Generating Movement- Letting Movement Appear

by Micelle Horner

1. What sources of stimulation have you used to generate movement (i.e. text, pictures, research, visualizations, sounds, experiences, etc)?

I typically use music first to get me going physically and during that I listen to my emotions to allow my experiences or research to give shape to what I need to express. For example, 2 years ago I was inspired to create a piece based on the pressures women feel in a world of beauty obsessed perfection. It hit very close to home for me and many dancers because as dancers we are particularly scrutinized and required to have perfect bodies constantly. Other works I’ve created have been based on something as concrete as politics or as abstract as the concept of technology’s damage to society.

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)?

Specifically I was able to conduct interviews with political prisoners and capture that emotion for my work “Women in Iran”. I use color in performance but I don’t usually think of it in the choreographic process. Colors to me carry emotion with them and I latch on to the emotion faster than I realize that a color may have inspired it; but I truly think its the weight of the emotion behind the words and the passion in the tone of music that sets me up for a productive choreographic session.

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

In each case, the movement comes to me when I find a piece of music that resurrects the concept in my mind and I am almost forced to let the movement appear. Its important for me to have a camera ready for those lovely moments of inspiration. My preferred method is to film myself in a state of improvisation and then try to recreate the raw movement from the video and teach it to my company as choreography. Its tricky to capture but the camera helps.

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

While I am aware that this is a method people use, I have never been inspired to employ it directly to my process. I don’t like to think of dance as chore or task, I believe its something you love so much you simply MUST do it. So the motivation isn’t lacking in emotion in any sense, there is no needs for functionality in the impetus- its more of a yearning and compelling release through movement. That is my opinion behind these methods but as far as making a dance, ensuring that it is visually appealing and accomplishes communicating whatever you have to say- I believe this method can be used in the rehearsal or editing phase. Sometimes you don’t end up where you need to be spatially in order for the work to make sense and so then adjustments come into play. But as far as “generating” movement- no.

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?

It depends on the topic, if there is specific evidence or an event then I prefer to know as much about it prior to creating and then revisiting it each time I begin a new section of movement to ensure the inspiration is not lost. I often use verbal cues in the rehearsal process, to remind dancers of how while a movement may be abstract, it will create a specific visual for the audience so they need to keep the intention in mind and not let the emotion get stale. Words I have used: flower, stab, scream, float, moan, ghost, power…I find that these can help the dancers embody what I intended them to feel and then in performance- the audience hopefully feels these words when they see the movement.

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?

I look for whether the execution of movement is delivering the same quality live and on the group as it does in my head or on my body alone. Sometimes I save a choreographic phrase knowing that it will work better somewhere else or swap things around because, you might be working on a piece but unconsciously working out another and some how there becomes a cross over or something you put on the shelf for further development. Another test I put work through is to have my board members come in and preview a close to finished piece so they can be another set of eyes confirming something is working. Once I’m looking for a place for the work to be relevant its never about movement but more about theme that determines if something will make good sense to re-set it.

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 my new work to seem fresh but still be seen as a signature piece. I incorporate many styles into my movement and I don’t discriminate when it comes to that. I will however break a style down and maybe only use a certain aspect of it when I want to create something new. That is one thing I might try. Another is to get out and see what other people are creating, become inspired that way. It only takes a feeling for me to get a new movement idea and music usually drives enough freshness out of me that its less of a pressure and more of a natural release of ideas. If your choreographic style is good it will never feel stale.