Middles- A Moment of Choice
by Micelle Horner
1. Writers say that the middle section is where the plot thickens (with new characters, sub-storylines, conflicts, villains, etc.) How would you describe the function/s of the middle in choreography?
The function of the middle can be anything you need it to be. It might even be where the piece was first conceived and thus more significant to the overall project than the beginning or conclusion. The middle is where choices are made in the story line or when the climax of the drama reaches its peak. Perhaps there is a beautiful bridge in the music and it takes a whole new tone for the piece, guiding the choreography away from something and back to it again. It can be anything you need it to be, it is a constructive device. Sometimes the middle is just the part for the creator that needs something in it to fill out the piece….
2. What have you found challenging about constructing the middle section of a work?
As far as the challenges of constructing a middle section can go, I have different strategies for over coming dull spots or “middles” that need “color”. A middle can serve as a bridge from beginning to end or it can just be a personal weak spot in the work that needs revamping. So first off, it will depend on the nature of how the “middle” is becoming a challenge. Then I make myself step away from the music and the concept for a few hours until something inspiring pulls me back to the idea. This way I can attempt to find new imagery to guide the piece or at least add to what’s missing or bridge the gap. I never try to force ideas because if you are trying to hard or you are putting something in just to fill time, its always obvious as an audience member and under minds the integrity of the work. If time is a challenge, adding pressure to a deadline doesn’t work for me in a creative capacity. Often if I just remove my self from it for a short time something will come to me and I never would have found the answer otherwise.
3. What strategies have you used to prevent the middle from meandering and/or going off on tangents? If you have experienced tangential and meandering middles, what was your process for getting the work back on track?
Again, I never try to force ideas. If appreciate a good tangent as long as you can justify how it all is connected. I created an entire show based on the tangents that I experienced after learning about 1 atrocity. I had so many emotions on different levels and in different modes that it manifested 4 separate pieces that attempted to show the common thread line that was my journey of digesting this information I acquired. Sometimes tangents are the best thing for the creative process because you can discover another hue of what you are creating. I say, let it happen and edit in the best parts.
4. As choreographers, much of our middle content is about variation and development. In this process, new directional possibilities arise for the work. When faced with these new possibilities, what considerations have helped you decide whether to continue the dance on its original path, or venture down a newly presented path?
If something is working well then it stays, if something is a trouble spot it gets changed out for something else. I am an organic choreographer, I have a skeleton of an idea for a piece and I let it take on a life of its own until its finished. If the story is already there, it will be strong enough to pull the attention back to it. If its a conceptual piece, it would be too restrictive to demand that the idea comes full circle. We can’t always tie everything together neatly in a little bow. Art is messy and free such as the artist and life.
5. Are there differences between constructing middles for shorter works (under 15 minutes) and larger works (i.e. evening length)?
There can be a difference, depending on how a choreographer designs the order of an evening length show. I take short works and file them into an order to create an evening of work. So, if something is just way off topic, that may not be a bad thing depending on the situation. It has often happened that an idea of mine deserves further exploration that simply 1 short piece. But I believe in entertaining the audience and so variety can be a blessing.
6. What words of wisdom and warning would you give for creating a strong middle section?
I believe in entertaining the audience. Keep the audience in mind and you will be glad you did. This means, allow your work to make its point but keep it interesting. Use the middle to shape the piece or the show, do not look at it as a doldrums that needs to be tackled. Most of the time the middle creates itself if you have a strong story or vision. Some of my most beloved works have come from the middle.