Inspiration -

by Sallamah Chimera

1. Where have your movement and subject ideas come from?

Mostly from the culture and history as well as from seeing movement, prop work, or a style I like and want to create a dance around. Sometimes paintings or photos will inspire me. Of course, the music and the rhythm have a major impact on my ideas.

2. What approaches have you used to flesh out your ideas?

Research and seeing performances. Collecting technique that goes with the particular style of dance or can be used with traditional or non-traditional music. I have books with some technique descriptions and photos that give me ideas. Even a pose will spark my imagination.

3. Once you received an inspiration, what were some of your next steps?

If I have the music or technique the inspiration is easier to make into reality. I usually breakdown the count and any special phrasing in the music and make note of rhythm changes. I make a list of technique I want to use and any special turns, walks, etc. I want to use. Sometimes everything I need to create my dance is within me and other times I have to look around for movements and ideas.

4. What strategies have you used to take an inspiration and translate it into something you could use to generate movement and create a piece about?

Currently, I am thinking about creating a sword dance that incorporates floor work as well as interesting standing movements for those of us who can no longer dance on the floor. I am looking at the various ways to use the sword, methods of getting onto and off the floor, and movements to use when on the floor. I also have to decide on mood I want to create for the dance: dark and mysterious or sensuous and slinky. Some of which will be conveyed through the music and the eyes and facial expressions.

5. How have you handled an inspiration that seemed too big to tackle through movement? For example, refine it, abandon it, etc?

I have thought about creating a totally belly dancing Scheherezade tableau with dancing, acting and singing. It is too big of a project to go alone and the talent I need is not available to me. People who might be able to help have no vision or interest in the project. It also would require funding and support from the local community. I do have music and have choreographed one of the main dances. For the time being, it will have to wait and I can think about it.

6. How many of us have these magnificent ideas in our heads for pieces that never see the light of day? What advice do you have for those who find it hard to get started?

First, you really have to love to choreograph and derive pleasure from the process and thrill at its completion. Second, you really have to want to do create the dance or there has to be a real need or someone has to force you to create it. The first two reasons are preferable to the last. I find it is difficult to get started if I don’t know how to do the task. This causes procrastination which can defeat the project before it ever gets off the ground. I suggest finding the music you want to use for the piece, then listen to the music and decide where your "magnificent ideas" fit in. Once these are in place, you only need to create the pieces that link the ideas together and there’s your dance. Its like learning to dance, you can’t sit and learn you have to get up and move your body. The same with choreographing a dance. Just do it!

7. In translating your inspirations into movement, have you found any limitations in movement’s ability to fully realize what you’re attempting to communicate? Or, have you felt that as a choreographer you were limited in your ability to access movement that fully realized your inspiration? How did you manage that hurdle?

I am still struggling with a new choreography because I can’t access movement that will allow me to realize my inspiration. I am frustrated but I know it will come with time. I am going to go back through my technique videos for Egyptian style dances and see if I can come up with something better and possibly look at YouTube.

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Read more reflections from Sallamah here.