Saturday, 25 February 2012

Working title: Storm before the calm - intensive rehearsal week

After a busy week with the third years at UCS in Ipswich, here are a few reflections about the rehearsal process and the piece that we made:
  • Firstly, it has been really challenging to make a piece for 15 dancers in 4 days in which all the dancers are equally represented and feel equally engaged in the creation process. Given more time, I would like to pull the material apart a bit more, and to work more closely with each group. As it is, and as it has to be in this context, the dancers will now take on that responsibility themselves, and that is a great way for them to find their ownership of the material.
  • I have appreciated the generosity of the dancers in this process (as in any of my rehearsal processes) in terms of them trusting me with the material they make and allowing me to select and edit material in the best interests of the overall piece.
  • I am reminded again about the importance of rhythm in creating an effective piece, one that encourages the audience to appreciate vicariously what is being described onstage. We have been exploring two contrasting movement qualities over the past week, associated with two extremes of emotion (drawing from Matters of Life and Death) and one of the main ways in which they are differentiated is in terms of their rhythm. In the rush to get the piece finished, the adrenaline of performance and the uncertainty that comes with trying to remember everything, the dancers are not yet embodying this rhythmic difference - this will come with time and detailed rehearsal.
  • Following on from this last point, we all appreciated the level of detail embedded within the repertoire material the dancers (Morgan Cloud, Adam Kirkham and Daniela B. Larsen) shared on Monday. We also discovered that each of the dancers embodies that material in a different, although no less detailed way. When making Matters of Life and Death it was important to me that each of the five dancers had distinctive characteristics and that at no point in the piece did it ever feel like they were trying to be exactly in unison with each other. I talk a bit about this in one of my previous blog posts: . It is important for the third year dancers from UCS to also take this on board and to find ways to make the material their own whilst retaining the original initiation point, which might be a part of the body, a particular relationshop with another dancer or intention towards another dancer, a specific rhythm or something else. As long as that initiation is clear, I would expect there to be variations in terms of how the dancers embody it, because they are all individuals and are informed by different experiences.
  • I was reminded of the impact that general management of the rehearsal process can have (e.g. time-keeping, prioritising, choosing what to make notes about and what to record on video). It is a great skill, on the part of the dancer and the choreographer, to be accepting of the fact that not everything can be achieved at the same time and to make effective decisions about what to do first and what to leave for the realisation process later. For example, it is most often not necessary to spend a long time finalising transitions or particular pathways into or out of the space when beginning to set the overall structure of the piece, because that structure will very likely change and that transition won't be required anyway. Even if it doesn't change, the process of running through the structure again and again provides an opportunity to establish an appropriate transition over time, and this is where it is so useful if the dancer can improvise their way through an uncertain moment in the piece and then gradually allow this to settle. Again, it's a question of trust: trusting your own creative capacity (as a dancer), and trusting that if you give very clear information as a choreographer, the dancers will develop an understanding of what is needed at a certain time.
Finally, for the third years who I hope are reading this blog: a reference point for the slow-motion lifting sections in the piece that I was talking about on Friday, and one that I've often come back to in the past 2 years, Bill Viola's work Five Angels for the Millenium:

Take a look at his website at or there are some brief video clips here: (from about 1 min 13 to 1.37, then 1.55 to the end) briefly at 2.57

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