Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dance as Theater

Ages I don't come here!
I hope my blog friends are still out there! :-)

Some thoughts about creativity :-)


I like to work in ideas. Even if someone asks me to make an abstract choreography, I create for myself a linear form of thought, like a plot. During my early planning stages I create dance as if it were theatre. Many times it is like laying out a storyboard while trying to discover what I want to say with the intellectual material I find.This takes a long research period where the idea begins to take shape as if I were a writer constructing a play. I take especial attention to mental or visual images that can be expressed through movement. I slowly build a dramatic map, where moving bodies will take the place of the text and the subtext.
This way of working concentrates principally on the characters of the dance-theatre piece. I am interested in working always in an inductive way, inferring the general from the particular. I like specific ideas, not broad generalizations. Let’s take for example the word “love”, it is a general concept of an emotion.
If William Shakespeare had written a play entitled “Adolescent Romantic Love through Conflictive Socio-Economic Situations in the XVI Century” and explored all the possible examples of the word “love” such as: romantic love, sexual love, fraternal love and familial love, then the piece would have been lost. By dealing with the specific situation, of two young people in love in Romeo and Juliet, he was able to generate an exploration of all of these ideas into a coherent whole, working in this way, from the particular to the general. Specific ideas allow me this kind of focus.

Many months before beginning the rehearsal period I work in developing a clear dramaturgical structure and the vocabulary of movements that I need to create the different characters. My creative approach combines theatre and different languages of dance, using elements from several sources to orchestrate and outline the path that I feel the idea has to take. The length and style of the piece will be therefore dictated by this development.
The element of surprise defined by timing, as well as the work on details, are extremely important. I like to explore the many individual ways of non-verbal expression, for example, tiny gestures that say what the character thinks and feels, the focus of the eyes, and especially the tempo and rhythm of theatrical situations.

It is fascinating to work with all kind of performers, actors, singers, instrumentalist musicians and dancers. It is the idea once again that calls for a specific kind of performer. Sometimes it is necessary to combine performers of different genres. I try then to find a common performing language, so that everybody on stage become a moving actor without words and if there are words, I transform these into sounds.
One can’t be too serious all the time. The use of irony when least expected can make the piece more dynamic and if there is a dramatic ending; the contrast can create a stronger effect in the audience.

The construction of my pieces depends about what I want to say. It can have a cyclical or repeating form, sometimes I use variation and often I create accidentally my own compositional vocabulary, like the” fast-forward and rewind sequence” or “eternal pause frames”, terms obviously influenced by video.
The music also, has to enhance the idea, with a dramatic purpose as well. Therefore I look for music which supports and contributes to the concept of each scene, in a direct or contrapuntal way, or just as an atmosphere.

Once in the studio I have a very accurate notion of the quality necessary for a particular character, what music will be used and the sequence of the scenes. The next stage is the discovery of the details of movement needed through improvisation. I guide the performers so that together we can find the individuality of each character through these exploratory sessions. The personal body language of each performer is important and valuable. At this point I put aside my pre-planned script and open myself to other creative possibilities that sometimes take me into a completely unexpected direction. I am changing constantly from author to choreographer as pilot (Jo Butterworth, MA course handout)

Once the whole piece is roughly created, the moment of choosing what is essential and relevant for the piece, what I call “the heart of the piece” begins. Choice means that I have to cut, add, transform and balance. More time is spent cutting than adding- what I call “scissor time”. The moment of facing choice is a critical time for me. Here I let my intuition speak. At the same time I am conscious that the choices I make can affect the piece drastically for better or worse.
At this moment I throw away any kind of artistic ego I could have and I try to stay honest to the idea. Perhaps I have to eliminate a wonderful step combination because it just has a decorative role. Other times I have to cut good material that unbalances the overall scene. Choosing tests my integrity as a choreographer, because I have to forget any personal vanity and concentrate on what a particular idea dictates.

Other important aspect is to make the performers and other people involved in the production feel comfortable during rehearsal period, respecting their ideas and individualities. A positive work atmosphere during the creative process is of vital importance to me. Through being comfortable, the best creative ideas can spring. It is proven by many theatre practitioners like Clive Barker (1977:62) and Augusto Boal, (1992:60) that through intelligent play, creativity flows freely.

I am open to opinions and criticism, taking them to heart and pondering their possibilities. Only then I can make a choice of using them or not. Many times they inspire me to go one step further or see things in a new way. The visual concept of the stage, as well as the overall effect of the production, has to be at all moments present. Even the best of ideas will be lost on an audience if the details of a production, as well as their timing are not in perfect coordination to have direct impact on the public.
For me as a creator, the creative process is continuous; it doesn’t stop with the performance of a particular piece. The research process creates the seeds for new ideas. Ideas feed each other, like a chain reaction, it never stops.

This approach to dance as theatre has built my signature, my own choreographic way of expressing a theatrical idea, in the context of the times I live.
Being a Mexican that has been living in Europe for almost half of her life and working and living in different countries, my signature is a mixture of various cultures. I have been also influenced by choreographers of other nationalities and different styles, like Kay Takey from Japan (Butoh) and Reinhild Hoffmann from Germany (dance-theatre).
My light designer once told me that I was more like a theatre director than a choreographer. (Rui Damas, August 2004) He told me that through time my pieces have become more and more theatre oriented. I never considered myself a theatre director because my background comes from dance and I rarely use text. Still I have to recognize that the years of reading plays, paying close attention to actors working in performance and studying the practical theories of theatre, have a great influence on the creative choices made and the choreographic work process itself.
I see myself as a choreographer, because I transmit my ideas through the stylisation of the vocabulary of movement. For me, even the slightest gesture of one hand, done in an expressive way, is dance. Therefore I am a choreographer.

Barker Clive (1977 [1988])
Theatre Games, London: Methuen PaperbackBoal
Augusto (1992 [1997]) Games for Actors and Non-Actors, London: Routledge
Butterworth Jo, Didactic-democratic framework for dance making MA handout