Inspiration for dancing: My great grand-mother Blanche, center, with her two sisters, Corinne and Celestine wearing fabulous hats!
I was inspired to choreograph an adagio to the song Luray Women sung by female duo Clishmaclaver because of a conversation I had with my mother recently about the people who are still around and those who live on in our hearts and memories. I was making her laugh, telling her the story of my Dad’s first pun when he was a little boy. She laughed, but then she said, “Is he still around?” Not wanting to hurt her, I answered, “Well, he’s around in our hearts and memories.” She sighed, “So he’s not still around”. I had to admit she was correct. Then she asked, “Which of my people are no longer around?”
I was thinking of this conversation and all the people who are no longer around and I thought of this song. The lyrics make me think of my great grandmother, (center), and her two sisters. My mother loved telling me her grandmother’s stories. Their parents only had enough money to send three of their six children to college. They figured the three boys could always get work on a farm, so in the 1890s they sent their three daughters to college. My great grandmother became a teacher, got married and had one son. Her middle sister became a lawyer and her youngest sister was a drama teacher who came to New York. This dance is for all those who came before, and for sisters everywhere.
* * *
About the dance: I wanted to include walking in the adagio because walking can be so difficult to do naturally. Walk to the music, not a ballet walk with pointed feet, but a regular walk to the slow tempo of the music. Keep your walk fluid even though the tempo is slow. Make eye contact with the other dancers in the room, connecting to your center, to the floor, to the music, and to each other.
The choreography for the first verse and chorus are written out below. For the second verse and chorus, reverse the dance to the other side. For the third verse, repeat the first side to the end of the verse, so the last thing is the soutenou turn on “roots entwined”.
About the Music: I love the song sung by female duo Clishmaclaver (Jennifer Culley and Brooke Parkhurst) on their album Roots Entwined. But I couldn’t find a sample of it or a link for where to buy it online. All I could find was this youtube of the song, which is also lovely, but just not the same. If any of you who are more internet savvvy than I find it, can you let me know in the comments below?
LURAY WOMEN Sung by Clishmaclaver, on their album Roots Entwined.
Tall as timber, Great Aunt Lizzie Wrapped in rugs against the cold Counts 1-8, walk 8 steps, ending in 5th position, Left foot front, croisé.
Looking out across the mountains Counts 1-2, plié pas de cheval front (L) foot; counts 3-4, posé up to sous-sus, legs together in fifth, 2nd arabesque arms, right arm forward.
To the valleys of my soul Counts 5-6, balance as you bring arms to 5th, then towards the left, counts 7-8, step your front foot out to the left and tombé, arms continue the circle towards the floor, and you contract your upper body, head down, standing on your left, in plié facing front, en face, with your right foot tendu à la seconde, arms in a low second.
On the porch where Lizzie’s rocking Counts 1-4, lift your right leg slowly to à la seconde. Don’t rush this, you have plenty of time. Lift your body, head and arms lift to a “v” towards the ceiling.
Great Grandma Nannie comes and stands Count 5 Passé, arms to 5th. Counts 6-7 back attitude croisé, arms open to third position. Right arm is high (arm away from the audience, same arm high as leg that is back) Count 8, start the promenade to the right. (See below)
Underneath her plain white apron Counts 1-4 promenade to rights. As you promenade, the back leg goes from back attitude through passé to front attitude. Arms go to fifth position.
Holds my future in her hands Counts 5-6 extend right foot to dévelopé croisé front in plié. Arms bend in towards stomach and extend to third arabesque. Count 7 Posé forward, arms stay in third arabesque, Count 8 Plié in fifth, back soutenou turn, arms do an inside port de bras.
Luray women, how you’re with me Counts 1-2 step to the right (remember step to the back foot) into plié, left foot tendu side, right arm stay extended side. It’s slow, continue stretching your arms out to the music, Counts 3-4 ronde de jambe your left foot to croisé front straightening standing leg. Right arm comes to fifth.
Soft as memory, strong as wood Counts 5-8. Plié and Port de bras forward and up over pointed (left) foot
In my face you are returning Counts 1-4 Brush left foot through first position to arabesque. Right arm comes to chest, palm facing out. Left arm extends out to back as if in arabesque, as if someone behind you is holding your hand, palm facing down, and begin to penché.
I hear you singing in my blood Counts 5-8 Penché down and up. Counts 7-8 Plié standing leg and touch left foot to the floor, arch back. Hand at chest sweeps up to a high arabesque arm, palm out (not in fifth). Pull up to sous-sus, pas de bourré fourth position, left foot front.
There are four extra counts here Inside pirouette to the left. Land in fifth position right foot front, arms open to second and float down to preparation.
Reverse all on the other side.
Now the years and all my memories
Flow like water by the bridge
I can see them in my mirror
Tall as trees along the ridge
Just like trees along the mountain
Through the years grown straight and tall
Till the place where they’ve been standing
Seems deserted when they fall
Luray women, how you’re with me
Soft as memory, strong as wood
In my face you are returning
Hear you singing in my blood
If you lose the one that loves you
Make a life that’s all your own
Find a place no one can reach you
Turn your back and go back home
But if you find the one that loves you
If you love the one you find
Be like sisters on the mountain
Branches touching, roots entwined
Want to learn this dance? We’ll do it one last time in class this coming Tuesday. Ballet class 7-8pm on Tuesdays, 12-1:30 on Saturdays. 380 Broadway, Buzzer #5, Only $10. Don’t be shy, anyone can dance.