I've just spent the last week end in Manchester choreographing on a youth dance company called "Commotions". The company has about 12 members ranging from 12 to 18 years old. It is a very nice non professional company with varying dance abilities.
I was asked to come and create a 6 minutes piece on the subject of "secret", in two days. Sadly the lack of founding doesn't allow for more time but I thought that it would be a great challenge. Being a choreographer is still something new to me as I am more of a dancer and teacher. I started planning the work about two weeks before going to Manchester, mainly by making lots of material. By material I mean dance phrases. I also decided on what the music would be and I created a rough overall structure. Although the time with the company was short I also wanted to make sure that some of the material would come from the dancers.
I arrived on the Saturday morning and we got started right away. First I taught a big chunk of movement and then we started playing with the rough overall structure. I wanted to see if some of my structural ideas would work. When the dancers had done enough learning we moved on to a creative task. The task was to pair up and play with the idea of:
- one of them walking and staggering and occasionally reaching with one arm. As if lost or in need of help.
- the other one grabs the arm and pulls it. Playing with pull and push.
I don't think I explained it very well but they still came up with some great stuff. I should have broken it down a bit more and made the first instructions more physical. We would then have been able to move on to a more conceptual idea.
For the rest of the day we worked on setting each of these duets and we played with the general structure of the piece.
The following day we started by running through what we had done the day before. Then we carried on working on the overall organisation of the piece. By then a much clearer structure had started to appear:
1st part - group section
2nd part - duet,solo with group in the background
3rd part - group section to end
I then asked the dancers to make one duet out of all the duets they had made the day before (only using the best bits). We used that material for the last group section. We also worked on the duet and solo that are in the 2nd part.
The idea of "secret" evolved into something a bit different. My first idea was about an oppressed state such as a totalitarian regime. Trying to show people that are sad and with no individualities. In that sort of environment people have secrets, but only in their thoughts.
Debbie, who was helping me, shared the fact that it reminded her of "1984" by George Orwell. So we thought about it for a while and decided to call the piece "101" in reference to the room 101 in the book. This is the room where people get punished by having their worst nightmare realised.
So the piece became even clearer:
- group section (showing oppression and lack of individualities)
- duet, solo with group in background (expressing how the group feels inside)
- group section (oppression leads to revolution)
The darkness of the subject never seemed to be a problem for the dancers. It is nice to explore dark ideas every now and then. The ending suggests a positive future without making it too obvious.
By the end of the Sunday we had a piece. There was still some cleaning and rehearsing to do but the piece was there. The dancers worked really hard. I didn't give them any break apart from a 30 minutes lunch. They were so good, patient and understanding with me. I am very grateful to all the people that helped during these two days. Debbie, who invited me in the first place, was amazing. She was so good at pointing me in the right direction and giving ideas. I feel I have learnt a lot through this experience. This was really a great opportunity.
Thank you Commotions!