by Nicole Harris
I can never decide if it's more exciting to have a change to talk with choreographers I know or to meet new choreographers through these interviews! Thank you, Christopher Croucher!
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C: This is the first National Choreography Month that I’ve participated in so I’m excited for the experience and to see what kind of work the choreographers come up with. I’m really excited to be getting my work out there in a public setting. Since I graduated from Bard College about five years ago I’ve been dancing as a company member in Dance Prism, a small ballet company in West Concord, MA. It’s a wonderful company and community but with a degree in modern choreography I only really get to showcase any of my own work during our summer studio performance. Most of my solo work is done on pointe so I’m also interested to see what the general reaction is to my kind of work with a man dancing on pointe, being that it’s my first time putting it in front of a wider audience.
N: Can you talk about the dancers you’ll be working with? What are you looking forward to and what are the challenges of working with this particular group?
C: I’d be happy to talk about the dancers that I’m working with, namely because my dancer is me. I tend to dance in the majority of my own pieces, mostly because I like to dance in the style of work that I set on other dancers. I also like to use men who dance on pointe and because those are particularly difficult to find I am usually the one dancing those parts. My main challenge working as a soloist and choreographer is also what I’ve been most excited about setting my solo. I am TERRIBLE at setting solo work on myself that I actually like. For some reason, seeing the work on someone else I am usually very pleased with the outcome. Looking at myself however, I am very critical during my creation process which leads to hours in the studio with little or nothing to show for it. It has been the same throughout this month of choreography so far but with the looming deadline I am forced to be a little less critical and just let the work happen. I have actually had a wonderful (if occasionally frustrating) time just learning to let go and give in.
C: My favorite choreographer is Antony Tudor. I love his understated style of ballet. It is so smooth and yet says so much. I often show clips of his Jardin aux Lilas and The Leaves are Fading to my dancers when I start a new piece, to give them a sense of the subtle arms and understated emotional cues that I love to see. I also love a lot of Twyla Tharp’s work because of her use of pointe shoes in a more modern setting. I love to see subtlety in a choreographer’s work. My “wow” moments happen most often when a choreographer hits all the right notes, in movement design, music choice, and their ability to elicit just the right response from a dancer. When a choreographer is able to make all the pieces fall together, it is just magical.
N: What changes in your process to build a piece in such a short time span (one month)? How long do you usually take to create work?
C: Honestly, I am fairly well used to creating work in less than a month. For the summer performance that I mentioned earlier I am usually working on up to four of my own pieces while learning other choreographer’s pieces as well in an equally short time. I’ve been doing this for five years now so I am no stranger to this process. I do like to have time to go back and modify the work if the piece needs it. Having more time allows for more precision but the shorter rehearsal period, as I said before, has forced me to let go of my perfectionism. It has actually allowed me to produce a piece to which I feel surprisingly connected thus far because I don’t have time to obsess over the details. I’m also working on a piece now that won’t be performed until the summer and I am setting it on two dancers from Dance Prism which means that I am experiencing two very different kinds of process at the same time. It has certainly been an interesting experience to hold back to back rehearsals, one in which I can take all the time in the world to communicate the piece to my dancers, and one in which I struggle over trying to let go of detail enough to fall in love with my own movement in a very short period. It has been a very enlightening month of choreography and art.