Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Working With Emily Johnson: The Performer's Perspective

For two weeks, the Emory Dance Program had the privilege of hosting Emily Johnson, choreographer and director of Catalyst Dances. Johnson is known for her sense based work, and her perspective that "our bodies as EVERYTHING: our bodies are culture, history, present and future, all at once." Johnson worked with and created a piece for students in the Emory Dance Company, including college junior and dance major, Natalie Eggert. Eggert has taken some time to discuss Johnson's rehearsal process and what it was like to work with such a unique choreographer.

How was Johnson's rehearsal process similar and/or different to that of other choreographers you've worked with?

Emily Johnson's process differed because she did not teach her own choreography to us for the rehearsal, instead she guided us through improvisation to find the movement for this piece. Our improvisations were motivated by the stories we shared with each other on the first day of rehearsal about what makes us happy and what we have to give. The dance was similar to other choreographers I've worked with in the past in that she tailored the dance specifically for the dancers in the piece. 

What are the pros and cons of residencies in comparison to the usual rehearsal process of the Emory Dance Company? 

Pros--we got very close as a cast very quickly! Cons--It's difficult to go from rehearsing with Emily to without her because we won't have her guidance on the intention behind the movement. 

What are the most valuable things you took away from working with Johnson?

Working with Emily was an inspiring experience. Her movement is genuine and her personality is even more genuine. She was very open with our cast regarding her thought process and the life experiences that have guided her work, which helped us sink into the piece and personify her message. I feel more personally tied to this work than any other piece I've done with Emory Dance Company. Coming out of the residency, I feel motivated to continue refining the work so that we can make Emily proud when we perform in November. The dance still has a long way to go.

Thanks, Natalie!

For information on the Emory Dance Program, please go to our website or check out our Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An Afternoon with Philip Glass

Last week, Emory University had the pleasure of hosting Philip Glass, world renowned composer and musical genius.  Glass has created several operas, concertos, and symphonies, and is considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century.  Glass is most well-known for his “minimalist” style and use of repetition in his works.

The Emory Dance Program was especially excited to have the privilege of spending the afternoon with Glass to discuss his work and his past collaborations with groundbreaking choreographers, including Lucinda Childs, Yvonne Rainer, and Twyla Tharp.  Students of the Choreography I and Introduction to Dance classes had the opportunity to ask Glass about his work and his creative process.

Some highlights of the conversation were when Glass spoke of ways in which the composition of music and dance are connected.  A student asked how he started a new work, to which he responded, “Just go!”  Glass talked about how we are always going to have to answer the question of what comes next, and we’re always going to have to work through the kinks that come with composition.  

Glass also commented that we all have natural tendencies that we always seem to find our way back to.  He mentioned that sometimes when we are creating a new work it feels like we're making something we've already done and the real challenge is to go against what we are comfortable with.  Just like music composition, in choreography we all have movement affinities that we are naturally drawn to.  We share the challenge of taking what comes easily to us and manipulating it into something new that surprises ourselves.

Listening to Glass' personal experiences and his journey to where he is now left all who were present inspired and so very grateful to have had such a unique opportunity. 

For information on the Emory Dance Program, please go to our website or check out our Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gearing Up For EDC: A Few Words From Our Choreographers (Part 6)

It all comes down to this: an entire semester's worth of work into 4 performances.  As we prepare to launch into tech week, the EDC choreographers (students of the Choreography II class) have each written a few words about their inspiration, their choreographic process, and the development of their works.

Courtesy of Lori Teague
Emily Hammond, Junior

At the beginning of my choreographic process I began with a single core phrase that I taught at auditions. Once I chose my cast and began working with them I expanded the original phrase to include more floor material and created a second phrase. I asked the students to manipulate the phrases in groups of two or three to create small compositions within the framework of the originals. I found that each group came up with something completely different, even though they all stemmed from the same phrase material. I thought this was exciting because it provided me with a new insight into my choreography. 

The wide range of approaches shown in each of the small compositions encouraged me to develop each separately and bring them all together with an emphasis on the differences. Instead of blending ideas together to make them fit into a set theme, I decided to capitalize on the differences between each and to essentially keep each composition separate. The piece as a whole has developed into a compilation of duets, solos, and one quintet that overlap and transition between each other. I envision most of the transitions between ideas being dependent on lighting changes, allowing the audience to shift focus from one thing to another.
 The greatest challenge that I have faced in working through my process and linking all of the various ideas has been related to my music choices. Toward the beginning of the process I picked very distinct pieces of music for each of the small compositions. I think that each music piece highlighted specific qualities that arose in each of the duets and I was pleased with how the music and choreography were interconnected. Once I had the music cut to the proper lengths and sequenced the compositions in the order in which I wanted them to appear, I felt like there was something missing that would help everything fit together to form a unified work. At a recent feedback session I received the suggestion that I could have some kind of sound that was present throughout the work that linked the different musical ideas. I also received the suggestion to overlap some of the compositions so that some of the duets start before the music that is connected to them. Once I began working with the transitions in this way I started to see how the piece was coming together as a whole, instead of a series of discrete compositions. It was amazing for me to see how small changes in the soundscape had such a significant influence on how I viewed the work and how it made the various choreographic ideas suddenly seem to be linked together.

Thanks, Emily!

Don't miss the Emory Dance Company Spring Showcase, Tabula Rasa.  Click here for more details.

For more information on the Emory Dance Program, please go to our website.