Dancer Collab – A Community of Contributing

by Emily Krause

1. How do you define your relationship with your dancers as it relates to the choreographic process?

My relationship with my dancers is a leadership and choreographer role, as well as a peer and collaborator role. Since I develop phrases and then teach them to my dancers, I am the choreographer and the leader for the piece. But, I also collaborate with my dancers by asking them for feedback and allowing their personal dance preferences to be apparent in the piece because if the dancers don’t feel comfortable with the way I do my movement, the dance will not look as good as if the dancers have some freedom in the movements.

2. As choreographer-to-dancer, what function/s have each of you held in contributing to and/or impacting the generation, selection, staging, etc. of material?

I feel that I have taken the tools my teachers have provided me and used the ones that are most beneficial for my pieces. Using those basic tools and interpreting them in my own way has given back to my teachers’ work and has also made me a well-rounded dancer and choreographer in this field because I am an educated dancer.

3. In her article, “Collaborating with Dancers,” Hope Mohr talks about a spectrum of collaboration which spans from the “old-school genius” model, where “creativity falls almost exclusively to the choreographer,” to a more mutualistic model, where choreographers “rely heavily on the dancers with whom they work not only to generate vocabulary, but also to problem-solve at every point in the creative process.” As a choreographer, how have you traversed this spectrum?

I have used my dancers as collaboration for every group piece that I have choreographed. When I collaborate with dancers, I will usually given them core phrases and allow them to manipulate it as they please to fit their bodies and give them freedom in the movement. This not only gives my pieces variance, but it also generates new material because each dancer’s phrase is slightly different from my phrase, as well as the other dancer’s phrases. My dancers also help me to problem solve during my process. If I get stuck or something isn’t working our nicely, they will give me their thoughts and suggestions on how to make it better because each person has a different perspective that could help make the piece better.

4. Along this spectrum, what factors have influenced how you utilize your dancers in the choreographic process?

Since my dancers all offer a different perspective and have their own thoughts and feelings about the piece, I always like my dancers to give feedback and thoughts or suggestions. I allow my dancers to give their input whenever they feel necessary. It allows my dancers own movement to be more apparent in the piece and gives them more of an ownership of the process and the piece. My dancers give me feedback about how the movement feels and looks to them, which helps me during my choreographic process, as well as my revising process.

5. Is there a side of the spectrum you tend to lean towards? Why?

Working with dancers is usually a collaborative process for me. I like the community feeling that my dancers have with my pieces. I also like that my dancers aren’t afraid to say if something feels weird or doesn’t look quite right because they know I am always open to suggestions. Using a collaborative process makes the dancers feel more involved and ultimately produces a better piece because it allows the dancers freedom and preference of movement.

6. Has that propensity changed over time or as you have gained more experience? if so, what has led to that change?

Before coming to college and learning about the collaborative process, I was the sole choreographer and the dancers would not give much/any feedback or provide their own movement preferences. After learning that collaborating with your dancers is very rewarding and productive, I almost always use the collaborative process, even if it isn’t for a college piece or in a comp class. For me, the collaborative way of choreographing helps me to have a better relationship with my dancers and it makes them feel more apart of the piece. Learning about how to successfully collaborate with my dancers has completely changed the way I choreograph dances.

7. As a choreographer, what do you glean from your dancers that informs, adjusts, clarifies, confirms, etc., the material and the work at-large?

When I choreograph a phrase and teach it to my dancers, I allow them to individually work on it and get it into their bodies. After watching them work on it and I then usually ask them to do it individually. I see their personal preferences and I try to include or allow those personal preferences in the rest of the movement for the piece. Also if all of my dancers execute a movement in a different way than I intended, that shows they all interpreted it differently than what I thought, which allows me to see if I need to clarify, if I want something a certain way, or it shows me a completely different way that I personally wouldn’t have come up with.

What are your thoughts about Emily’s reflection on making solos? Leave a comment below. Want to share your own reflection on making solos? You can share it here.

Read more reflections from Emily here.