As a choreographer, I am often asked where I get the inspiration, music, ideas, etc. for my works. Dance is like any other art form in the respect that every artist can approach their work differently. An artist can draw inspiration from music, themes, movement, or social issues that they may want bring to an audience. Art can derive inspiration from anywhere, but most always, art derives from life.
Creating dance is a constant process. I often feel like it is finding a great recipe for a delicious meal, and then tweaking it over and over until you find the right combination of ingredients to make it just right.
My years in college really helped me to shape the beginnings of my current creative process--isn't that what college is for after all? It was a great time to challenge myself, take everything familiar away, find out what my habits and gut reactions were and then try the opposite. I remember being in the process of working on my first piece out of college when it hit me--the process never ends. Creating work remains to this day a battle for me. It is a fine balance of pushing myself to create something new to me while still maintaining the essence of the movements that I do well.
Looking into how one creates work is not the only way to experiment as an artist, a difficult task could be to change how we are inspired to create a piece. Me personally when approaching work I typically start with music. I grew up in a household surrounded by music, I had a soundtrack to my life, and I think I am inspired to create when hearing music because of this. In HUMAN, our upcoming concert, I decided to challenge myself in this aspect and it has been a great and scary challenge so far. Other artists can be more inspired by movement, whether it comes from pedestrians on the street or a specific series of steps they cannot get out of their head, some choreographers are moved most by movement. Another approach to dance composition is the goal to express a theme or social issue. These methods do not necessarily stand alone in a process and often a choreographer can find inspiration from more than one resource.
It is typically assumed that when making a piece a choreographer is trying to communicate some sort of message through their work, and often an audience comes in feeling they need to walk away feeling how the choreographer intended them to feel. This is just not true, while said situation is ideal, nowhere does it state that you must understand exactly what the artist is intending in order to appreciate the piece. I often enjoy talking with viewers after watching a piece to see all of the different meanings we all pulled from the piece. A choreographer can create a piece with no specific intended meaning, some do not even share their intent with their dancers. I say this in hopes that it takes the pressure off. When watching dances we often just want people to appreciate the work, whether one understands it or not is not always important to the creator of the work. An open mind is what is most necessary to view dance, or any art form for that matter.I have always liked to think that when it comes to interpreting works there is no wrong answer.
I wanted to leave you today with a few helpful things to look for when watching dance. As a viewer you can look for patterns, the space between dancers, repeated movement, when a dancer repeats movement was it exactly the same or slightly different, what levels of space the dancers are moving in. These are just a few things you can look for when watching a piece that might help you feel like you have got a leg up the next time you are at a dance concert.
All in all I hope after reading this you feel more open to approaching dance, and looking for new and different way to interpret movement. We would love to talk over intent and inspiration about dance at our concert HUMAN, this March 20-22nd. However, you don't have to wait for a live show (though Seattle has one almost every weekend) to explore the art of dance--the Internet is a great resource to check out dance works from all over the world. So take a chance and experience some dance!