March 27th 2017 in Choreography

Composing Improvisation

A reflection on Score 10 directed by Hannah Pickett

Over the last 6 months, I have been working with a collection of dancers and a musician to collaborate and create an improvised performance. My choreographic approach explores how an improvised performance naturally develops into a holistic piece of work. I want to develop a performance approach to dance improvisation, which examines how performers can instantly create choreographic work. I created a process that enabled a group of performers to build towards sharing improvisation to an audience. This process enables performers to create, develop and build relationships to supports each other using instant movement and sound.

Firstly, my dancers went through a process of getting to know how each other move and how they can interact together. When selecting my dancers, I tried to choose dancers that had particular performance strengths and did not think about how they could fit together. Throughout the process, it became apparent that each performer had an particular role in the group and that their strengths contributed to overall feel to the piece.

Some of my performers qualities: Building energy. Creating suspense. Adding serenity. Messing around. Generating ideas. Feeding and adding to the development.

After the ‘getting to know you stage’, we started to play with live sound and music. The sound lifted the performance and gave the dancers another variable to react too. We found that the music naturally influences the dancers movement and overall feeling of the piece. We also found that one piece of music one day may have a completely different feel or effect in another rehearsal. The two separate entities have to work together but must be able to be independent and be as strong as the other. When the connection between music and dance is strong it reflects in the performance and all the performers are committed and open to generating and developing interesting material. I found that my job is to enable this connection to be as strong as possible.

Creating. Feeding. Losing. Sustaining. Changing.

The next stage to this process is to start composing the improvisation. I am choosing the word ‘composing’ because I do not feel like I am choreographing. I am directing a process to compose a piece. I am very adamant that I don’t want to choreograph the piece but I want to direct in such a way that it looked like a choreographic work and not as an improvisation ‘jam’. As a director, I am asking questions like; How can you compose improvisation? How can you direct improvisation to make it look like a choreographic work? Can it have a beginning, middle and end?

The research is revealing that the flow of the piece consists of energy shifts and transitions contributed by the music and dance developments. The shifts in energy become more apparent and the flow of the piece is sometimes heavily determined by the duration of the music development. Another factor is the variation of what is happening in the space; Is there a variation of group, solo, duet, supporting or conflicting? There is an exchange of dancers that adds to the feel of the piece and each dancer brings a specific strength and quality to the work. I believe my job is to train the performers to continually ask; what does this piece need? Is my presence needed? What is the overall feel of the performance?

At this point of the process, I have added certain rules that can be followed or broken to help shape and guide the piece however the next stage is to analyse how we can work together to create this holistic work.

Intro, Build up, Climaxes, Resolution, Ending.

Things I want to look at next: Extending developments, Composing an performance arch, Enforcing variety, Breaking habits and influences, Analyse energy shifts, Building to stamina and presence, Building up.

Group, Relationships, Duration, Shape, Music, Space, Presence, Movement, Environment, Self.


Article written by Hannah

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