Curtain Up

June 21, 2007
Ah choreography, the love of my life. Ah choreography, the cause of 30 years of stomach aches. I loved dreaming up movements, seeing their communicative power, guessing which dancers would illuminate which movements, clearing a path through the aesthetic forest. I loved digging deep within and feeling the movements come out of me, in spurts or in a flow, eventually accumulating into phrases. I loved witnessing the dance take shape (not unlike seeing an issue of a magazine take shape!) and seeing dancers absorb my movement and make it their own.
But the process was always accompanied by slightly more anxiety than I had bargained for. Not only is facing the “blank canvas” terrifying, but any decision along the way could be a wrong turn and plunge you into chaos. It takes a certain psychic fortitude to fully realize your vision—and what a thrill it is (usually) to see your own work onstage! But it is not you alone who realizes the vision: It is a community of dancers.
It seems that plenty of other choreographers agree. In “Lassoing the Moon,” our interviews with 15 choreographers, one trend emerges: They are collaborating more with dancers during the creative process.
Trisha Brown’s choreography has always challenged her dancers. I remember. I danced with her in the 1970s, when her work blended quiet sensuality with mathematical alertness. Brown has investigated many forms, including “equipment pieces,” site-specific work, and operas. But she has never crossed over into classical ballet—until now. It’s ironic that the world’s oldest ballet company, Paris Opéra Ballet, would embrace this barefoot avant-gardist. Lisa Kraus, a dancer/writer whose own history with Brown goes way back, takes us inside Brown’s creative process in “A Beautiful Mind.”
James Kudelka, another intriguing choreographer, has been going full tilt at National Ballet of Canada, a company that epitomized classic restraint before Kudelka’s arrival eight years ago. In “The Pied Piper of Toronto,” Michael Crabb describes how Kudelka has transformed NBC into a company with a bold and controversial repertoire.
We sometimes hear it said that a choreographer is born, not created. Yet others say that in order to cultivate one’s talent, it’s necessary to study composition formally. In  “Can Choreography Be Taught?” choreographer and writer Kathryn Posin speaks to key figures at several teaching institutions to get their perspectives on this issue.
And in “Attitudes,” Clive Barnes, searching for a definition of choreography, comes up with a wonderful way of describing the ephemeral nature of it—and also tells us why it is to be treasured.