“An ensemble knows more than a single choreographer can ever know.”
As a teacher, director and choreographer I choose to use many different styles in creating my pieces. Sometimes I act as the dictator who tells my performer what to do, how to do and when to do it. Other times I sit back and watch them create…
But it is the times in which I guide and ask questions that the best of us come out. Now, teaching high school students and asking them questions can be difficult. I get plenty of blank looks and “I don’t know” responses. To be fair, I probably called them out with the question, “Why did you put your hand there?” or “Why did you choose to stand?” or “What do you want to do?”
Once the performer gets over the initial shock of being asked their opinion, they either answer the question or shrug. Over time that shrug turns into an answer, and together director and performers create a piece no one thought possible. To ask questions of each other… this is the start of an ambitious research project into the limits and potential of communication. Where do we touch each other? How do we separate ourselves? How does one enter? Responses are sought, suggestions given, not vague improvisation, but something very specific in investigated: a moment of candor which is only given form when something is really touched. This is the beginning of a journey of discovery, started anew in every piece, with the knowledge that in each of our bodies is stored a wealth of behavioral patterns: of hope and fears, of lusts and loves and – not least of all – potential solutions.
This is what I seek every year with a new batch of teenagers, their own knowledge fused within their characters and the piece. Allowing them to realize they have what it takes to pull off a show, but they have to figure it out first. Nothing is handed to you, one must discover, dissect and digest. As Servos states, “An ensemble know more than a single choreographer can ever know.” This method uses the knowledge preserved in each human body and brings it to the light of day. It provides every performer with the freedom to find and present his or her individual experience of the world. It testifies to a deep respect for every individual, each having the right to exist in uniqueness and distinctiveness.