Posted 05 May 2007 - 11:11 AM
I wonder if some worthy choreography doesn't have a core or a seminal section(s) that can stand alone. I have total subjectivity here as the parent of an emerging choreographer, but I have actually watched this person choreograph over more than a decade. We have also discussed choreography for as long or longer than that. Often these discussions follow performances and inform our reactions as audience members. I have also watched in classes as teachers put together combinations and noted the differences between classes and combinations taught by teachers who are choreographers and those who are not. Most importantly, I have noted the total disjunction among the skills needed to be a great dancer, great teacher, and a great choreographer.
I disagree that great choreography will never have stand alone elements. We have all seen excerpts from our most treasured ballets that are not only integral to the overall ballet, but are also quite satisfing as stand alone pieces. Two of my daughter's longest and most successful pieces were built around core stand alone pieces that were presented independently and well received, then later integrated into longer works. In both cases the choreographer intended these independent pieces to be part of longer works from the very beginning.
My daughter has also discussed choreographic techniques with established choreographers, and shared aspects of these conversations with me. As a result of observing the choreographic process in these ways, I have become convinced that:
#1 choreography, like dance, is partly a gift and a passion; it can be learned, but for some it is a calling, and has aspects that often (more often than dance itself) defy the ability to teach
#2 different choreographers choreograph differently; some, for example, work mostly in their heads, others prefer to actually move physical bodies in space (obviously each choreographer is a mixture, but tendancies are usually very clear cut)
#3 choreographers hear music differently; some seem to actualy hear it as moving shapes, dynamic formations, negative space, etc.; this is related to how dancers feel music in their bodies, but certainly not identical
#4 coherence/intent/meaning are crucial to choreographic success; this relates to the choreograper's vision (which in a particular piece may be more or less grand and ambitious—some pieces honestly are more modest or even actually slight!)
#5 transitions are very important in making choreography meaningful, moving, lasting, and successful; memorable choreography usually relies on the "in betweens" to transcend something more than what any well-trained dancer can simply string together
#6 good choreography relies on a shared dance vocabulary and will engage an audience with the occasional unexpected passage, but ultimately will say or at least suggest something to the audience that is familiar enough to be intelligible, but unusual enough to be informative and neither predictable, nor trite nor banal.
This sounds more set in stone than it is. It's merely my opinion, but is gleaned from conversations with a very articulate (also a writer) person actually trying to create choreography and open to discussing the process.
Has anyone else had occasion to discuss choreoraphy with choreographers (established, emerging, or somewhere in between), and/or witness the process? I suspect this happens only rarely...