I know where I'm going it... it ain't where I've been
I started formally choreographing when I was 16 for middle school plays and high school performances, always working in a room by myself in front of a mirror creating movement, making sure everything matched up with a 5, and 6 and 7, 8 count, analyzing every slight variation of an arm, speed and dynamic with my eyes.
When I was 19 studying dance in South Africa, I learned all over again how to choreograph with Lliane Loots of Flatfoot Dance Company. Her process facilitated movement with dancers, drawing it out from the inside, rather than create it in the vacuum of a lonely room, scrutinized by critical self-awareness. She would share a framework or a phrase and then give us "presents" - additional directives to add or remove movement, change dynamics, space and time. I became incredibly invested in the choreographic process as both a dancer in her Flatfoot Training Company, and a choreographer in the university classroom.
The process I learned there became a method to break down inhibitions, initiate movement explorations, and develop relationships amongst dancers. I worked from somewhere inside my body, instead of looking from the outside with a critical eye.
In January I choreographed for Nachmo 2012 - National Choreography Month. As a participant, I had to set and reach a goal in the month of January. My goal was to choreography with some of my dear dance friends with no pressure of creating a finished product (one of them being Michael Lupaccino!). We had previously only been in rehearsals together for shows, stressed out by technical expectations. I used structured improvisation and some of my favorite music to create a dance that encouraged us all to work collaboratively in ways that made us enlivened and happy, without worrying about fulfilling particular technical or aesthetic conventions. I was able not to worry about “what it looks like” or “if its good”, because I had immediate feedback from my dancers that it felt good.
We started each class in a circle, after some welcome chatter, with a quiet and calm yoga inspired warm-up, moving in an open unison that encouraged variations that were needed/felt good individually, rather than mimicking exactly my movements. I facilitated our journey through various exercises to create new material; improvise across the floor in a 3-dimensional orbs, your next move dictated by a new direction...create 6 movements in 2 minutes (forward, backward, left, right, up and down)...find a partner and share back and forth pieces of the 6 movements, experimenting with different directions, dynamics and spacing...giving jumps, lifts, repetition and pauses as 'presents'...observing everyone create, drawing shapes and writing notes to capture it all, inspired a short phrase that I taught back to everyone so we could move in unison.
In four 1 1/2 hour rehearsals, the phrases we created improvising were strung together into a 3 minute piece.
Thank you to my dancers, Deana Bramley, Kate Genovese, Michael Lupacchino, Lauren Pajer, Diana Pilarski, Samantha Rose-Lawsky, and Cara Spilsbury, for showing up every time, and for trusting the process.