Inspiration – Mining your Observations

by Ally Voye

1. Where have your ideas come from?

My ideas come mainly from observations and experiences that happen in my life. I find inspiration in what I see and experience that moves me, fires me up, gets me upset, excited, scared, sad or joyous – anything that really shifts me out of my regular state of the everyday.

2. What approaches have you used to flesh out your ideas?

- Imagery – closing my eyes and sensing the idea to see how it feels and how it can progress through a linear pathway (abstract or literal) and how it can change over time.
- Research – looking at various resources for more information, history, what other dances have been made with similar inspiration.
- Free writing, journaling
- Discussion – I find talking out loud to my peers, friends and family about my ideas often helps me clarify them. Often the people I talk to will offer new ways to look at my idea, which can help me flesh out the idea.

3. Once you received an inspiration, what were some of your next steps?

The worst part is next for me: getting space and dancers together. Luckily, I work in a collaborative group of choreographers who are willing to get together and try each other’s ideas in the beginning stages and I work at a school that easily allows for usage of rehearsal space.

4. What strategies have you used to take an inspiration and translate it into something you could use to generate movement and create a piece about?

- Word association – have dancers (or myself) respond to a word (taken from words that explored in the idea development – journaling, research, discussion, etc. – above) with their first movement instinct, then sequencing these movements together. Refining, analyzing and reordering these sequenced movements often reveals the start of a movement idea.
- Using imagery and sensation explored when flushing out my idea (above) to drive a movement improvisation. Observing these improvisations on myself and others can reveal movement ideas that I feel are connected to and reflective of my inspiration in a way that is not so obvious and direct, but still powerful.
- Work with gesture to have dancers actually do something literal associated with the experience. Create a sequence and use space, time and energy concepts to abstract the idea.
- The choreographers I work with and observe in performance as well as the teachers I learn from in classes and workshops constantly inspire me. I enjoy trying on other artists’ improvisations and their ideas have inspired many strategies I have tried over the years for movement generation.

5. How have you handled an inspiration that seemed too big to tackle through movement? For example, refine it, abandon it, etc?

My ideas frequently feel too big for movement. Through the refining process, however, I’m usually able to sort through the many aspects of my idea and choose a more specific direction that feels easier to tackle. Even after refining and getting specific, that sense of an overwhelming idea that is too big for movement often returns. I find myself shedding many of my ideas throughout the process in order to stay very clear about my intention.

6. How many of us have these magnificent ideas in our heads for pieces that never see the light of day? What advice do you have for those who find it hard to get started?

As I said above, having a group of trusted colleagues (dancers, choreographers or just any like-minded people) who are willing to spend time with you on the seeds of your ideas, even if they go nowhere, has been essential for me. I know my friends will try my ideas, be reflective about their process and not judge me for wanting to try something risky or odd. The simple process of seeing someone else explore you idea never fails to drive me to continue and helps keep my process rolling.

7. In translating your inspirations into movement, have you found any limitations in movement’s ability to fully realize what you’re attempting to communicate? Or, have you felt that as a choreographer you were limited in your ability to access movement that fully realized your inspiration? How did you manage that hurdle?

I always find limitations in the ability of movement to communicate and to access movement that can realize my inspiration. However, I usually find something that I didn’t intent to find in trying to do both these things. In my many failed attempts to manipulate movement to communicate an idea, I have decided to step aside and let the movement be what it is. Often, for me, in the process of trying to translate, communicate and delve into a specific idea, I will find new and brilliant things to explore within that process. This, to me, is why I keep going back to choreography. My choreographic process reveals something different to me than what I began with, and it is often more exciting to me than the original idea. In addition, I maintain the mindset that if my choreography speaks my idea to me, then that is all (or at least mostly) what matters. Others can have their own interpretation of my movement, which is generally fine with me. This has alleviated some of the anxiety-ridden questioning of if my ideas are working or not. If they drive me and I find them exciting and interesting, I can continue!