Rockin’ the Casbah Notes: Orange Coloured Sky

I went through a lot of Big Band music before settling on Orange Coloured Sky, including a Count Basie piece called “Hayburner“. I actually spent a fair number of hours working with Hayburner before abandoning it.  I kept a piece of paper in my music folder, and at Monday night band rehearsals I would scribble quick notes as we worked through various pieces. Sometimes I’d mentally leave rehearsal and stop playing as I worked this or that dance combination through in my head & jot notes to try at home. Not fair to the band, I guess…but they never suspected my mental absences (I hope! I’m leaving myself wide open here, I know!) I finally decided that Hayburner would be great fun to do as a solo, but was going to take more time than I wanted to devote to it to set it onto a troupe.

I don’t know why I didn’t settle on Orange Coloured Sky sooner – it is a super fun piece. Rebekah has to sing really fast, and that’s always good for a chuckle if the band runs away with the tempo. It has lots of great accents and runs along in a pretty straight-ahead manner. I also like it because it has a great Q&A quality about it, which is what I also like about classic raqs sharqi orchestral music. Who would have thought of that particular similarity, eh?

At one point I found myself really stuck in a “writer’s block”. I struggled and struggled and I just hate that. I hate it when choreography becomes a chore – but there is bound to be a certain element of that in just about every piece.  Finally I put it down for a couple of days and just let it stew. I went to youtube for inspiration and was watching the Radio City Rockettes one day when voila! Inspiration struck! I just love those Rockettes! I loved the military-ness of their routines. And the glamour. And how they all are identical. and so precise! I just knew that that was a look that would suit Orange Coloured Sky. I started playing around with some jazz steps as well. In the end, what I had was a bellydance routine that leaned heavily on a jazz dance feeling and with some actual jazz and some jazz-inspired dance steps.

Do you see the Radio City Rockettes inspiration here? I did put in a chorus line. I did! And my girls LOVED it!  I also thought it would be appropriate for a dance coming out of the Yukon – a little tip of the hat to our local Rendezvous Can Can tradition.

I had some ideas about what I wanted to see for the costume as well. But I also wanted the dancers to have a say and so we brainstormed as a group for the final look for the piece. As in Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps (scroll down a few blog postings), I wanted the costume to bridge between the Big Band and the Bellydance. Where in Perhaps we were in little black dresses with top hats & canes – a western dress, in Orange we were in a bellydance outfit (of sorts). The pant & top are a generic dance outfit and the scarf is bellydance. But put together with the wigs the decidedly jazzy attitude and the fabulous lighting design by Andrew Smith, I think we successfully bridged the gap between the different musical & dance styles.

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – like dancing in-front-of a full 15-piece swing band. They blow right through you.  It’s exhilarating!

The piece ends with a dramatic “bow” in the band…a short, clipped musical fall. The dancers end with a fall as well. Wow! You should have heard the audience! Whoop!

photos by Alistair Maitland

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