Solos – In the Absence of Comfort

by Catherine Samardza

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?

I LIKE large groups. Solos challenge me to keep it interesting without depending on patterns, entrances and exits or interaction between dancers. Since I am challenging my self outside my "go to comfort" area, it’s not so much liberty as pushing my creative process.

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

See above – no group patterns, dancer interaction… I have to figure out ways to make it interesting without the energy and input I usually find in groups. I will say that I often end up using a prop of some sort – since I do a lot of comedy work, the prop provides the interaction I need to tell my story.

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

Keep it interesting – for me AND the audience. Telling the story – whether literal or abstract. I need a beginning, middle and end, either actual narrative or physical kinesthetic response.

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

Any clich├ęs in my comedy work are there on purpose, either to spoof or for immediate understanding for the audience.

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

Casting issues are usually what drive my solo choreography. The company is very small these days, so solos, duets and trios are the norm.

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

Relevance/contribution – as I said before, it challenges me to work outside my comfort level. Although since I keep using props, that’s another level of comfort I should re-examine for the next solo! But I think it is important to push that comfort zone; I KNOW I can create successful choreography using groups or comedy (or both). Solos, I’m never so sure of. So between the artistic needs and the programming needs, I will keep adding solos….

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

Finding a subject suitable for solo work that connects with me, that I can keep interesting for the duration of the music, and that will connect with the audience. Yes, there is some of that with group work, too, but I really use the energy of dancers connecting as impetus for interest in my work, so finding that connection to move a solo forward is something I have to think about.

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

Same as any other piece. Content – something to say, literal or abstract; intellectual interest and kinesthetic and emotional response for and from audience.

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Read more reflections by Catherine here.