Blogging About the Process of Choreography—Ugh!

July 25, 2010

There’s an annoying new trend of blogging about the process of making a dance. I am not talking about Tere O’Connor, who writes very considered contemplations about dance making, based on his decades of experience. I am talking about young choreographers, anxious to be in the public eye, who think that writing about what happened that day in the studio will somehow 1) bring them a wider audience and/or 2) make them a better choreographer.


I realize a blog is a good way to keep your website alive and to involve your potential audience. But
how you make a dance, the problems you encounter and how you solve them, is not going to help either you as the choreographer or your potential audience. To dig into your imagination enough to make a dance, you need to be embroiled in a place where there is no explanation. As Igor Stravinsky once said, you have to dig underground, in the dark, like a mole, groping for what comes next. You have to be willing to sink into that layer of not knowing in order to come up with something you’ve never seen or done before. During that beginning period, putting it into words denies the groping phase. You should be utterly at a loss for words, just feeling your way. After a while, you can start to justify your decisions to yourself, to your dancers, or to your audience if your presenter so wishes. But first, you have to be willing to be lost in that pre-verbal place.


What if you’re in the studio working on a piece, and you’re thinking about what you’re going to say about it in your blog? Wouldn’t that compromise your process?


I think this rush to explain is part of a larger trend of people thinking a simple how-to set of instructions can make them into an artist. In
The Atlantic’s
Fiction 2010 annual issue, the novelist Richard Bausch says, with dismay, that there are 4,470 titles under the rubric “How to Write a Book.” He thinks they are pretty much useless. “One doesn’t write out of some intellectual plan or strategy,” he says, “one writes from a kind of heartfelt necessity.” (Click here to read his essay.)


And no one can tell you how to transform that necessity into art.