More and more we see dancers who are trained in a multitude of genres. But how do we meld those styles without looking like a mish-mash? Here are some lessons I've learnt along the way...
1. Be clear on your inspiration. When dancing within a genre, it is ok to make the music your inspiration. But when melding genres, the music is not enough. You need a theme or a story that infuses the whole dance.
2. Let one genre dominate the others. Each genre has its principles and rules. For example in contemporary dance, we are trying to use impetus and natural momentum as much as possible. It is ok to subvert or deconstruct a genre by breaking those rules or contrasting it with another style. But this works more effectively when one genre has been well established first.
3. When you do bring in your other genres, do it with commitment. Bring in their spirit. Bring them to life. Even if it is fleeting, let the audience know that your soul speaks different languages and tongues, not just your limbs. Consider what 'voice' these different genres bring to your piece. Having different voices emerge in our dance gives it textual richness.
4. Use an intuitive choreography process (mine involves filming lots of improvisation to the chosen song), not just a cerebral process. Sometimes the feeling of music demands something very different to its purported rhythm, tempo or melody. Your intuitive self can imagine seamless transitions between styles as an authentic expression of you.
5. Keep at it. It can be a very challenging and disheartening creative process full of "where is this going?" - don't let that stop you. Keep going. Just keep going.
There is a little concept talked about in theatre and literature called the alienation effect. It suggests that stories become most compelling when what seems familiar to us, suddenly becomes alien, estranged, distant. This is what I love about great dance choreography. Bangarra Dance Theatre's Lore is my latest inspiration: Butoh-esque men covered in blood dancing with she-oak to the tenderness of mystical turtles hailing from the Dreamtime. In these performances, ordinary activities take on supernatural qualities; and the audience is unsettled, disturbed even, by the treatment of familiar movements, conventions and storylines. Of course, there are beautiful dances that enchant us because they are nurturing, soft, natural, joyful. For some reason, I cannot do a straight performance like this. I actually rally against it. There always has to be an element of the uncanny; the twisted, the mystical. Contrasting ugly and beautiful; convention with radical resistance.
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