Spatial Design- choreography + space + logic

by Catherine

1. What are you assessing when you look at the spatial design of bodies and vocabulary in your work? Do these assessments change with the piece or are you guided by more overarching principles?

I always find out the dimensions of the space to be performed in – because there are often issues that are easier to deal with AS you choreograph than try to fix them later.

2. How have you used staging to contribute to your work, (i.e. for visual design, to communicate meaning, to create mood, to evoke social conventions, etc)?

serpentine patterns that go offstage and come back through can create the illusion of a larger space and continuous movement. Grouping dancers together gives the impression of family, solidarity, community.

3. In what ways do you play with a phrase to achieve the desired spacing and staging?

A combination of music and the intent of the choreography usually leads me to where I want to be during/at the end/beginning of a phrase. I don’t usually play with the phrase itself; my use of the music usually has me play with the choreography to achieve the partnership of phrasing and staging.

4. What challenges have you encountered when dealing with staging? What strategies, advice, or lines of thought have helped you overcome these challenges?

stages that are deeper than they are wide; no wings, no hidden crossover…..Knowing these problems are there before performance and blocking the space out in the rehearsal space is the best thing you can do to solve problems – whether with new work or re-staging something already choreographed.

5. Have entrances and exits served any greater function in your work than getting dancers in and out of the performance space? If yes, what have been their functions?

As mentioned before, to give the impression of a larger space and continuous movement coming in and out of vision……dancers coming together from elsewhere to be together.

6. What challenges have you encountered when dealing with entrances and exits? What helped you take on these challenges?

As a performer, my first job was dancing in a theater that required us to exit the building, run around to the other side and re-enter the building to get backstage. In a ballgown, dance shoes and the rain. Stagehands held umbrellas over us, and we wiped our shoes down with towels before going back onstage. Another show, dancers had to run downstairs, cross under the stage, back up and re-enter the stage. All the time worrying about timing. So I made a personal rule that if a dancer exits SR, the next entrance is SR. Always. No reason not to, keeps the flow natural and doesn’t stress out the dancers. Doesn’t make sense to me to have a dancer dashing all around the stage just to come back on where they were before. So when work is performed in a space without that back crossover? No problem.

7. How have your thoughts and approaches to space and spatial design evolved throughout your choreographic career?

I’ve grown even farther away from my symmetrical ballet roots, and closer to modern theories using floor work and straight down and upstage movement in addition to the traditional diagonal patterns. I think I am more aware of leading the eyes of the audience to where I want them to be, rather than just thinking in terms of the center of the stage area.

8. If you had a philosophy about the role of space in your practice and in your work, what would it be?

Know the performance space and keep it in mind. If you are not choreographing for a specific space, keep in mind that you may have to adapt. Work created in a 40′ wide space is not going to look the same crammed into 25′. I don’t think of this as a barrier to choreographic creativity – I see it as part of the puzzle that I must solve creatively.