Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Choreographic Experience: #2

I was going to take a break from this and post something else today, but I got excited. So here's my second choreographic experience. If you missed the explanation on how I came to choreograph in school, please read the first few paragraphs of my previous post.

My choreography experiences were separated by a year. Fast forward to senior year, I was no longer a part of the school dance team and our teacher was a little more wary of giving students choreography jobs. She learned her lesson in my first year choreographing, when many student choreographers were behind in teaching, kept changing their minds, or just didn't know what they wanted. She warned us that not many people would get the chance to fully choreograph their own piece this year, but I was extremely lucky in that I was given the opportunity.

I remember very vividly that I spent hours trying to find just the right piece of music for my dance. I knew I wanted something instrumental because I realized that in Hide and Seek, I had choreographed completely to the lyrics, and I figured that if there were no lyrics, I couldn't choreograph to them! Smart, eh? Anyway, I knew instrumental tracks could be boring, so I tried to find something pretty epic. One of my friends turned me to the soundtrack of the movie Inception, which had just come out, so I listened to every track on the soundtrack (on Youtube, of course). After an agonizing struggle to choose, I finally settled on the last track, Time. As a side note, I hadn't seen Inception yet when I started the choreography, haha.

A few months into senior year, many people knew that I was going to be majoring in dance, and I had already garnered respect from that. My peers automatically respected me as a teacher in the classroom and had no hard feelings (that I knew of!) outside of it, for which I'm eternally grateful. I never felt like I had to yell or that my 'authority' was questioned, so if any of you are reading this, thank you so much! It also helped that I was 2 years older than before and that I was finally older than most people in the room...but not all.

I was tired of lyrics, I was tired of small dances, and I wanted to do something epic to match Time. So I told my teacher I wanted 14 other dancers (15 total including me). Everyone I knew tried to convince me out of having 15 people in my piece, but I didn't listen. When I taught the first 4 counts of 8 in the first week, I knew I was onto something - it looked nothing short of awesome with so many people. Also, with 1.5 years of contemporary training now under my belt, I actually (kind of) knew what I was doing when I said the piece was "contemporary."

From the beginning, I told my dancers that our intention was to intimidate the audience. The whole thing would be extremely intense, to match the music, but the dancing would augment the music as well. Basically, the word was "epic." Make it "epic," and I'll be happy.

This is the piece where I had my set warm up! Again, the piece wasn't super high kicks and high impact dancing, so a 5 minute warm up with some crunches, some plies and tendus, balances, and general moving was enough. Set warm ups are such a blessing - I think it's the best thing for a young choreographer.

From then on, I taught a ton of choreography every week, but I had a problem of layering (different groups doing different things at different times). I was layering so much that I wasn't done teaching until the week of the show (oops). I also had times when groups of dancers literally sat on the side for the majority of the hour and a half and only came in to dance when I wanted to see everybody. That's a little tough - I had to tell them to be quiet sometimes, but they were generally respectful, if not bored. I also taped the piece every week with my Flip camera and posted the videos on Youtube so that my dancers could see the bigger picture and what they looked like. It was also a useful teaching tool for me, so that I could see who was struggling in what part of the movement and what looked broken and incoherent in the choreography. Sometimes I had to choreograph and rechoreograph sections before I taught them up to 5 times because it wouldn't fit in the music or overall scheme of the piece.

I never really took into consideration what the different layers of choreography looked like on top of one another, but somehow it all managed to work out fairly perfectly. There weren't too many traffic jams (people running into each other on stage) and the pieces looked good next to each other. It was probably something I should have thought about before hand, so I really was just lucky that it worked out.

By showtime, I was so excited and proud of the piece I had created. I had broken out of the strict adherence to the lyrics that I developed in Hide and Seek, and also had come up with new movements I had never considered or even dreamed of before. It was "epic" like I'd hoped, at least in my mind. And at this point, I cared if my dancers thought the piece was boring, but I didn't really care about the audience. I did what I set out to do, whether they like it or not. My teacher also said that I had made my students do the hardest thing anyone could ask a dancer to do - I made them walk on stage, and I made it work. Which I thought was nice :)

But they did - I received an enormous response from friends, teachers, parents, even the technical/backstage crew, and I'm so, so forever grateful. But really, I'm just so proud that I could work with 14 dancers smoothly and that we all looked great on stage.

As a side note, when I finally watched Inception, I didn't like it at all, but I was still in love with the song, so that's okay. I'm still a tad scared but convinced that this was the height of my choreographic career, but I really hope not.

If you're interested in seeing the piece, I'd be happy to give you the Youtube link! Just comment below :)

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