I went to see touch wood recently...I like touch wood, I like being able to see works in progress...there is something about watching raw and unfinished work that give me a tingle in my nut sack. To see ideas that people are exploring and then exposing, giving a piece of themselves whilst it being incomplete, and being welcome of the response that it provokes is incredible.
I went twice, both in the final week and it was nice that both evenings offered something else after the studio performances had finished. The first evening offered an open discussion with Michael Pinchbeck which ended up focusing heavily on dramaturgy and the second a performance by the Loose Collective in the Robin Howard Theatre, both of which were perfect ways to top off an evening of work.
However the discussion on dramaturgy left me really contemplating the way work is assessed by choreographers during the creation process. When choreographing we like to see our ideas develop and grow in front of our very eyes but how many of us step back to consider what the audience is truly seeing, what are they responding to and why? Why is there a high kick or the backflip? Maybe that song you threw in, doesn't quite fit or the lift that almost saw the dancer smash their skull open before being caught...is a little off the point. If you make a piece about circles and the audience sees squares have you done your job as a choreographer well? Will you be satisfied that they are at least seeing a shape?
I guess a square is better than...than a heard of goats right?
How would it feel to have an outside and professional eye watching and analysing your work? Seeing or not seeing what you are trying to portray? Encouraging you to come back to your point, pulling it apart and analysing, questioning and re-assembling to help you really say your point. You know...that thing you wanted to say in the first place.
Michael Pinchbeck said a very particular sentence that stuck with me.
'Dance has less concern for the meaning.' (As appose to acting)
Is it true? When creating work are choreographers starting with an idea and creating work which in the end portrays something similar to their original notion but somewhat sways to just, 'appealing to the masses'? Or how many choreographers are entering the studios without an idea or a name and putting it on at the end? What if choreographers stopped thinking about the aesthetics and stopped to remember what it is that was that they are originally trying to say? Really researching before being in the studio because in doing so, new movement vocabulary can be learned and grown upon, and it would have a more of a meaning, it would have more substance.
If we hired somebody in life, to stop us every now and then to say...hang on, are you not deviating from your original plan buddy? Would our growth be more noticeable? More significant? More...legit?? To make a piece that stays true in its roots we allow a basis for ourselves to grow, an opportunity to develop and bloom, and it's the same in life. Yes deviation allows our mind to expand, it allows us to build and enhance our ideas, but if we never come back to what we original thought of, if the end product is just the result of a domino line of transitions taking us to a different notion than the one originally planned, if we just keep deviating from what once was so clear and significant to us, are we not forever condemned to repeat the same mistakes which prevent us from moving forwards? It keeps us ignorant and arrogant and not really saying anything, because when you deviate it's usually back to a comfortable place and then you find after your third creation you are saying the same thing as you did the first time because you deviated from the word 'go' and never actually said anything.
To think outside the box... There needs to be a box (and you need to have stepped in it)
Michael touched on some very, very interesting points and I felt cheated when the discussion had to close due to running out of time. But it's a thought for work and a thought for life. Next time you go to see a piece don't look at the title or notes (or try not to). And afterwards think about how you felt and what you got from it. It's nice to sit back and appreciate dance without judgement but when it makes sense it's easier, and more satisfying. You wouldn't watch film that had no story and would would really be satisfied if you came out wondering what just happened.
We want to be heard, we are making dance to say something so speak up and say it loud and clear and really think about it. We live in a time where we can write a text message in abbreviated words or we could write a sentence using only the first letter of each word, we can shorten a whole birthday party into a 6 second vine video and yet, in the space of 10 to 90 minutes some of us can't express an idea through movement? (I'm not talking about all choreographers) And it's just a thought. Stay true to what you wanna say, because trust me...people want to hear it, and we all interpret things differently but we will get the underlying meaning I promise.
Thank you to the choreographers of Touch Wood 2013, I really enjoyed and appreciated your ideas, so thank you for sharing and good luck with your creations.