If too much information is gathered about whichever thing without experiencing it, it creates a false sense of knowing. That's the danger of over intelctializing choreography. Intellect wants to dissect everything. It wants to dissect and KNOW, but choreography can't be known by breaking it up. You can know certain things, but you cannot know choreography by breaking it up to little pieces. Just because the intellect is sharp, it doesn't mean it's effective. In that sense, information isn't knowledge, Experience is. Choreography, being a form of consciousness, has to be experienced in order to be known. The intellect is a tool amung others, the sharper it is, the more it has to be handled with caution and moderation.
There's an evident link between the abstraction qualities and tendencies of an art from, and it's ability to travel through time, epochs, cultures and contexts with ease. Music being the most abstract art form, travels easily through all these. A musical piece createed hundreds of years ago can have immediate contemporary relenevce to a here and now, remotely similar to the one in which it was created.
Dance I think, is on the complete other side of that spectrum. Although quit frequently referred to as 'abstract', I think there can never realy exist any notion of abstraction when talking about dance, or choreography for that matter.
The mere présence of people, being the subject matter whether one wants it or not, make it as concrete as it gets. And when looking at other forms of art it's obvious that the concrete, travels through time and different contexts In a much more clumsy and hésitent manner.
The dance of the past can be many things, but it can not truely be expirienced as a relèvent contemporary comment or observation.
Choreography and dance are mediums bound to their time. They make little sense outside of it.
I find that the most efficient and deep way to improve the movement/dancing abilities and understanding of a dancer, is to shift their focus from their own movement/dancing to the choreographic situation they are part of. The body can do amazing things when you stop bothering it.
Also, To dance well, is to reach a certain level of being un self aware.
To plan is to limit, by definition.
The work has to hold a personal angle for everyone involved. If the dancers don't have a clear and effective entry point to the process and ultimately to the piece itself, which is deeply personal, the work as a whole is rather meaningless and pointless.
You can't lower the artistic standards of your work to people's level of readership, if you want them eventually to catch up with it.
natural systems constantly produce an endless number of effects. Visual, sonic, theatrical and many other. But these effects are mearly a by product. A side effect of coherent, organic systems or structures. They are obviously not the cause, nor the aim.
art making, in any field, is a constant choice between trying to produce premeditated effect, or concentrating of devising a coherent system that will In its turn, generate all sort of effects.
The first is lazy and opportunistic and is a sort of reverse engineering, the second is what art making is all about.
I find that the most effective way in which I can establish the logics and Intentions of my work, is by framing the process clearly and efficiently, and then letting the dancers create their own content within that.
I feel that trying to come up with and control the content of a choreography, from an external position (which is the usual choreographer's one, whether she likes it or not), hedicaps the creative process and disempower the dancers, by limiting them to only being vehicles for someone else's ideas, thoughts and vision.
Frame the situation clearly, lean back, observe and wait.
The musicality of a choreography (and it doesn't matter if there's any actual dancing involved), is far more revealing in regards to the intentions behind the work, than any other aspect. Whatever is actually taking place on stage, as well as what's written in the program and the choreographer's intention note, are almost a kind of distraction from what is really happening.
Choreography is a musical event, wether the maker is aware of that or not, and it can be accurately red through listening and looking at its musical properties alone.
The most effective way I've found to motivate and engage the dancers I work with, has to do with being able to accurately identify the moment when they become familiar and comfortable with a certain way of working and thinking, and shift away from it. But you can't just shift for shift sake, it has to be a genuine evolution of what they know so far.
Dancers authentically challenged and intrigued by what they're working on, will give it their hearts and souls.
I feel that my first duety as choreographer, is to be able to gain the dancers' trust. To manage to genuinely convince them to follow me, rather than force them to do so out of a certain power position I'm at.
The type of dance making which presents itself as 'political', is in most cases bluntly abusive, manipulative, and disempowering towards both the performers, and its audience. It is rarely of any consequent substance beyond journalism or mere propaganda, effect based rather than focused on structure, and always expressing the 'correct' ideas of the time within specific cultural and political circles. In many cases, it simply reproduces the dynamics and content of the things it claims to be criticizing. Instead of proposing alternatives, it feasts on all the negative, injust, hurtful, horrific manifestations of human behaviour, and simply offers an artistic representation of them, with the claim that it is done from a critical stand point. It's hard for me to find the logic in that. Reorganizing and estheticizing violence, abuse, and horrors of all sorts in an artistic form, can not be an act of resistance. It is passive and self indulgent. And it is evident that most of these 'political' makers, are the first to inflict violence and abuse of all sorts upon their performers.
I think the most critical and subversive action one can take in the face of any wrong doing, is propose an alternative vision. And so more specifically about dance, I think the only way to be political these days when making and thinking about choreography, is through re-examining the status of the dancer as an autonomous creative force, dismantling the systems of oppression and exploitation most dancers study, train and work under, and by addressing choreography as a tool for the critical study of social phenomenas, dynamics and structures, rather than one for making shallow, expected 'political' comments with.
The mirror image of dance as entertainment, in many cases, is the so called 'politicaly engaged' dance making. the only difference between the two is the target audience, but the means, intentions, strategies and inner logics, are very much the same. Just with the added pretentious attitude...
photo: excerpt from 'The Radicality Of Love' by Srećko Horvat (thanks for this Olivera!)
Dancers will always create better material for each other, than they would for themselves.
It's an interesting phenomena to observe and contemplate upon when thinking about creative models and their efficiency.
I try to create choreographic systems, that will host anyone who steps inside of then, with the same indiscriminative ease in which sports game do. You don't need to be a professional NBA player to fully engage and enjoy a game of basketball. Any group of kids or retiered elders can just as well play the game, enjoy it, fully engage with and benefit from it. The sets of rules which make up most sport game, are not related to the technical level of the people playing them. They create an objective, neutral system. I find this to be a valuable angle under which to examine my own choreographic 'games'. They should be able to host anyone who wants to play them, in a natural and effective manner.
The central, yet rather transparent, concept behind repertoire companies, is the notion that dancers don't have an opinion or a say about who they're going to work with. That they have no artistic vision regarding the work they're part of. A sort of faceless army of highly trained bodies, held down at some sort of infantile mindset, in service of whomever someone else will chose for them as choreographer.
When stepping outside of the context of preservation of old works, and into contemporary creation, this reality is hightly present and impacts the work being made. In a way, the fact these companies hold a large chunk of ressources, both in budgets allocated to dance and through the large number of dancers trapped in these institutions, is weighing on the ability of the art form to evolve and develop.
The entire classical ballet, néoclassicisme, and modern dance repertoires and traditions, need no more than a dozen companies around the world to be effectively preserved and performed. There simply isn't so much extraordinary and important repertoire works to start with, and there aren't as many rep companies at the level to actually perform these works properly. The result is hundred of mediocre companies performing old mediocre works. There's no way this can benefit the art form as a whole.
One of the reasons contemporary dance is so margenelized, and offeres so little artistic value in relations to the potential it holds, is to a large extant due to the stagnation caused by the stifling effect repertoire companies have on all aspects of the dance world. They suck up the majority of financial ressources allocated to dance, they numb and dumb the dance audience by only giving them what they already know, they hire and promote anachronistic dance makers that will not disrup their 19th century mentality, and they hold back talented dancers, keeping them hostage through fix salaries and other such benefits.
in the past 20 years, I've worked with over 30 rep companies around the world, I've yet to see one where the dancers were happy, charged, challenged, empowered, artistically nourished and truely respected. What I see time and again, is young people on the verge of constant physical collapse, injured, mentally drained, uninterested and uninspiried by most of the work the do, abused, disempowered, controled, emotionally manipulated, bored, separated and tirned against each other, and hurt in so many other ways they're not even aware of.
it brakes my heart.
If the work fucuses on, or stops at the level of the movement material, it misses entirely all the questions arising from the choreographic tool, the investigation of what choreographic thinking might be, what can it serve for, and what does it looks like
Effective creativity happens when you find yourself on shaky grounds, yet have enough knoladge and insight into the thing you're doing to allow you to navigate it clearly.
The art of choreographing to me, is mostly about indendifing precisely the phases of the process, in which your presence is needed, and those in which it will get in the way of, disturb, distract, disempower, control, limit, hold back and confuse the dancers.
the more I work, the more the time I feel my active presence (which is very different from my presence as an external observer) within the process is absolutely necesary, gets shorter. It has to do with understanding what effective choreographic action is, the clarity and efficiency of the interventions and guidance taking place, and the constant drive to maximize dancers' choreographic involvement and responsibility towards the process as a whole.
Working with ballet masters, rehearsal directors etc, basically means you do not trust your dancers, you did not manage to create a system which empowers them to be autonomose and fully responsible for the work they do, and that you are absent as a choreographer.
It seems to be a fact that most art critics, as well as art scholars and theoreticians, are failed artists. One doesn't choose to be an artist. You are one, or you're not. It's an evidence. You can be a true artist and still not manange to make art for whatever reason, and you can make art and have a sucsseful career, even if you're not one. But the difference between an artist and one that isn't, is strikingly obvious.
The fact most people who speak about art, think about it, write, curate, critic, teach and so on, are in most cases those who wished, failed, or didn't dare to make art themselves, has a deep impact on any artistic field, as they usually hold consequent power and influence in relations to the art field they are referring to and working within. But there's no denying, that in most cases (with rare exptions) they derail the art forms they refer to in different ways. They hold back, confuse, distract, blur, create false hierarchies, interfere, block, slow down, side track and in general, hurt the positive and natural evolution of the art form they hold so dear.
in an ideal setup, there would simply be artists, and audiences. The notion that art needs external mediators, is a false one I believe. The damages these mediators produce, trough acumelating power positions, ressources, influence and a general 'say' In relations to art and artists, are evident when looking at most artistic fields. The accepted notion that artists are these talented, yet capricious infantile beings that need to be guided, managed, channeled, translated, controlled, curated, explained and organized by 'adult' figures, is preposterous.
It is interesting to note, that the more an art form is happening within a direct dialog with it's audience (music, film etc), the less it's dependent on public ressources (dance being almost entirely dependent on them..) and the less it is bound to the setup of gate keepers (as is still the case in the visual arts), the samler the impact of that parasite like dynimic is apparent, and the more it is vibrent, produces a wider range of artistic propositions, and in general seems to be evolving in a more natural way while managing to offer real contemporary quality works.