Middles- The Substance in the Sandwich
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 middle of a dance piece is like the meat and veggies between two pieces of bread in a sandwich. It is the sustenance of the piece that fills up the audience. It tells the story and brings characters to life through movement. For me, it is the plot line of the dance that keeps the audience entangled and engaged in one’s work.
2. What have you found challenging about constructing the middle section of a work?
The most challenging part about constructing the middle is finding movement and movement sequences to accurately tell one’s story to which the beginning of the piece has alluded. For me, it takes a lot of time, working in the studio by myself, writing and moving, feeling the characters inhabit my body, and also working with my dancers on character development to see what movement unfolds. Each piece is different for me, so this process is always different. Currently, the character development is the driving force behind my piece, so I find that a lot of my rehearsals focus around this character development and the interaction of my dancers while in characters. It is in this way that I discover the movement that best fits this piece and the story that I am trying to tell.
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?
Making a dance is always a process, with tangents and linear lines as well. Sometimes I do end up going off on tangents. Most of the time, I realize that these dance sequences do not fit after a few rehearsals and either cut them out completely or move them to a different section of the piece. I have found that these tangents are also very helpful though as they often lead to new works that have been in my head and are coming out in the creative process, but out of sequence. Making a dance is such an individual, unique and complicated process that I do not think there is a clear cut right or wrong way to make a dance. If tangential sequences come about, they are because that movement is in me somewhere and needs to come out, whether in the current piece on which I am working or a new piece.
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?
I usually play with the possibilities and continue in each direction to see where it goes. Sometimes, these variations lead me to new discoveries that are key to the development of my piece. Other times, they lead me down a path that is not helpful for the piece at hand, but for works later down the line. Whatever the final decision may be, the decisive factor for me is whether this movement sequence tells the story I am trying to tell in the most logical and most engaging of ways.
5. Are there differences between constructing middles for shorter works (under 15 minutes) and larger works (i.e. evening length)?
Yes, there are definitely differences. For a longer work, you have the ability to create multiple stories, which can include solos, duets, trios or whatever pairing may work to tell your story. The longer work enables you to create multiple and more intricate levels to the plot of your piece.
6. What words of wisdom and warning would you give for creating a strong middle section?
Make it logical, make it engaging and make it meaningful to the overall story you are trying to tell.