by Vinson Fraley
We hit off our second tour of the season in Nashville, Tennessee, and I couldn’t have been more excited to be back on southern turf! The first day started out with an amazing class led by Kyle at Centennial Performing Arts Center. It was interesting to get a glimpse of the amazing energy and talents the dancers had to offer, and to say it wore Catherine and I out would be an understatement. We finished out the day with a rehearsal for our new work “Love Sketches” set to premier in 2017. I can easily feel burnt out when doing so much on the road, but I found rehearsals with the three of us to be truly satisfying. The best part was sharing laughs with Catherine in the midst of such an intimate and focused process.
The next day we headed over to Casa Azafran which is a center is geared towards providing resources for immigrants who are Spanish and Arabic native speakers. Shortly after arriving, we were greeted by 25 lovely children. Getting the kids to be open to the process and information can be tricky sometimes, so we had the kids first introduce themselves accompanied by some sort of gesture. We’d then lead them through a quick warm-up and a series of exercises. All in all most of the kids were responsive, and it was nice to see their reactions to what may have been many of their first encounters with dance in a class setting. As recommended, we had a lovely lunch at Sky Blue Café before our second rehearsal. When I tell you I was excited for those grits! And yes they tasted just like home. Getting back to the hotel, I was exhausted, but beyond delighted to be greeted by the rest of the company members in the courtyard.
Show day number one was finally upon us, and I think we were all curious to know what Oz Arts and the audience members were all about. We were kindly welcomed by Lauren, who gave us a full tour of the space which happened to be embedded with a ton of history. The theatre actually started as a cigar warehouse, and is housed in between two jails. Lauren stated that the space has attracted many artists who were interested in exploring the juxtaposition of a space where art is made freely in the midst of places of confinement. I immediately knew that Oz was a special place, and that it would be a great medium for A.I.M to be presenting/sharing work. As we walked deeper into the theatre we walked into a number of rooms that showcased the company’s work, mainly of which were earlier collaborations we’ve had with photographer and film artist, Carrie Schneider. My favorite part was the outdoor space which was accompanied by a gorgeous landscape, intricate sculptures, and a Zen garden. Just as exciting, was company class led by the stunning Banning Boulding. Heading into performance mode I think we were all a bit tired and under the weather in some way. The show was a tough one for me to get through, but was all the more satisfying when engaging in a dense talk back. A few of us then made our way downtown to get a quick taste of Nashville’s nightlife scene which was boasting with verves of incredible music, bars, and restaurants. The night was a success to say the least.
The final full day of our tour in Nashville had finally come, and the blessing of getting to sleep in was fully felt. Having been much rested at that point, I felt more mentally and physically prepared to perform that night. In many ways just being at Oz and performing the show the night before was invigorating. Those feelings definitely made a difference, and I think helped us all to get through the show much easier than the previous run. During our post-show toast, I was beginning to reflect on our time in Nashville. I found much gratitude in being able to bring my work to a place that needs to see it. It got me thinking about the mere exposure of art and the importance it has on all types of communities. To say the least I felt like I needed more time just to sit with Nashville. Heading back to the New York the next morning, I kept thinking about what a surprise the city and Oz was to me. Ultimately I had an enjoyable time in Nashville, and look forward to continued growth and learning this season.