Composition – Final Study & Reflection

In making my final study, I have realized how much I have grown as a choreographer and dancer in this class. I found that I have learned so many techniques for generating and using movement material. All the lessons I have learned have found their way into the process of my final compositional study. I see my final study as a culmination of all the topics, discussions, and viewings of this course.

The topics I see most evident in my final study are space, time, and compositional devices. The topic of space, through locomotion and design, is one of the themes that I focus on in my final duet. Learning how to activate the space of a stage allowed me to become a dynamic dancer and make choices that create choreography that is anything but stagnant. As a person, I am very introverted, and I see it has been reflected in my improvisation and in my previous studies created while in Composition 1. My introverted-ness shows itself in many ways, and one of those ways is the fact that I like to remain stationary, or within closed bounds. The first study that we did in this class was based on locomotion; it encouraged me to challenge my movement by taking up more space and to use the idea of my pelvis when intending to travel. One of my natural tendencies that I identified as a strength was my centeredness. I like to stand on straight legs and feel more comfortable in a smaller base; I keep my energy focused toward my center rather than out into the space. This centeredness gives me a great sense of verticality, control, and balance, but this is not too good of a combination when the main goal of the locomotion study was to move, to project myself outwards, and to get off of my vertical axis. The idea of using my pelvis as an initiator and driver of my movements helped me get out of my center and into the space. At the performance of Dance Downtown, I saw how Eddie Taketa used locomotion in his choreography in “Onion Skins, Opaques, Oxbloods and Pearls,” The dancers followed a flow of energy that led them through the space, and the pelvis is involved in the movement. In our final classes, we have focused on space design – moving large groups through a space through the use of formations and spatial patterns. I learned how to direct larger groups of dancers, and observed how professionals did so in the work featured in Dance Downtown. All three choreographers employed the use of patterns and formations to organize their dancers in ways that helped emphasize the meaning of their choreography. For example, in Sophie Clemensen’s piece, all dancers were staged in a straight horizontal line that moved forward. This frontal formation, along with the choreography, showed power in the dancers and could be seen as assertiveness. Another example is seen in the use of small groups in Bebe Miller’s piece that exhibited a sense of community. The close proximity and interactions between the dancers emphasized the close relationship between the dancers. While my final study is a duet, I am still focusing on the dispersion of the two bodies through space and the relationship of those two dancers to each other. I took what I have learned from my locomotion study and viewing the pieces in Dance Downtown and incorporated that information into how I choreographed moving phrases into my final study.

The second topic relevant to my final study is the topic of time, including the meter and structure of the piece. The music I am using for my study is “Speed Limit, a Night Ride” by Ezio Bosso; the music is very repetitive, phrased, and goes in and out of 4/4 meter. We have studied how to move to meters in 3/4, 5/8, and unmetered music; and I have taken the knowledge of my movement in those studies and applied it to the choreography of my current study. I have a tendency to move with circularity and with a softer quality of movement– the way that is characterized in 3/4 meter. While my music is mostly in 4/4 meter, I have chosen choreograph and to dance some phrases in 3/4 meter. Dancing against a song’s time signature is something that I experimented with in a task with Alize Raptou; we performed our 5/8 studies together to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, a song with a strong 4/4 time signature. I found that the juxtaposition of the two meters created a very interesting piece, and I wanted to experiment with this method of phrasing in my final study. I also focused on phrasing within the structure of my study; because my music is very phrased, I wanted to reflect that with my choreographic choices. In class, we have mostly discussed drastic dynamic changes when transitioning from section to section. These changes were initiated when a noticeable change in the music occurred; this was attempted in a study in which the structure of the choreography reflected the structure of the music. A clear example of this in performance can be seen in Bebe Miller’s piece, “Sel Fou!” that premiered in Dance Downtown; with every shift in music, a clear change in movement vocabulary, tone, and quality could be seen. The piece of music that I chose for my final study is very phrased; I see many sections in which the tone, tempo, and rhythm change. Consequently, my movement will change as well to reflect the structure of the song. For example, my first section follows the lilting quality of the music and has contact of the two dancers as a theme; the movement is slower and is unmetered, the dancers stay within the bounds of stage right. The following section follows the music’s quicker tempo and is emulated by quicker movement that travels across the entire stage; in this section, I employ the use of 3/4 meter against the music’s 4/4 meter. These changes that focus on meter and use of space are able to reflect the changes heard in the music, and create a piece that is structured and can be seen to work in harmony with song.

The third topic used in this study relates to the use of compositional devices to create choreography. I had limited rehearsal time to create this duet, so creating short phrases and manipulating them to create more content was a very efficient way to spend my time in the studio. Creating a lot out of little is one of the themes we have focused on in this class, and I am glad we covered this subject. Before this class, I thought that to create a work, I had to have a multitude of thoughts in my head, ready to put them all into action. I was discouraged to choreograph, that I was too uncreative to make anything of substantial meaning – I thought that I never had enough good ideas to make anything out of it. I found it amazing how I could take a small phrase of four movements and create two minutes of choreography out of it as a study. When creating a phrase for my final study, I came in with only a few ideas of movement, but I did not come in overly apprehensive. I was able to use the compositional devices that I previously learned to transform those few movements – four gestures – into a small phrase. Then, after finding the small phrase that I have retrograded, inverted, or embellished, I was led to other movement that flowed into a complete phrase. I found that the repetitive use of the few movements created a choreographic motif that can be seen throughout my piece, giving it a form of structure. I have seen a similar kind of choreographic motif used throughout “Onion Skins, Opaques, Oxbloods and Pearls”. There were many instances where similar movement was used in a different way or in a way that led to a new thought or phrase. Every new thought, however, fit the theme of the piece and flowed well within the structure of the work. I am certain that the choreographer, Eddie Taketa, employed to use of some compositional devices similar to the ones I have used to build a work nearly 20 minutes in length. His work is an example to show that I am never out of resources when intending to create a piece – there is so much that I am able to do with a few small gestures.

This composition class has helped me greatly with getting into the action of creating. I used to think that I could only make something when inspiration hits and that I had to make it perfect. Now with the knowledge I have learned, I am more comfortable making something and learning from that process. This process of creating my final study has taught me how much I have grown in this semester by letting me reflect on my work and thoughts when in the process of choreographing. I am confident in using the information I have learned about composing and the information I have learned about myself to bring with me in future projects.

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