John Berger's Once Through a Lens has provided me with a way to understand the differing roles between being an interpreter and being a choreographer. Its significance to me is in how to work in the studio with dancers. When do I dance, when do I watch, how do I know which one is most effective? What are my goals when I dance with my dancers? Do I know what I am watching when they dance? My decisions have sometimes felt like a desire to 'control' the situation- but my aim is not to 'control'- my aim is to know or be aware, be a part of what is happening, and add to what is happening. As a choreographer I have to do this from the outside because it is impossible for the dancers to be outside. I am on the outside of what? They are on the inside of what? The inside has a life - has lives, how these develop, morph, play out and unravel is the game - their game to play. What its value is and what its meaning is- is -for a short time- mine to ascertain, mine to communicate, mine to mould (not to mould the players, but to mould the values of what is being played out)- to mould the story within which these characters live. However, once that story is even partially understood by the players, it is so important that any desire I have to be a character in that story is purely in relation to what the story dictates it needs. I have to get out of the way of the story to truly see it. Luckily for me I am more interested in discovering and in sharing knowledge than in having power or "owning" anything, so I work well in a seeming position of powerlessness. I find both a freedom there and paradoxically a sense of self-power through observation, where ultimately I can 'sense' rather than emote or express. Somehow for me it's deeper.
So I now realise that I can help bring this depth up to meet the story- not through characterisation but through the organisation of 'main' action.
Actually I suddenly have a strange feeling that several people have tried to tell me this over the years!
I guess it takes a while to manifest information sometimes... the deep stuff anyway!
Here's the John Berger text that most inspired me:
The notion that life, as lived, is a story being told is a recurring one.
The metaphysics of storytelling has ceased to be a merely literary concern.
What separates us from the characters about whom we write is not knowledge, either objective or subjective, but their experience of time in the story we are telling. This separation allows us, the storytellers, the power of knowing the whole. Yet, equally, this separation renders us powerless: we cannot control our characters, after the narration has begun.
In the creation of The Moment of Forgetting recently premiered with our company Restless Productions this was my process, identified quite late and especially leading up to the premiere and in my experience of watching the performances. I think this text became my ultimate mentor.
My job now with the work is to develop and refine those characters in relation to each other, and to provide a more refined situation in which they can develop. By refined in this context I mean that the dance/music, dancer/ musician interaction components cannot be neglected. The show was described as specific and unique, which pleases me. This could not have happened had the performers not invested in their own understanding of the work. What was compelling in these interpretations and how did they define the work? The conversations with the performers when we redo the work will be crucial to maintain a freshness while refining that which has already been developed. Time and separation... experience and sharing... observation...sensing... organisation, equally required.