As a dancer, I see movement in very different ways than other people may. I watch how people walk – whether they are wing-footed or pigeon toed, how people stand – sway-backed or pulled up, how people react to music in dance – rhythmically or non-rhythmically. In my Laban Movement Analysis course this semester, we have been learning how to analyze dance and movement. In one of our assignments, we were asked to reflect on how we as individuals attend to movement – the things that we notice when watching, learning, and generating movement, and even the things that we ignore. Below, I will share with you some of my findings.
When observing dance in a performance atmosphere, one thing that always stands out to me is the emotional response that I have to the movement. I think the reason for this is that when I am performing, I always strive to move my audience in some way, whether small or large. I find that I pay attention to the small things such as hands and focus as well. When I am watching my classmates’ choreography in Composition class, I am very attentive to the hands – their placement and energy are of specific interest to me. Focus is of equal importance to me because it can completely transform the energy and impact of a piece.
The way that I approach movement that I have to learn usually depends on the style. I think that I learn ballet combinations fairly quickly because I am familiar with the vocabulary of ballet as it is very codified, and I’ve had a good deal of experience with it. With contemporary movement, which is very individually stylized, I think that I try to build the material from base up. I gain a general comfort with the basics of the movement, and then add on the details and flairs from there.
When I am generating movement, I typically tend to go with an idea or image that I have in my head. I do not actively sit and imagine choreography before attempting to set something, but rather, I will have an idea and then explore it until I find it to be unsuccessful or it leads to something else. While I notice hands and focus in other’s material, I have come to find that it is usually not something that I pay particular attention to until after I am finished creating and have begun the cleaning/clarifying process.
I don’t know if there is anything that I consciously ignore, but I do favor moving at a moderate pace. Fast movement is hard for me to generate and to maintain for more than short bursts of time. I am working on a piece for my final project in my composition class, and I am struggling to develop choreography that moves for more than a few steps and then dissolves into stillness. When I am dancing my own choreography to silence, I rarely think in terms of counts. My internal timing directs the piece, and I have a difficult time setting counts to material such as that. However, when I choreograph to music, I struggle to separate the timing of my choreography from the beat of the music. I think very much in terms of rhythm even without music, and it is something that is always subconsciously present to me when music is playing, even with I am not actively listening for the rhythm.
I am learning to better analyze the intent behind my movement. If something is supposed to be light and airy, do I achieve that goal? I think a great deal about the quality of the movement itself as well. Qualitatively, do I want my audience to perceive heaviness from my movement, a staccato phrasing, etc.? I make sure that I am on beat when there is an audible one, and I try to find ways to make my internalization of rhythm interesting and dynamic. My composition class has really challenged me to reach beyond the normal parameters of movement that I have set for myself and create movement that breaks my mold.
In conclusion, this assignment has really caused me to stop and tune in to things that I normally do not notice. It is important to know our own styles and habits as it keeps us aware of our potential biases. Once we are aware of these, I think that we have gained access to another level of honesty in our art form.