Day 20 – Choreography?

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The process of choreography:

This 30 day challenge was initially meant to be a choreography challenge, but I shifted into it simply being dance. Still a challenge, just dancing has felt more like a free exploration. Choreography, in my mind, requires much more seriousness, focus, and decision-making, not to mention time to try out, discard, and solidify. Yet thoughts on choreography have been quite present in my mind throughout.

I’m approaching this divide between the choreographic processes in Bharata Natyam versus contemporary forms. BN uses an existing vocabulary of movement and hand gestures to create a new dance. For example, the mudras follow the words in the poem or song, and as with a language, there are limited ways in which to express for example, flower. I’m aware that there are debates about this in the BN community already, questioning whether it’s really choreography when seemingly all one does is re-arrange set pieces of movement into a new garland. Personally when I started playing around with choreography within BN, I did find it creative and like a coming into my own as I utilized everything that I learnt to create something of my own. In recent years, that ‘straightforward’ approach hasn’t felt as fulfilling, and I’ve started thinking more deeply on where meaning is located in movement.

Towards that end, I took part in University of Florida’s annual dance showcase during spring 2012. I worked with one of the students, Kate Pope, as one of the dancers in her dance-piece. This experience really shifted my perception about choreography, and I’m still sort off reeling from it. I haven’t quite found my footing or my method, so to say. But an essential difference in the choreographic process was that both movement and content was derived from a very personal place; that was in essence the guiding principle of all the work we did. It felt unlimited, having neither the help of a structure nor the limits thereof.

The name of this blog, actually, emerged after one of my rehearsals with Kate. She made us dance and write about our feelings afterwards, and with a marveling feeling in my heart, I wrote, “I feel something, like I’m telling a secret.” Why telling a secret should be a marvelous thing is another vast topic altogether, but let me just say this: imagine you’re a young girl of 6 or 7 and you have a something your’re just bursting to tell and finally you met one of your friends and get to share it, that’s how I felt while I danced.

To give you a more visual idea of the difference in approach between BN and contemporary, here are a few sentences in English, interpreted first through Bharata Natyam and then through a more open-ended format. I don’t know how much of a difference you can detect:

Bharat Natyam:

Abstract:

Also, there are plenty of holes in my understanding of Contemporary dance, and I’m wide open to thoughts and direction on this.

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