by David Makransky
I have had the pleasure of working with high school aged artists in the Natick area in many capacities over the last fifteen years. Last spring I set a piece on members of ensemble of Remember '11 at Natick High School that incorporated an a cappella arrangement of "Winter's on the Wing" from The Secret Garden (by one of my students, Danny) with body percussion. The singers worked hard and hated me for a while at the start, but the final product was quite wonderful. When the student run a cappella groupSeven's Not Enough performed it again at one of Monkeyhouse's Barnes & Noble Bookfairs they shared the stage with another group of young people I've had the pleasure of working with, TAProject, a youth tap company from Impulse Dance Center. This sparked an idea. What if we combined these two groups of incredibly talented young people? Let me be the first to tell you that this was an inspired combination. You will get the chance to see them yourself at Against the Odds, but here is David to tell you a bit about the process. -Nicole
Several weeks ago, Seven's Not Enough had the opportunity to perform in Chelsea with Impulse's TAProject, an experience both exciting and humbling. As co-director of the a cappella group and an amateur tapper, I had a unique perspective into the collaboration; I knew how much work went into making the song sound good, and I have some understanding of how ridiculously difficult TAProject's choreography was. On top of all that was the obvious out-of-comfort-zone factor: both groups had to learn very quickly to adapt to our new partners. If SNE didn't keep a steady and predictable beat for the dancers, the number would fall apart. If TAProject tapped too loud, we wouldn't be able to hear each other, and the number would fall apart. There were a lot of ways for the number to fall apart. During rehearsals, it often did. But the challenging collaboration was a fun one; we were constantly being pushed to new levels of awareness and musicality. By the end of the process we even crossed disciplines, with SNE adding to the rhythm with body percussion and TAProject singing harmonies in the final cadence.
The performance itself was unlike anything I could've expected. By then the groups had become very comfortable with each other, which was fortunate-a new stage and new acoustics meant significant last-minute adjustments. Awkwardness at that point would have doomed the number to fall apart yet again, and this time during the actual performance. But adjustments were made and the ChelseaHigh School dance concert began. As I sat in the audience waiting for the signal to prepare backstage, I marveled at the courage and talent of these dancers. For many of them dance was a very new art form, and their fearlessness and grace was humbling. When it was time for us to perform I found my greatest hope was that we could measure up to their levels of energy and confidence. As we finished we were hailed by that same energy in the form of congratulation. I hadn't met any of these dancers before in my life, but they had no qualms about supporting us with the same enthusiasm they brought to their own art. They made me truly excited about what we had done. Collaboration with TAProject has been an incredible experience, and with those inspiring students of Chelsea High School in mind, I can't wait to see what's next in our crossover between a cappella and dance.