Composing New Knowledge

As my third semester comes to a close, I have found myself thinking about what the rest of
my time as a Buckeye will consist of. I have started to think about my focus curriculum, how I will approach it, and how I will apply it. Planning to declare mscreen-shot-2016-12-03-at-11-42-13-pmy focus in Performance and Composition, I have found this class to be especially helpful in growing my perspectives and tendencies, pushing me to make new choices when choreographing both to silence and to music. This semester, I have developed new
techniques for generating movement, both through practice in class and through viewing performances such as Black Mountain, Dido and Aeneas, and Dance Downtown. I firmly believe that as I begin to work towards my senior project – choreographing a piece – these new techniques and ideas play a large role in both my process and success.

Beginning first with what I have learned in class, I think that one of the major epiphanies I have experienced is that which refers to the relationship between music and movement. From the start of this course, we have spent time discussing and experimenting with different types of meter, letting our movement both determine and follow various rhythms and patterns. It was not until the middle of this past week that I realized how much these exercises have broadened and grown my perspectives. As a competitive studio dancer, I have spent the majority of my training following eight-counts and displaying a direct relationship to the music. Until this semester, I had never played with the “in-between” in the music and I had never tried to challenge the rhythms presented to me. Furthermore, my relationship to meter had never exactly exceeded the standard eight-count. Occasionally I had been exposed to 6’s, but I had never experimented further.

This new experimentation first occurred in my one-minute study to which I danced to Bon Iver’s “22 (Over Soon).” This was the first time that I had choreographed movement prior screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-11-42-51-pmto finding a song. In the past, I had normally found music and then generated phrasework to fit to that specific rhythm, meter, and tone. In this new practice of generating material, however, I found myself creating a final piece which I was exceptionally proud of. Not only was I pleased with the way that it looked on film, but I was excited at the way it felt to perform. I felt as though I was no longer confined to specific counts, and I think that getting outside of the box and experimenting is what led me to not only develop new musical relationships, but also new movement vocabulary. Furthermore, it was interesting that this study was all based on a singular phrase, edited and played with using the “toolbox” provided to us upon receiving this assignment. How incredible is it that a study which was so limited to specific moves is the one that felt the most freeing in my body? Now, as I approach my final study, I am using a similar choreographic approach.

To begin my final study, I spent time in the studio improvising and setting a few random phrases, both connected to and independent of each other. When in the studio, I would play a haphazardly generated playlist consisting of music with different tones and tempos. I think that having this music in the background allowed for me to generate movement that both complimented and contrasted itself. I eventually developed a phrase that was about a minute and thirty seconds, something that felt good in my body and solid to keep as a base for my final solo. It was then that I began to search for music, eventually deciding upon a song that I do not think I would have ever considered prior to the new relationship I have gained with music and meter. From there, I opened up my toolbox and played around with this phrase, transposing it and using it as a catalyst for new material to fill up the remainder of the three-minute piece. As I continue to engage in this process and refine my final piece, I am curious to hear from my peers and instructors as to whether or not this new approach to choreography was successful.

On another hand, it would be a lie to say that my new perspectives were only gained through practice in the studio – as I mentioned earlier. Rather, I have been introduced to new devices and ideas through the process of being an audience member as well. Specifically, this seed of an idea began to grow upon viewing the pieces in Dance Downtown, which all displayed different ways of relating to music. For example, “Fjorten” exemplified a direct relationship to the music, particular in terms of tone. The dark and strong beats and underlying rhythm accentuated the movements and relationships between dancers onstage. On the other hand, music served the purpose of cueing movement in Taketa’s “Onion Skins, Opaques, Oxbloods and Pearls,” while also being indirectly related to through Taketa’s voluminous and swirled movement patterns. Finally, Miller’s “Sel Fou!” displayed a very unique musical relationship due to the wide variety of both silence and music throughout the piece. In this piece, music was both directly and indirectly related to. Furthermore, the emotional tone of the music stimulated the audience’s reactions to the piece, specifically how they responded to the comedic aspect.

To see three pieces back to back, the differences in musical relationship between all three was extremely evident. I suppose that part of this could be that I had began to consider my own relationship to music in the days leading up to being a part of the audience. However, I am happy that I approached this performance with a specific lens to view the movement because I feel as though this new lens allowed for me to not only view the pieces, but to analyze them as well. Furthermore, Bebe Miller’s piece and her utilization of various musical selections within a single piece highlighted this idea of different relationships to rhythm and tone. In fact, I feel as though it was her piece that inspired my final decision to pick the song that I ended up deciding on when it came to my final composition study.

Bebe Miller’s “Sel Fou!” utilized music that is not the normal concert dance music that we hear, or expect to hear. Rather, her music had an underlying groove to it, something that I would normally attribute to hip hop movement rather than contemporary movement. In seeing this, I realized my error in assigning genre to music and letting music predetermine the style which I generate movement. Though this composition class, in addition to my training background, has taught me the importance of rhythm and meter, viewing Miller’s piece reminded me that sometimes it is the interesting choice for the choreographer to determine the relationship to the music rather than let the music cue each and every movement. Furthermore, Miller’s work encouraged me to branch out of my comfort zone and experiment with music that I would not normally move to, in the hopes that I would generate new movement vocabulary.

The first performances of the semester, Black Mountain and Dido and Aeneas, on the other hand, exemplified clear, direct relationships to music. Often, the dancers of these pieces only moved when the music cued such movements, as if glued together. In this way, the movement and musical score became similar. In fact, I am curious as to how the Laban notation of such performances would compare to the musical scores, as I am sure that they would display more similarities than differences. Based on my past training, this direct relationship to music is what I have come to identify as my tendency. Because of this, I found these performances to be aesthetically pleasing, especially due to their equal use of symmetry and geometry. However, I now appreciate, even more, the usage of music in Dance Downtown because I feel as though it introduced an entirely new vocabulary of generating movement and musical relationships. Had I not seen the clear juxtaposition between the three pieces of Dance Downtown, it is possible that I would not be experimenting in the way that I am now.

Taking all of these viewings and new knowledge into account, I do not think that I would have been able to make these connections or discoveries without class feedback and discussion, especially that which pertained to the studies performed throughout the semester. Creating a new study every week pushed me to generate new material, and screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-11-44-15-pmreceiving feedback that often from both my instructors and peers kept my mind working, eager to learn and motivated to grow. I found our class discussions extremely helpful in identifying my tendencies, but even more essential in discovering ways to challenge these tendencies and find new movement vocabulary – especially that of using a specific toolbox. I have taken it upon myself to keep these discussions in a notebook, and I have found myself using this advice in the creative process of my final study.

The epiphanies which I have experienced this semester would not have been possible without all three of these learning mediums: course material, class discussions, and concert viewings. Furthermore, I appreciated the ability of our instructors and peers to make connections between these three aspects of the class so that the material created and material viewed became equally valuable in our learning process. In choosing a composition focus for my degree, I intend to use these new discoveries in the creative processes which I will experience and initiate. I am excited to find my choreographic voice and develop new movement and compositional vocabulary.

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