Tuesday, October 13, 2015

first choreography projects — energy qualities for Dance 2

After a couple of weeks of technique (basic jazz for Dance 1, more complex jazz for Dance 2, lyrical for Dance Production), we moved into our first creative work / choreography unit. The Dance 1 classes started with Directions and Facings — simple and accessible for new dance students who have never created before, and which I wrote about at about this time last year...

While the Dance 1 classes are focusing primarily on the element of Space, I plan to emphasize the element of Force/Energy in the Dance 2 class. To that end, we began with a lesson on smooth and sharp — beginning with concrete images ( float down a smooth-flowing river, slash through a jungle, hiccups...), then using action words to find movements that can be done both smoothly and sharply — then moved on to further qualities of movement. I know that (at least according to Blom and Chaplin) there are as many movement qualities as there are adjectives in the dictionary, but for the purposes of this unit I focused on six: sustained/smooth, percussive/sharp, swinging, suspended, collapsing, and vibrating (which are the same qualities I learned from my master teacher, Marcia Singman, at Berkeley High school when I was student teaching, long before I learned much about creative dance teaching). The group project was simple: create a dance showing clearly at least three of these movement qualities, but making one the most important.

The Dance 2 class is small, so they worked in groups of 2 - 4, and I was intrigued by the variety of movement choices in their projects. One quartet created a dance in the form of a traditional Tahitian ‘aparima, with mostly sustained movements punctuated with some percussive arms and vibrating hips. Another group created a narrative about one person controlling a group, using percussive movement to carry the dramatic elements.

A third group began as a trio, with a lovely abstract dance of sustained in contemporary style punctuated with collapsing and percussive accents. Partway through the creating and rehearsal process, one dancer rejoined the class and this group after being sick at home for most of the week. The original trio was about to try to teach her all their movement in one day... but I told them my story about Balanchine’s Serenade — how one dancer was late to rehearsal, ran in midway through the dance and took her place, and how Balanchine kept the dancer arriving late as a central image and perhaps the most iconic element in a very famous dance. I always appreciate an opportunity to tell this story, because it is such a perfect example of how you can turn rehearsal difficulties to your advantage to make your dance more interesting and creative. So after hearing this little pep-talk, the group created a coda to their dance in which the original trio froze while the fourth dancer entered, weaving around and through them, and releasing them to exit as she circled each one in turn; the dance ended with this last dancer sinking to the floor in a low shape. It was lovely, seeming to imply a subtly mysterious narrative — and perhaps the group learned something lasting about working with what comes...

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