This month, we are looking into how choreographer and dancer interact around and within the process of generating, selecting, and staging material and the work that contains it. I was inspired to explore this topic after reading the article, “Collaborating with Dancers,” by artist Hope Mohr.
Share your thoughts here or comment on the reflections from other choreographers.
by Janaea Lyn – I have always approached my relationship with professional dancers as a collaboration. When I was directing my own company, I regularly involved them in the creative process, especially when working on solos and partnering. Even when I have choreographed for a specific dancer without their direct contribution, I created the material specifically for their unique gifts as a dancer and performer. It is the individuality of each dancer that I find most compelling as a choreographer, and seek to bring out in my work. I use this same approach as an educator and provide all students with opportunities to incorporate their contributions into the making of new dance.
by Emily Krause – 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.
by Sallamah Chimera – If the dance is for a soloist, I let her select music and movements. Then we work to make the dance come together so it reflects the personality of the dancer. If the dance is for a group, I usually come up with movement themes and ideas but the dancers contribute new ideas and help debug the technique and timing.
by Jennifer La Curan – My dancers play important role in my choreographic process, to me each dance is truly created for the dancers who are in the original cast. Even if I re-stage a piece, I will make changes based on the dancers who are performing. I want the choreograph to be alive in the dancers bodies, so I have to talk and explore the movements with my dancers. I ask my dancers to share with me their experiences doing my movements. Our relationship is give and take in both directions; truly a working partnership.
by Shannon Batdorf – As a choreographer, I see myself as a leader of the dancers within my piece. We collaborate together, but I give them guidelines to follow while we work together to create a piece. It is normally my vision that I want to see fulfilled, and together my dancers and I create a work that completes my vision.
by Katy Kauffman – My choreographic process so far in my current collaboration is all about brainstorming and finding ways to create movement and structure based on my current intention (i.e. soul mates). If I were to define how my dancers relate to this, I would say their relationship with one another effects my choreographic choices. For instance, currently I am working with a male and a female. The female’s movement style is very staccato and precise, while I find the male is more curvilinear and smooth. This informed my decision to base my idea on two unique individuals that find their souls are actually one. My relationship with my dancers in a more literal sense is about maintaining respect and understanding their unique qualities and limits. This makes it easier for me to create me piece not only based on my own intention, but what will look best on their bodies as well.
by Marsha Parrilla – I have been very intentional in the hiring process in my company, precisely because I truly believe in the power of collaboration in the choreographic process. I always make sure I am working with people that are not only talented, but thoughtful, engaging, problem solvers, daring, and open minded. My relationship with my dancers is very organic, and they are very inspiring to me. I have a very diverse and multicultural group, which enables rich discussions that inform our choreographic material. They are contributors to the material, and their ideas are always welcome.
by Dawn Davis-Loring – I see my dancers as an integral part of developing an idea or expanding on a theme. I welcome their input and contributions toward the creation of collaborative or mentored work that will enrich the concert.
by Holly Rothschild – My relationship changes. Sometimes, I bring in all of the movement and teach it to the dancers and sometimes, I write very specific directions and ask them to develop phrases based on my directions and then we tweak it.
by Joshua Legg – I always try to allow fluidity in defining this relationship. This relationship should support the needs of all the artists involved, but it also has to meet the needs of the work that’s being created. I’ll come back to that in a minute.