Monday, November 16, 2009
Alexandra Thomsen Wolfe
At my rehearsal I had an epiphany. As I was watching my dancers perform my movement, I became more and more disheartened by how it looked on their bodies. Why aren't they performing the movements the way I am envisioning them? I thought. Why can't they do this movement the way I am doing it? Why when I give a correction does it still not look right? I couldn't tell if my choreography was the problem or if the performance was the problem.
The more I thought about it, I realized that this must be a dilemma that all choreographers face and I was looking for an ideal that is not possible. I thought of all of the pieces I am in this year and wondered whether the choreographers look at me and ask why I am not doing their movement accurately. How do they deal with it? How can Diana be so calm and say what we're doing looks great, when it looks nothing at all like how she executes the movement? Is her artistic desire and design satisfied by what we are giving her? When she watches us, does she overlook our flaws and have faith that it will come together later? Or does she watch us realizing it is not what she wants, but it will do?
Then I started to feel guilty. I want so much of my dancers, expecting them to pick up details quickly, perform the movement accurately, and remember it for the next rehearsal. However, when I am honest with myself, I know that I am not being this diligent for the pieces I am dancing in or devoting myself fully to the other choreographer's artistic intent. Why should I expect that which I am not giving? Now realizing as a choreographer what I would like my dancers to do, I think I will be better able to ‘give’ myself as a dancer to the choreographers of the pieces I am in and work harder to do the movements with the accuracy that they specify.
As for the movement not looking 'right' on my dancers, I have realized that they are each unique individuals with their own style of movement that is comfortable in their bodies. What works for me may not work for them. The real question needs to be how can I help my dancers internalize the movement? Should I give it time, or should I stop and tell them exactly what I want and work with them until they have it? I know it will have to be a bit of both. The more I think about it, I have discovered that I must break the mold of my usual behavior – smiling and pretending everything is wonderful - and specifically address what it is I want to have happen. And at the same it is necessary that I give the dancers time to work on it. If a movement isn’t working, I can draw from the dancer and use their strengths, the movements they are comfortable with and feel good doing. By doing this, I may be pleasantly surprised and even happier with what we come up with than what was originally planned. I now feel optimistic and excited for the possibilities that lie ahead!
Photo: Sara Tollefson