For my Senior composition project, I created a piece based off of those wonderful but horrible, pesky but invigorating, butterflies that you feel whenever you are around someone that you like or are attracted to. My piece evolved and made a journey from this original concept to the final product, incorporating the idea of staying true to yourself while also encompassing the different worlds of dream and reality along the way.
It took a good amount of time for this work to morph into the final product, and up until the day of the performance there were still changes that I was debating whether or not I should make. However, it is a work that I am proud of- which is unusual for me. I normally am extremely critical of my own choreography and do not always feel positively about the end result, but in this case I did. It also didn’t hurt that I had the best cast of dancers to work with. So, here it is below. I hope you enjoy!
This past weekend I had the privilege of doing what I love once again-dancing on stage. Performing in front of a large audience just brings such vivacity into life in a way that other things cannot, although nerves, doubtful thoughts, inner turmoil, and exhaustion like to tag along. Double the fun too, if it includes a fairly large cast of dancers that you get to share the experience with up on the stage (which it did). So all in all, this weekend was a fun one. It was my dance conservatory’s Spring Concert, and I had the privilege of performing in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, which originally premiered in 1946. If you don’t know anything about this particular ballet of good ol’ George’s, here’s a little info.
The Four Temperaments begins with three separate themes. Each takes the form of a duet, with one woman and one man. I had the honor of performing the woman’s role (for obvious reasons), in the second theme. The ballet then goes on to portray four different temperaments, as the title alludes to. These temperaments being: melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic, and choleric. Lastly, all of the dancers appear back on stage for the finale, which incorporates movement vocabulary from each of the four temperaments previously portrayed.
Additionally, The Four Temperaments is one of Balanchine’s Black and White ballets- meaning that the costume worn by the dancers is only a black leotard and pink tights for the ladies, and a white shirt and black tights for the gentlemen. This basic costume, which mimics everyday practice clothing, allows for visible clean lines, and doesn’t hide anything (almost not hiding what it needs to hide).
Part of this whole performance experience involved wearing the actual black leotards and pink tights worn by the New York City Ballet dancers. So for one, these costumes were very old. The black belts worn around our waists were fraying by the minute and we had to be extremely gentle in order not to poke holes in the delicate leotard fabric. For two, these costumes were also quite small. The tights no longer had stretch in them, so they were constantly falling down, but the leotard was the best part. That moment when you are in the wings preparing yourself to look just right as you take your first step on stage (where you would normally just adjust a strap, tweak a bobby pin, or just take a deep breath) I would pull the leotard up. But nope, that wouldn’t do, so I’d pull it down, but then pull it up again, but nope back down it goes- there just wasn’t enough fabric to cover everything necessary. However, when performing, you’ve got to pretend none of this is happening. Even if a wardrobe malfunction does occur while on stage, you can’t exactly stop, turn around and tell your partner to hold up a minute, and fix it. That’s just not how live performances work.
Here is a picture of my wonderful partner (seriously though he is the best partner ever) and I backstage before the performance. As you can see, the leotard is quite small.
Anyway… I hope the audience enjoyed seeing a decent amount of my booty on stage this weekend (I chose to pull the leotard up). Despite the tiny costume and surrounding difficulties, I had so much fun performing this piece, and I would love to have the chance to dance it again in the future.
Some of the best dance pieces that resonate with audiences, hold an emotional issue at their core. Dancing that has emotion behind it is honest, direct, and endearing. Often, these pieces are inspired by a true story, and allow for a certain story or journey to be recounted without words, in pure movement and expression. Because of this element of honesty and heart-pulling emotional content, an impression is often left for a lengthy period of time. One piece that randomly pops into my head at points over the years since I first saw it, is “Calling You” choreographed by Mia Michaels and danced by Travis Wall and Heidi Groskreutz. The simplicity of the movement, yet intricate work involving the bench made it very memorable and powerful. So here is a little Flashback Friday to the year 2006. Check out the piece below:
Such a beautiful yet sad expression of a relationship. The beautiful thing about emotional dance pieces is that every individual who watches the piece will take something different away from it, in how they are able to relate it to their own personal life experiences and feelings. Some audience members get confused by dance pieces if they feel they do not understand what the choreographer is trying to portray, but on the contrary, dance pieces actually leave an open realm for your imagination to wander and observe the work in your own way. So don’t let any dance choreography baffle you. If you think a piece is about astronauts exploring the deep sea, but it was actually inspired by giraffes, don’t feel bad. If that is your interpretation of the work, then it is not wrong! Enjoy the beauty of artistic freedom.
Choreography can be a super fun endeavor or quite a struggle depending on the situation. It can be a mind game of sorts as it takes a lot of creativity, thinking, and altering to transform movement into a dance. There are many elements that go into the making of a dance piece. First, there is the concept or theme, then the movement, plus the music to go along with it, and costumes and lighting… the list goes on and on. But when you arrive at an end result, it can be amazing and powerful to create and say something without the use of words.
In this current world where social media runs the show, and videos are heavily accessible, it can be hard to produce truly original or unique content. The most unique part about choreography is how you put it together and organize the movement in space and time and perhaps with other dancers. To be honest here, most dance steps, gestures,or patterns have been done before and just like a plot or story for a movie, they become unique when you change it around and generate an idea through the voice of your own mind.
Take Disney movies as an example. Over the years, Disney has reused animation of their dance choreography, and were therefore copying their own movement material. Check out what I am talking about below:
Ahhhh, Disney movies. 🙂 Anyways… so even though they copied the exact same movement animation, the different characters and stories portrayed allowed the movement to become unique and special to each certain movie. In this particular situation, we do not have a case of copyright infringement as Disney is just recycling their own material. However, copyright infringement is a serious thing if you regurgitate someone else’s choreography and present it as your own. A more well-known instance of this occurred between Beyoncé and Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Check it out below:
As you can see in this comparison, Beyonce’s music video for ‘Countdown’ very closely copied the choreography, costuming, and style seen in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s works ‘Rosas danst Rosas’ and ‘Achterland‘. Although Beyoncé should have been charged with copyright infringement, as she did not even credit Keersmaeker in the video, this event was basically pushed under the rug due to the popularity of Beyoncé.
Therefore, when choreographing, it is best to never copy movement directly, or you may find yourself in a sticky situation. You can use the work of others as a source of inspiration, or an aid, but never as a carbon copy. Just like plagiarism in writing, make the choice to use your own voice through dance, not someone else’s.