside Saturday when temperatures are expected to be in the 40s. And the piano, sheet music, and the costumes for the show have been outside all week. The performers want to find out how the elements will affect their performance. A grand piano has weathered a week of heavy rain, overnight temperatures in the 40s and bright sunshine. There are leaves and pine needles all over it. Some of the keys have come off. And graffiti has been written on it. Dance instructor Niki Conraths wanted to see how the environment would affect a dance work. Niki and some of her fellow faculty members came up with the concept.
Niki says, “… and then we found a donor in Traverse City who actually donated this piano to us, and his family, and we just put an ad in Craigslist and in 24 hours we had it.”
Niki was inspired by Brazilian visual artist Christina Oitichica.
She says, “She buries her canvases in the Amazon for 9 to 12 months under rocks and the water and then she reclaims them so (I) started thinking what I could do with dance, how could I age a dance?”
Interlochen Band Director Matt Schlomer is collaborating on the piece. Matt says the decay the piano has experienced is making the performers listen to the music more carefully. The music for this dance is the first prelude in Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Interlochen student Ariela Bohrod will be the pianist for the dance. Ariela says the experience has made her realize what a luxury it is to play good instruments.
Ariela: “You know, I’ve never really had to play a piano that I’m not quite sure day-by-day how it’s going to sound. I mean, I’ve played on certain pianos that are out of tune or maybe they have one or two notes sticking but, the entire 88-key register (laughs) is something very different but it’s helping me out with being able to adjust to new things and being able to just really play no matter what situation I’m put in.”
There are three dancers in the piece. They wear layered costumes that look like they’re from Shakespeare’s era. The costumes have fared a little better that the piano. They look like they could use a good washing. Dancer Devon Briggs says she’s only ever danced indoors on nice, smooth floors.
Devon says, “Well, it’s so interesting to dance outside and the leaves and rolling in the mud and having the dresses – they’re going to hang up in the trees so it’s going to be such an interesting experience to put earth on and roll around in it and then have the piano become earth so I think that’s just really interesting (laughs).”
About the time the piano was being placed outside, poet Carolyn Forche was on campus for Interlochen’s symposium about the future of the arts. She threatened to bring a crane in to rescue the piano. But instead she left a poem on the underside of the piano’s lid.
Matt: “It says, ‘The piano’s sadness and the rifle’s moonlight.’ So that’s the poem that she wrote in response because she was just viscerally moved that we were doing this to what was once a form of art-making.”
The dance will be performed outside of Corson Auditorium as part of a concert that features band music, singer/songwriters, live painters and poets. It begins at 7 o’clock on Saturday night, October 27.