Monday, April 5, 2010

The Integrity of Dance: Choreography and Expression

It's 6:45 PM on a Saturday and I'm getting ready for a show. We're at a local workshop show filled with local dancers performing. This is the first time we are performing one of our pieces with four dancers instead of three. The pinnacle of the piece involves a complicated Cross and Box pattern where we flip flop from one to the other. I'm not too worried about it since The back stage area is actually another ballroom that allows us plenty of space to rehearse our piece one more time before going on stage.

"Make sure to take small steps and make your shimmy bigger. The larger steps mess up the formation." Our director said, as we kept our zills quiet in respect to the other performers.

I practically make no steps to go into the formation, which gets hard when I get excited on stage. Ziah, Teejei, and Aziza remind me of this and I laugh it off.

"If I screw up on stage, I'll just make a joke of it" I said, knowing that a little touch of humor always saves me in a choreography. I've lost a shoe, ended up backwards on stage, and ripped a tear in one of my skirts, but some a performer's ability to get over the mess ups is key to a great performance. Humor works for me, and people seem to look forward to the expressive facial expressions I'll make when I do miss a step, ahem, or three like in our piece Dunje.

As we wrap up our mini-rehearsal, I think about what this choreography will look like in two years. It'll be beautiful and interesting to watch not because I'm about to run into Ziah and laugh about it, but because we'll be so comfortable in the music the audience will see the music for how we interpret it with our dance.

My dance company always has to rehearse before a show. Our choreographies are complicated, and need to be rehearsed in the space before we perform or we are very discombobulated! I love having that confident feeling of nailing a choreography, and I think this really boils down to an integrity of dance all of us strive for. It will take Awalim an average of 1.5 - 2 years until we feel a choreography is solid enough to emote the music in a way without worrying about the choreography itself. I LIVE for that feeling. By intense practice, rehearsal, and multiple performances of one piece, you're able to grow as a performer and listen to the music in ways you never heard before as you were worrying about your steps. Think about it this way, when you go to a concert to see your favorite band, do you go to see their new stuff or your old time favorite song?

The integrity of dance, for me, lies within your dedication to your movement. From the control of a choreography you are able to handle a degree of expressive freedom you don't always feel when improvising. You start to hear the music at a level of detail that will lend your expression to shape the music in a visual manner without worrying about which movement to do next. Its truly a beautiful experience.

"But I did that choreography last time!" Oh, what a slippery slope that statement is!

Don't throw away a choreography because you did it "last year" or even four years ago! It's still in its infancy as a piece. Years from now you will notice things about your dancing you didn't notice when you first created it. Think of choreography as an extension of your creative expression, why would you want to throw away what you've worked so hard on just after 1 or 2 performances?

Next Post - Dance Integrity: Ethics in Our Industry

Video: The performance from the workshop, Piece: Dunje