Saturday, 3 January 2015

There's a dance brewing

Reflections on the birth of a performance

When I select the same track every time I go to my iPod.

When I unconsciously start building combinations for key parts of the music.

When I start thinking about what I should wear to dance to this.

I know there is a dance brewing.

I have a playlist especially for songs I would like to dance to someday. Some tracks stay there for years, sometimes because I don't have an outlet for them, sometimes because I am waiting until I am technically good enough to put my vision into action.

This one took about 3 years, and a 20's themed hafla, before I braved the choreography notebook with it.

Sometimes a dance is created because I need material for a show or a booking, and I have nothing suitable in my repertoire. So I have to hunt out the right music for the occasion, but that often feels forced. I much prefer the organic performances, that grow out of the music I love when the time is right.

My playlist of potential performances is where I go if I feel like spending half an hour randomly improvising, so by the time a song is called up to be turned into a polished performance, I know it well, but I'll start listening to it more and more, so that I know it intimately, not just the words, or the tune, or the changes in tempo, but the little nuances, the small drum embellishments, the tiny details.

Nevertheless, whether I am choreographing or improvising, I will sit down and map the music.

First I make a note of the sections, or verses, what they sound like and how much they re-occur. Which of the Arabic rhythms are being used, what kind of mood they convey.

Then I go back and count. I work out how many bars are in each section. I tend not to choreograph to a count, unless it's for a group dance, but it helps me to be clear about the length of the sections. After that I start deciding what goes in them.

If I am choreographing I tend to improvise a section over and over, differently every time until I find something I like, then I polish it.Then I write it down. If I am improvising then I do much the same, but more, and I don't really settle on a final favourite or write anything down.

After that there will be a whole load of dancing, videoing, watching back, refining, working on the arms, the feet, adding in extra layers and embellishments when I want to be flashy, all that stuff.

But the best part, is the beginning, when I barely realise that the tiny idea that made me add that song to my "potentials" is starting to grow. When I keep going  back to the song, then catch myself and think "yes, this could be something".

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