Thoughtfully Composing: My Final Comp Study

I started this process, for making my final solo study, with the intent to work outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to play with the creation of movement patterns that went against my tendencies, but my main focused was to compose along the lines of a process in which I highly edited my work. Normally when I set out to make movement I start in one place and I move until I feel I have satisfied whatever idea I was exploring. I move through one big phrase until I’m done. From there I may tweak a couple steps, redirect a couple facings and change a few dynamics, but overall I keep the order and all movements of the “thing” the same. So what I set out to do with this study, as my Final Study for Composition 2, was work by creating a couple separate chunked phrases which I would then edit to compose my solo.

In order to do this I began with a “no” phrase, in which I created each step following the previous by asking myself, what is the last thing I’d think to do? I then filmed that phrase. From there I watched the video, a foreign concept in my natural way of working, and I wrote out what I did movement-wise followed by what I wanted to change with each of those movements. I followed this process with a “no” phrase, a floor phrase and a gesture phrase, at which point I made myself stop generating movement.

Videoing my rehearsals and looking back on my material was what helped push me into the deep end of editing movement. Videography gave me the tools I needed to look back at what I had created, and having videos of myself dancing in a way removed my viewing self from my dancing self. It allowed me to be more critical of my movement.

With my videos, my written descriptions and my edits per phrase, I then began to look at my material as a whole. I questioned what different combinations of movement would look like from an audience perspective, and for the first time in my experiences with composition I thought about what meaning viewers could read from the way I put movement together. My consideration of audience interpretation has been inspired by the Pina Bausch restaging documentary “Dancing Dreams” (see related post here). From this movie I gained a better perspective on the role non-dancers’ viewpoints have in movement. I learned that audience members of all types, but especially non-dancers, will search for meaning in a piece of dance, and as a choreographer it is my role to facilitate that interpretation. And whether or not others gain the same, or even a similar meaning to what I may see, I have found the importance of movement that “makes sense” together. I played with these ideas as I edited my phrase work.

To edit, working towards my goal of highly editing my work, I used compositional tools: repetition to establish motifs, repetition of movement on a different level (transferring a movement from standing to the floor for example), deleting movement, changing facings, changing duration, changing dynamics, and overlapping my phrases. With these tools, I devised rough drafts of my study.

What I found was that while I still am interested in creating movement for continuity and investigation of the feeling alone, my normal habit for composition, I quite enjoy composing in a more critical manner. Creating movement through a more highly edited process has helped me to keep in mind not only how it feels to move, but how the composition looks as a whole, and how the movement could be perceived by viewers. I found that movement alone really does speak words.

After a full exploration of the different meanings my piece of movement could take, I then had to investigate music’s relationship to the work I had created. I knew that for this work, because we had a couple months to develop our projects, I wanted to investigate how to incorporate music into my compositional process. Knowing that I want to pursue composition further, because I think there is more to explore, I felt the need to begin to investigate music in its relation to movement. Throughout most of Composition 1 and 2 thus far, I had not gotten the chance to truly analyze what music does to pre-existing movement. So in a later stage of development for my movement, with the understanding that I wasn’t yet finished, I started my search for music. I went down a couple different pathways, looking at electronic soundscapes, American folk music and some Taiwanese classical music, but I eventually decided to use “Old Chunk of Coal” by Johnny Cash.

I came to this decision by filming the entirety of the movement I had created thus far, and I played different pieces of music while I watched this video. (I highly recommend this exercise as a way to easily look at/experiment with many different types of sound.) Then through feedback and discussion with peers and the instructor of the course, I edited the music to sound a bit more quiet and scratchy, like it was playing off a record in the distance while I danced. It was recommended that I do this, and I agreed, so as to make the movement the focus of the study rather than the music. Because Johnny Cash has such a powerful voice in the articulation of his lyrics, I did not want the words of the song to be the forefront. I wanted to guide viewers to hear the music, but truly focus on the movement of the piece.

I am truly proud of the solo that came out of this process. But while I’m happy with the look and feel of the movement I created, what I am most struck by is my love for composing dance in this manner. I will keep all of this information in my tool box as I move forward in composing dance.

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