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Why Smart Dancers Are the Best Dancers

Jun 20 2013

Why Smart Dancers Are the Best Dancers

Blog, Perchance to Dream, Rehearsal Notes

Neva

As a choreographer, I feel at times that we’re expected to have all the answers. It’s a lot of pressure to have a room full of people staring at you, waiting to be told what to do. It’s a kindergartener’s dream – a room full of people waiting to play pretend with you – and an introvert’s nightmare. I happen to be an introvert. And though I often have the answers, and more frequently know how to go about getting the answers, sometimes I can get a little stuck. That’s where smart dancers come in.

I rarely through-compose, by which I mean I rarely start at the beginning and work my way to the end. I prefer to bite off little chunks, knead those into life, and then string them together like pearls on a necklace. I spend a lot of time in what I call “the bathtub”, others might call it “workshopping.” I think things through, solve problems with the group, answer prompts with improvisation: physically hashing out thoughts and literally fleshing out concepts. I like to work collectively to build a movement vocabulary that will clarify and effectively communicate what needs to be conveyed.

A few weeks ago, Evan broke out of the latest exploration I’d set on the group for Perchance to Dream and asked if we could through-compose. I was a little taken aback but I’ve learned that when leading a rehearsal process, it’s really important to listen to the needs of those that you’re working with. It’s not just because I’m easy going, but because others see things in you that you can’t see for yourself. Your collaborators might nudge you in a different direction and unlock the door to the dance you’ve been trying to see through the keyhole.

At his suggestion, we started working on a section that I’ve done several drafts of in the past few years, laboring over it each time. This time it flowed out easily like a slow exhale after a deep breath. Or at least it was easy for me. The others, Alyssa, Evan, and Jordan, were passed out on the floor from the exhaustion of spending a few hours choreographing a cardio-heavy section with huge sleeves attached to our arms. I was elated from how dense and rich the choreography is, despite only being two minutes long. It’s ironic to me that I spent a good year exploring what that movement vocabulary was, that the section was once as long as 10 minutes, and the result of all of that time exploring can be captured in such a short period of time.

There are times I envy painters, and writers, and other artists whose mediums do not require them to be as time-sensitive. A painter, in my glamorized vision, can work on his or her canvas at any time, step away and come back at any time. But unlike a painter, I am blessed to have paint that talks back, offers suggestions, helps me hone in on what I’m creating, why, and how. There is editing built into the choreographic process. And I am incredibly blessed right now to be working with some astoundingly talented editors.

 

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