One Choreographers Tale of Dance Making

By Knapp, Debra Wright | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, November-December 2011 | Go to article overview

One Choreographers Tale of Dance Making


Knapp, Debra Wright, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


There are times when a written word, poem, or story urges the choreographer to go to the studio and begin moving. This was not one of those times. There are times when the needs of the dancers dictate what we create for them. This was not one of those times. There are times when an idea comes to us in a dream. This was not one of those times. There are times when world issues force us into the studio. This was not one of those times. There are other times when the need to create awakens in us, and we do not know from where it has sprung. This too was not one of those times. This time, for me as a choreographer, creation came from an invitation.

The Invitation

The invitation was to create an evening of dances that represented the work of Dan Tapper, a master stone sculptor. He was seeking a way to bring out the shades of color, structure, and translucent qualities of the stone sculptures that would otherwise go unnoticed in a conventional gallery, especially with the distractions of other art on display. The Black Box Theater was to be the perfect stage for him.

I had never collaborated with a sculptor, so this project had intriguing possibilities. From the first moment that Dan talked about his work, I knew I was "in." Upon visiting the gallery that was exhibiting several of his pieces and then his studio, I fell in love with what I perceived as rare jewels, five sculptures that seemed to sing to me. Hence, the performance evening was titled Five Stony Pieces. Five local composers and poets were invited to create an evening that weaved movement, spoken word, and music into a tapestry of interpretations of these five stony images. Inspired by Dan's work, each artist began to create.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Of these pieces, the dance "Touch" was the most successful. The inspiration for it, the sculpture "Harmony"--two carved images touching as if they were lying next to each other--lived with me in the studio for two months and was present at every rehearsal, giving us visual and tactile feedback throughout the process.

The Voice of the Stone

Several years ago Liz Monnier, a very dear friend and director of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective, gave me the most powerful advice, "Get out of the way and let the work guide you." This is difficult for me because I want to be in charge of the creation. Not until Liz made me sit back, listen, and look at my work did I truly comprehend that it had its own reality, its own life. If I did not take notice, I would miss the wisdom of its voice and be oblivious to the birth of something really new and beyond my imagination. Letting go was my goal. So, I tried to get "me" out of the way and let the stone guide me.

The outer voice of the sculpture "Harmony" brought up images of support and interdependence. Its inner voice told of a quiet refuge, a place of sanctuary, an understanding of complete trust. There was a peacefulness to the touch of the stone that made me long to live inside that world. And during this entire creative process, it was easy to live inside that world. So often in choreographing there is loneliness, confusion, and fear. But, artists come to accept this. However, when I got lost in the choreographic process, all I had to do was view or touch the stone; doubt faded and purpose returned. The sculpture was always working through us. That was the wonder of this stone.

The Voice of the Music

The music from composer Geoff Abruzzi was received just before rehearsals began. Geoff had truly captured the quality of the stone. The landscape of the sound evoked such visceral images that by the first rehearsal I knew the music on a cellular level. He brought us into the work slowly with four crystalline chime notes spaced with inviting silence. Then the wave of music engulfed us. When we had to come up for air, a calming silence appeared and we rested. Just as there was wonder in the sculpture, there was wonder in the music. …

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