Thursday, April 21, 2011

A new dance, new dancers, new ideas, new times...

I had been asked to create a new work with a group of young dancers as part of their training to be professional artists. I intended to come to the process with several movement phrases that I would manipulate. My focus for this project was to create a work from the least common denominator. My personal goal for the new year was to find ways to simplify, in all aspects of my life. I wanted to investigate this in my choreography.

My first rehearsal with these dancers demanded otherwise. These dancers were/are full of life and energy. They are young, but have so very much to say. They are learning about themselves and the world in which they live and they process externally. I was thrilled to see their enthusiasm, and terrified that i would need to struggle to embark on this process of simplification or change my direction.

I taught them a phrase. They executed it well.

Then, we sat in a circle and I told them I was feeling extremely challenged. I had expected to set something on them, but their voices were too strong for me to ignore. True to my previous work, I needed to incorporate the kinesthetic stories of these dancers into this process, regardless of what my previous goals or expectations might have been. It is my responsibility as a choreographer, educator, and citizen to respond to the needs of my community as they are presented to me. I needed to oblige.

So, I gave the dancers some homework. I asked them to create a movement phrase of about ten things that exemplified their prime number(s); or, to create a phrase that revealed their most pure self... Whatever that meant to them.

What did I mean by that? A prime number is a whole number that cannot be divided or broken down into any other whole numbers. I see them as complete individuals, but important building blocks for future numbers. Three is a very simple prime number. Twenty three is a bit more complex, but similar in that it is a prime number. I think that by looking at these building elements, we can learn a lot about each other. Genetic scientists say that there might be less than a percentage that differentiates one person from another.... Such a small difference on paper, but such a large difference in practice. So, I wonder if we could brek down ourselves into our prime numbers, at least for this moment. What might we find?

I understand that we change and elements of our identity change. If we could identify what our purest elements are, right now, what might they be? I encouraged my dancers that I was asking them to commit to elements just for this exercise and acknowledge that at the end of this process or semester, their elements might be different.

We began work in January.

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