Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dance Production class — creative work and meaning...

I’m afraid I’ve fallen behind in writing again — my classes are already starting their second creative work unit, and I haven’t written about the first one yet! More on that later, but first...

This past Friday we started some explorations and improvisations. Since we never got to non-unison forms with last year’s classes (except for choreographing a bit of canon and antiphonal into their ballet performance piece, just so they’d know what they are), I planned to have both the Dance 2 and Dance Production classes take them up this year... but in slightly different ways: while I plan to give the Dance 2 classes a fairly straightforward composition project (create a short dance that includes unison, canon, and antiphonal forms), I wanted to add a bit of an element of meaning to the Dance Production project. My goal is always to move student choreographers beyond just making cute or flashy steps to their favorite songs, and into thinking about what they are expressing; so for the class that will be working intensively on their own choreography to put on stage later in the semester, I hope to at least move them somewhat in that direction in every short project — although I am still a bit unsettled as to exactly how to word it in this one (something like “find a reason for your movement to be in call-and-response form,” perhaps? or just “make your dance about something”?)

On Friday both the Dance 2 and Dance Production classes warmed up with “one moves, the other doesn’t” — improvising in pairs, with one partner moving while the other freezes, and either partner can control the action by freezing or beginning to move at any time — essentially an exercise in being sensitive to and keeping careful track of your partner. We then played a little shape tag and practiced movement conversations before composing a brief duet with only one requirement: all movement must be in antiphonal form, with only one dancer moving at a time.

The compositions were very quick — with our short classes, we ended up with only 2 - 3 minutes for actual creating time. The Dance 2 class treated it as a pure movement exercise, with an interesting variety of movement. But what fascinated me was how the Dance Production class turned their brief compositions into miniature dramatic studies: while one pair skipped, leaped and beckoned each other across the room like two children playing leapfrog, another pair alternated one partner’s harsh, angular movement with the other’s limping, melting retreats — both implying, if not a storyline, at least a definite emotional character to their dances. Even in these very short studies, perhaps this bodes well for the kind of work this group might be inclined to do later in the year!

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