Generating Movement- A Framework for Creativity

by Dawn Davis Loring

1. What sources of stimulation have you used to generate movement (i.e. text, pictures, research, visualizations, sounds, experiences, etc)? 2. Within these sources, what specific elements have you honed in on (i.e. texture, emotional content from readings or interviews, words, sound quality, colors, etc)?

I like to immerse myself in imagery and music related to the piece and spend some good studio time working with phrases. I am somewhat of a word nerd, so I often look up descriptive words relating to the theme/idea in the thesaurus to find shadings that imply movement and I try to form phrases inspired by the meanings and sounds of the words. Sometimes the impetus for a piece comes from a prop, so I put on my Fred Astaire hat for a while and see how many ways I can find to interact with the prop and I also incorporate this movement into the mix. I check out my ever-growing list of choreography tools to see what might benefit the piece best and often using these alternative perspectives will generate movement as well as develop existing phrases or idea kernels.

3. What role has improvisation played in your process of generating movement? What value has improvisation brought in unearthing rich material?

Improvisation plays a central role in my process of creating work. Although I am often an idea factory, actual phrases do not flow from me very easily. I sometimes feel like I have to trick myself into creating movement and have found that the process of structured improvisation helps give me a framework to be creative and generative within. Rather than having the whole world to choose from, giving myself some limitations helps me to focus.

4. How have you incorporated task structures into your process of generating movement? Can you give an example of a task you’ve used?

Funny you should ask…we are currently rehearsing a dance/theatre piece for performance in late June (Big Range Austin Dance Festival). It’s called Danceopoly and it’s based on the game, complete with life-sized gameboard and large dice. During the piece we have the audience help us play it, but instead of accumulating money and property, the dancer goes bankrupt trying to produce a show. It’s dark and funny because we play it like a cheesy game show/reality show. Many of my concerts have been based around one theme or idea and in between dancey pieces, we insert vignettes based on the lives of the dancers. I use tasks to support the personal story they are telling and besides anchoring the vignette to the props, the task-oriented movement inspires movement choices.

5. What kinds of investigation go into your subject before and while you are generating movement? How does this investigation guide, shape, inform your movement choices?

I like thematic concerts and I prefer to explore multiple facets of the chosen topic. For example, I wanted to do a concert on women’s body issues. I already had a piece about bras and breasts and another piece about women’s work. After percolating for a while, I decided to connect the two pieces thematically through the exploration of different types of women’s underwear.What better way to explore body issues than to focus on items that we wear the closest to our bodies. I began creating other pieces based on different types of underwear – slips, frilly panties, corsets and petticoats, to name a few, and I began working on pieces that focused attention on other body parts, like rear ends. This consolidation shaped some of the movement to respond to the restrictions of the costume and other movement choices came from my method of asking questions – what if I did a piece that celebrated butts? This was a particularly fun assignment (pun intended) as I worked with movement that focused on the rear end, relegating the face and torso to secondary status. The subject lent itself quite well to humor and hamminess and we began working the material for physical humor and oddity.

6. When reviewing movement you’ve generated, what are general criteria you are looking for to determine its relevance and/or place in a particular work?

As a young choreographer I had more fear that I either would have nothing interesting to say or that I might run out of ideas. I certainly didn’t want to throw anything away because I never knew when the creative tap might turn off. Thankfully, I no longer have these fears. I am a more confident artist and I like my work, even if no one else does. Maturity has taught me that I need to be OK with generating more than I need because then editing is less painful and the resulting choreography is less precious. I realized long ago that I don’t have to throw anything away, I can file it away to use in another piece. I am now a movement idea hoarder – I never throw anything away. Good thing it only takes up brain space and a few spiral notebooks.

My only criteria resembles my attitude toward dodgy food in the fridge – when in doubt, throw it out. Something else will come.

7. How do you deal with movement tendencies? Do you ever feel pressure to come up with fresh movement? What strategies do you use to address and/or overcome that pressure? What strategies have and/or do you use to find fresh ways of moving?

I always want to come up with fresh movement because I don’t want my style to be predictable nor to I want my dances to appear interchangeable. I have definite movement preferences and I am always battling that. Using rhythmic structures that counterpoint the movement can usually shake things up and performing movement to radically different types of music helps to break preferential movement patterns.