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

By Nita

I retired early and moved to a new community. I blog about my adventures as I explore a new lifestyle. I write about quilting, knitting and needlework, about learning to sew my own garments, adventures in the kitchen and in the garden, dancing, hiking, yoga...life is my playground!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!