Solos – A Balance of Challenge and Liberty

by Joshua Legg

1. What challenges do you encounter when making solos that you don’t encounter using any other number of dancers? What liberty do you find?

The challenge and liberty are really the same: you only have a single facility with which to examine your idea. There’s confinement then, which in itself is quite freeing. You don’t have to worry about spatial configurations with lots dancers all about the place. You get to look at the space from a highly pointed perspective.

2. How is your compositional approach different in making solos than other configurations?

My compositional approach isn’t affected as much by the number of performers as it is by the idea that I am examining. That idea is much more informative and guiding (in terms of compositional approach) than whether I have one dancer or forty-three.

3. When you are constructing a solo, what are some of the things you are looking to see or create?

See number 4 below.

4. What pitfalls or cliches have you embraced or confronted when making solos?

I think the biggest pitfall of solo work is the proclivity for indulgence. As an audience member, I don’t want to pay to see indulgence or personal therapy presented as art on stage. I find that those things happen more often in solo works than group works (not that they don’t appear in group works, too). As an actor, I am heavily influenced by David Mamet. His book "True and False" made organic sense to me, and helped me better understand the way I was already trying to work in theatre. That, in turn, informed my work as a choreographer. Regardless of whether I’m dealing with narrative or an abstract idea, I’m always looking to tell the truth with the movement I design. I find that helps me eliminate my own propensity for indulgence—or at least to keep that in check. It helps me to not hold any movement or idea as being so "precious" that I can’t let it go and replace it with something else if it feels false or contrived.

5. What are the reasons you choose/have chosen to create a solo over other configurations?

Again, solo work allows us to examine a highly pointed perspective of whatever idea it is that’s being explored, whether that’s about some kind of narrative, or a movement/motational concept. Sometimes, I’m creating a monolog, and other times, I’m exploring the space as only one human can in their individual perspective—which doesn’t necessarily have anything at all to do with plot, though it could. There are also practical considerations…solos can do a great service in the midst of a larger work to move the action forward. A solo in the midst of a concert gives coverage for group costume changes, and adds to the variety of the audience’s experience, so they’re also are handy in that regard.

6. What, and how, do solos contribute to your work, to your practice? What is their relevance?

I have frequently used stand-alone solos (as opposed to solos in the midst of a larger work) as a place for exploring narrative. I have a number of solos in my rep that are dancetheatre/performance art kinds of work. I mentioned monologs earlier—I’ve made a lot of dance-based monologs in my career. Exploring those characters is exciting. Not that I don’t ever engage in storytelling with group work, but I probably enjoy it more in solo work.

7. For you, what necessities exist with solos that do not with other groupings?

Hmm…I’m not sure that there’s a difference.

8. For you, what characteristics make up a well-crafted solo?

I work in a a variety of dance genres, so answers to this question vary based on the aesthetics of each genre. Roughly, I could generalize and ask a few questions about the work: 1. Is there an interesting movement vocabulary? 2. Has that vocabulary been manipulated and fully developed? 3. Have the basic elements of dance been effectively used based on the aesthetics of the genre? That’s a really generic set of questions, but I would probably be looking at some combination of them regardless of the dance genre. Then, we could get more specific about the concept of well-crafted from there.

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Read more reflections by Joshua here.