Four Minds, Eight Bodies

This semester, I had the opportunity to take Group Forms as part of my Composition focus. This class included a variety of assignments and readings which were geared towards engaging us intellectually and artistically. The goal was to ultimately grow as choreographers, especially in the circumstance of both engaging in choreography with others and choreographing on bodies other than our own. This being said, discussions included topics such as bodies in space, relationships of bodies to each other, and the constant question of whether or not music is essential in the final product. For me, this class proved to be more of an intellectual stimulus, leading me to new questions and ideas which I hope to use as I continue to pursue my focus curriculum in Composition.

Of the many readings that we were assigned, multiple were from a book entitled A Choreographer’s Handbook. A few ideas from this selection struck me throughout the course of the semester, particularly those discussing the way that a spectator views choreography.

“A spectator tends to see the person in a space

more than the movement being danced. (139)”

As a choreographer, I think that I have the tendency to get so caught up in the music and the corresponding movement that I forget about the different ways that dancers can relate to each other on the stage. Putting this aspect of choreography into the foreground of my mind, however, is essential because it alters the way that the audience views the final product which is performed. In shifting focus to the dancers’ relationships to each other, new choreography emerges on its own.

“Forms, patterns, phrases will arise by avoiding each other,

sliding by,

surrounding closely,

by moving over, under, around and through another dancer’s space

with all manner of actions.

…Will they touch or won’t they? (139)”

Reading and discussing this particular section of the reading led me to discover the true importance of learning from your dancers. I think that, at times, I get so caught up in being prepared for choreography sessions that I forget about all of the amazing things that will occur naturally throughout the process. In fact, the process appears more important than the product, at times, and especially in this course. I have found that throughout the many processes of assignments this semester, I have opened myself up to new movement patterns and ideas which I hope to use in future endeavors. I have spent time reflecting on classes and assignments outside of the classroom with the intention of using these new discoveries to my benefit. These personal reflections have then led me to make new choices and choreographic suggestions as we transitioned into our final project for this particular class.

Our final began as two duets, which were then combined into a quartet, and finally into an octet. The goal of the project was to generate material, learn to combine material and find connections, and then transform material into a larger group piece while also adding in four new dancers (who were not enrolled in the class). Through many rehearsals inside and outside of the class period, we were able to accomplish what we first thought was somewhat unthinkable. When Sofie, our instructor, first introduced this project, you see, we felt overwhelmed, as if it would not be possible to complete this project under the allotted time. However, this time crunch led us to be brave in decision making, essentially making choices that we would not normally make initially.

In our particular group, we wanted to focus on exploring new movement throughout this process. By the time we reached the choreographic process for our octet, we chose to pick out the parts of our duets and quartet which we felt were the most successful. We wanted to expand upon certain parts so that we could limit our decision making in a way that would be beneficial with the allotted time. However, we found that in limiting our movement bank, we actually challenged ourselves to expand upon our original ideas and transition into new movement dynamics that we could experiment with. This then led us to experimenting with relationships to space and each other, similar to the quotations which I had explained above. Personally, this was a period of growth for me, as I often tend to utilize unison when I choreograph. Regardless of whether or not this is a tendency that results from my studio and competition background, I was excited to step out of my comfort zone a bit and learn from my fellow performers. As we choreographed, we found timing and dynamics occurring naturally as a result of different bodies and different orientations. This taught me the importance, once more, of the process and led me to feeling as though our study was a successful example of growth throughout the course of this particular composition experience.

Below is a video of our final product, which was both a joy to choreograph and to perform. With a wonderful group of dancers and artists, it was a fantastic end to the semester – especially being the last final exam for the majority of our group. I encourage you to view it and make new discoveries for yourself.

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