Melissa Olson (she/her/hers) is a mixed-heritage Native cis-woman who makes her living as a writer and producer of independent public media. The daughter of an Ojibwe adoptee, her award-winning audio documentary Stolen Childhoods (on Soundcloud) was produced in collaboration with KFAI producer Ryan Katz and edited by Todd Melby. She works with TerraLuna Collaborative, an art-based developmental evaluation firm. Melissa attended the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate, and was a proud recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003 for her graduate work in American Studies. Melissa lives in Minneapolis with her boyfriend John and their bulldog Bronson.
Impressions at a Weave Rehearsal for Rosy Simas Danse
I hear quiet conversations in an open studio space give way to the muted tones of the choreographer framing the choices of dancers. A laptop with a Seneca Belt across its thin frame sits atop a folding table next to digital sound pads. I see a notebook left open by a man arranging a light projector at the edge of a gray-washed rehearsal floor.
The sound of water gurgles up and I see the smooth shoulder roll of a dancer. The movement and the sound reminding me of a break dancer. I see another pair of dancers with languid hips rolling hands and shoulders, their movement soft and sure. When the projector casts the image of water against the back wall, their silhouettes tread water against the back of the studio space.
Arms sculpting sand, four dancers appear on stage working together, maybe against the ocean’s tide? One dancer remains a part from the rest, works in solitude. The other four continue to reach and work their arms. I want to imagine they are prospecting in a foot of wet sand. And when the work is done, each exits in their own direction. She or he or they or them rolling away in thunderous, quadraphonic ocean song.
Two dancers stand in relation to one another, thoughtful, intimate, like the syllables of the word used to describe this pho-to-syn-the-sis. They are plant—like—slow. The two are honey-dripping slow. A deliberate quality to their touch and movement, they stretch and bridge past the other and wait for the other. And then again, there is a carefree quality to their dance. The two could be grass or rice stalks. Arm and shoulder blades rustling against one another, resting and then swaying. Stretching and bridging with long limbs across the space.
The solitary dancer returns to perform a solo. The ocean image cast on the back wall is gone, and only the digital wind song remains. She seems to be trying to turn or tune something inside. An existential quality to the movement conveyed by open hands rolling, searching, self-sculpting. We are drawn in close to the dancer’s edges. We are drawn in still closer by the magnetic soundscapes.
The magnetic song recedes leaving nothing but a bare stage, and a dancer with arms temple straight. The purple clad dancer begins swinging, wind-milling her arms out of sense of futility, of rage? The sound of magnetic ringing rises, and another dancer appears as if stranded by the airy magnetic wave. The other dancers appear on the stage almost asleep, compared to the dancer milling her arms. Another dancer joins this first dancer in the near center of the dance stage, and begins the same work. The two dancers begin to work together, resting and leaning on one another, reaching and embracing. Who is this person? Who is this other? I wonder what sort of work does each do? So alike, and so careful of one another, maybe relatives, maybe more like friends. One dancer supporting the other, the choreographer calls for lights out.
The choreographer calls for lights up!
The water, an image of constant motion, returns. The sound and image of the tide going home, and arriving, and returning home again. It’s easy to imagine the tracks of a seabird left behind in the sand. The shadow of tiny bird feet as the tide rolls out. One dancer, still and slow, and rooted in place, reaching around self, imploring me to look around at the edges of a meditative body.
The dancers leave behind a genuine sense of healing on the quadrants of the dance stage when each exits the stage. The thing I remember is a nocturnal feel punctuated by a few rolling notes of a tuba. Man, I think, I want to hear the round, low roll of a tuba to play when I leave the room. How good it must feel to step out on a playful note after the long day’s work.