Inspiration – Tradition and Innovation

by Kara Mack

1. Where have your ideas come from?

My ideas come mostly through spiritual revelations. What I try to do with any piece that I choreograph is manifest the root, or essence of whatever I’m trying to convey through body movement.

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

Because I’m focusing now in my life on dances of the African Diaspora and West Africa, the music is my inspiration; and when the live drummers play, I’m able to flesh it out. When you’re dealing with any type of traditional or folklorico style of dance, the music is married to it. I am very blessed to have a husband who is very well versed in many styles of percussion, so he has the ability to stay traditional and innovate; because of that, anything he composes musically will be a challenge to me dance wise.

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

Once I find the inspiration or words of movement I would like to communicate, then I focus on how it could be made more simple. I find a lot of times, choreographers believe strongly within themselves that what they have created makes total sense, however, the audience needs a full page of explanation to be able to understand it; that shouldn’t be. This period is very important to me because I have to step outside of myself and ask,’if I was in the audience, would I be able to understand it or feel it?’ I then have to make sure that each player in the piece, dancer and musician, is able to feel and comprehend what their role is in the greater communication as well. Once everybody’s locked in, there’s no stopping spirit!

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?

Simply not dancing at all, and listening to different types of music for hours. It sends my brain in sooo many different directions, and inspirations flow. Also, I go outside; any way that allow me to feel a sense of being ‘open’

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

All the time! My new challenge is preparing for a show I’m doing next year where I bring West African, Afro-Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban music and dance on one stage, while telling the story of how even through different interpretations and cultures, we are all telling the same story. That’s huge! However, I go back to my initial thought and try to make it as simple as possible. One shouldn’t be verbose with words, so it shouldn’t be that way with dance either. I also have to let it go for awhile, work on it, let it go for awhile, etc.; to be able to remain appreciative of the initial inspiration.

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?

Go in the studio by yourself and deal with it yourself; give it time. Just move, if it’s with music or without, and your body will tell the story for you. Dance wise, it’s the part of letting go…it’s a great necessity.

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?

Limitation is based off of what’s popular in the culture. Because modern, jazz, ballet are the standard now within dance, a person that only dances hip hop would feel limited if they wanted to tell a story about a princess. But I feel that there’s no limit, for that’s how all of these various styles were created. And on another hand, if you are strong enough to choreograph something in a style that you’re not really personally strong in, then find your muse. Tell your story through someone who’s more fit for the job, and don’t look at limitations.