Studying My Compositional Desires

This semester I embarked on many choreographic escapades. Throughout my third year as a BFA student I took Music and Choreography under Daniel Roberts, Group Forms under Ann Sofie Clemmensen, and worked on my own choreography through the construction of a self-choreographed solo using Motif structuring.

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 6.06.47 PMThrough both my solo Of Stillness (2017) and work in Music and Choreography, my studies focused on unpacking how my own mind and body operate together to compose. This brought me to an understanding that the two entities within my own form require differing time frames to process movement information. I can create a movement study in mere minutes, but I need spaced out chunks of time to edit and compose towards my choreographic interests. In many ways I think of my body and my mind as separate coexisting parts of a whole. I recognize that they have intelligences that shed light in different areas, and that it is the balance of thought processed between the two “filters” of sorts that allows unique movement combinations in space to fester happily through time.

Working just with myself was fairly difficult throughout coursework and composition of my solo. I think that I have a good range of values throughout my working process, but even so I only had my tendencies in movement vocabulary to draw from in terms of designing the phrasework, and I had only my tendencies in compositional choices to draw from in the editing process. And with my thoughts lying in understanding the separate intelligences of body and mind, there were discrepancies there that made the process of creating/dancing a solo especially difficult.

Working alone though, while seemingly burdensome and stressful at times, allowed me to work purely in my own vision and my own time frame. What I experienced through my work in the Group Forms classroom provided different challenges then as it countered previous patterns of working alone.

Throughout Group Forms my largest take-away has been the greater understanding of time differences in others’ thought processes. I know that I am a good “mind reader.” I am able to pretty quickly get to the root of what someone else is thinking or working to explain, and I can then work from their perspective, meld it with my own, and continue guiding the conversation forwards. I am efficient in this manner. Not everyone else is as proficient in this art of “mind reading,” and I saw this through working with others to co-collaborate on pieces for class.

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While my quick efficiency timeline could be frustrating for me at times, adapting to others’ pace in making connections and decisions really exercised my patience. I think that this was a very valuable skill that I learned throughout the course of this class. In working with others I had to choose what compositional choices of mine I was unwilling to let go of, versus those I would remain flexible with or drop entirely. The times I chose to speak out on something compositionaly were times I noted what was important to me as a choreographer.

I realized that what I look for most in terms of composing is how space is used throughout the arch of a movement study. As a choreographer I am most attentive to the three-dimensionality of movement and how that negotiation of space in the body, between bodies, and in the performance area kinesthetically engages me. I am least flexible in this decision-making area. I then think about dynamics of movement in relation to the Laban effort grapha: space, weight, time, and flow. I am more flexible here, but I voice my opinions strongly as I hope to (always) encourage the use of different dynamics within a single chunk of phrasework.Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 6.06.22 PM

My newfound skills in groups collaboration, honing in a sense of patience, and understanding of my choreographic desires, all came together for the creation of our final project. Ending as an octet, the process for this work started for me as a duet co-created with Laura DeAngelis. We began in a roughly 15’ by 15’ square space in which we explored ideas of rooting and branching with the imagery of a tree. After our duet was set, we expanded our process to involve another co-choreographed duet. With Cyrah Ward and Gen Johnson now added to our team, we collectively put our duets together again in a 15’ by 15’ square space. For this quartet we thought about how the two entirely separate worlds of our duets could co-exist in space. How could we sync up dynamics, focus, and spatial intent to draw together a new, entirely different world than one that either duo could think up alone?

Then in our final work, we invited four other dancers in the department to come in as added dancers to our quartet. We made a dance for eight out of our dance for four. We did this by first expanding our square to a 30’ by 15’ rectangle, and through its expansion we chose to fold the four new members into this exploration of two colliding worlds that our group established in the quartet. This exploration was fun, and I actually had a good time working in this accumulative manner.

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To see the evolution of duet to octet, check out each video of the process on my Vimeo page (links below)

The Duo

The Quartet

The Octet

Feedback from our final octet showing: The movement worked to showcase a rolling topographical outline from the riser-seat audience perspective. The music to movement relationship provided interesting viewership – There was an independency throughout the dancers’ movement that matches the improvisatory nature of jazz music. There was a clear intent to keep the ideas of two worlds existing together in space. The physicality worked throughout the piece to pull the drive of the music backwards. My break out from the group to see the entirety of space near the work’s beginning established a good and link to the changing focus at end. This felt like a small section that begins a larger work, an unsettled ending that leaves the audience curious for more. Stillness as a performer and minimal movement is great especially with an ensemble of eight people. One takes space by being there in a way.


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