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All the Time

By Amy Carlson & Erica Lynn Priolo with Elizabeth Gracen:

If you've read many of my posts on Flapper Press, you'd know that I am lucky enough to have a long-time, ongoing collaboration with the Lineage Dance Company—a nonprofit contemporary dance company dedicated to raising support and awareness for other non-profit organizations and to making the arts accessible to all.

The Lineage Performing Arts Center is a vibrant, creative portal where the Arts meet with purpose. The LPAC's new venue in Pasadena, CA, and its vibrant roster of upcoming performances attracts a diverse group of artists and performers and offers classes where professional dancers from the company teach at all levels, from beginner to advanced. Most of the classes focus the mind and body through creative movement and provide support and a sense of community: Dancing with Parkinson’s & other Neurological Challenges, Dancing Through Cancer, and Dancing with Alzheimers.

With the advent of Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdown, these important classes have gone virtual. It goes without saying that our technological ability to connect has been a boon in such times, but it has not been without its challenges. As great as it is to see a familiar face and spend time talking and dancing with someone on Zoom, there is nothing quite like proximity and the ability to reach out and touch someone's arm or give them a hug . . . or dance with them in person.

Amy Carlson has become a vital contributor to the Lineage family for many years now, advocating for research and support for the Parkinson's community after being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2012 at the age of 44. She believes that an "Always Now" attitude is the way to tackle every day and believes that exercise is the cornerstone to living well with PD. She teaches specialized exercise classes with Lineage in Pasadena for PWPs and speaks to groups across the U.S. about how to have PD. Amy has fallen in love with dance and has taken private lessons with Ericalynn Priolo for almost four years now as well as group classes with the LPAC community.

Ericalynn Priolo received her BFA in dance at New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida. She has been a company member and teacher with Lineage Dance for eight years. Erica has continued to teach throughout the pandemic via Zoom classes and has discovered her own unique way of reaching out to the Lineage community despite the inability to hold in-person classes.

Because of the proximity restrictions, Amy and Erica, like all of us, have had to reconfigure their lives to adapt to the new Covid environment. How do you dance with someone when you can no longer be in the same room with them? How do you construct a creative atmosphere when you cannot touch or dance in sync with your dance partner any longer? How do you create when you have less room, when you are forced to make do with the space you have? Is it even possible?

These are the questions posed by Amy & Erica's dance film exploration of creative movement during these challenging times. I recently met with Amy and Erica (via Zoom) to talk about their film and the creative journey they have taken to make it.

Amy Carlson & Ericalynn Priolo

Elizabeth Gracen: Amy and Erica, tell me about these dance films. How did you come up with the idea?

Amy Carlson: Erica and I have been doing one-on-one dance classes for three or four years now.

Ericalynn Priolo: Almost right after you started dancing.

AC: And now we’ve had to move onto Zoom. I was telling someone the other day that I dance with Erica for an hour a week with Dance for PD. I dance with Erica for an hour in a modern class with non-Parkinson’s people, and then I dance with Erica one-on-one. So three hours a week. And then we went to Zoom—post-virus world. For a week or two, I wasn’t dancing with Erica at all, but then we brought our one-on-one to Zoom, then the Dance for PD class followed. So, now I’m down to two hours a week, but they’re Zoom hours, and I was like . . . “It doesn’t feel the same.”

EP: That physical connection is lost.

AC: We had been working on a dance that we had been putting together for this possible production for a tour that maybe was going to happen this summer that maybe was going to be about Parkinson’s, and then . . .

EG: Boom, Covid-19.

AC: And then I was feeling that I was working on something that I was not going to get to perform. We had a part where we were supposed to dance together, and now we can’t dance together. So, I thought, This just bites.

EP: So then we started talking about how we are supposed to dance in this new environment.

AC: We started working on that idea in our next Zoom class.

EP: Since working on Zoom, I’ve been interested in how to make a dance, working with what you have. We’d been working on that project, and now we couldn’t partner with each other. Then, Amy had this idea, and all of the sudden I had so many ideas swirling around in my head. So last week . . . was it last week?

AC: It was last week!

EP: It was only last week?!

EG: It probably feels like two years ago!

EP: Yes! Well, I had ideas I wanted to play with—shifting energies from each square to each other, playing with where our body was located in the square. Maybe her torso is dancing in one square, where my legs are dancing in another square. Using the space and the depth through the camera. So, we just started playing around in a structured improv.

EG: So, you recorded at the same time or separately?

AC: Originally, we recorded it at the same time. We made sets that mimicked each other in terms of where our chairs sat in space relative to the squares. We initially didn’t really have a theme in mind other than a song Erica wanted to use.

EP: And the idea that whatever pose you ended in, the next dancer had to follow-up.

AC: A bit of “pass the energy” and embodiment and call and response. So we started with this first film as a raw improv film. And I hated it because I looked at it and saw that my stuff was just all over the place.

EP: That’s how I feel about my movement too in that first one.

AC: So, I then re-shot my side, and it was interesting because it was a lot harder to get it right. The timing. I had to remember the pose. So, I actually spent a glorious full day on it, which was wonderful for me because it was like, “I’m dancing now!” All of the sudden I was dancing with a purpose. I was trying to get to a product. I was trying to get to a performance. It was exactly what I wanted. I finally got the dance to where I wanted it. I then went into Premier Pro and layered my new self over my old self. So the final, first-completed film is not a raw Zoom recording. It could have been if I was a better dancer (laughs), but even so I felt like it was something. It was exactly what I wanted. Erica had given me a one-on-one class and gave me a challenge that gave me something to work on, on my own. The film part is sort of separate. That’s my goofiness of loving to make little films.

EG: So, the choreography is a joint venture.

AC: Her choreography is hers. Mine is mine. But the concept is Erica’s.

EP: Structured improv—you’re dancing how you want, but you know where you are starting and you know where you’re ending.

EG: So, the whole idea was to re-create that visceral feeling of being together in a class?

EP: And also, I’m finding with teaching dance classes through Zoom, I’m discovering ways to connect with my students. Especially in my Parkinson’s dance class, I found it hard to start out like we do in an on-site class with saying, “Okay, let’s do a warm-up across the floor.” I would normally teach them a combo, but now that seems silly with Zoom. So, now I’m trying to find more ways for us to interact with each other and communicate so that they can get more creative in the process . . . instead of me just talking all the time.

AC: And let me tell you, I’m doing a lot of these “Let’s move to Zoom” experiences, and Erica’s classes are topnotch. They are the best. Everybody else is sort of fucking around, trying to figure out how to do their old way in this new thing, and it’s not working.