Updated: Mar 30, 2020
For someone who has been choreographing for years, I still find myself getting anxious in preparation. When I went into college, I wanted to be a choreographer more than I was set on anything else. I hate to admit this, but throughout my college experience, the work I produced until my senior project got so little help and feedback from faculty that I let myself believe my work wasn't good enough. So I lost all my passion for it and invested back into performance, which came more naturally to me. I felt like whatever role I played, I was seen and heard. In choreography however, I felt the exact opposite (at least during college). I let my own reactions and impressions dictate my voice as an artist, at least in regards to choreography. I was so disappointed and ever since then, I'm hyper critical (before anyone else can beat me to it), I'm overly invested, and maybe even a little neurotic... at least in the private creation process. Ever wondered what it is like? When someone tells you, I was able to set 2 minutes, its actually a significant amount depending on the group you are working with! Certainly doesn't sound like much... here's a little glance at my weekend thus far. Just about a week ago, my director Lucy, asked if I would be available and willing to set a work on Howard University dance major students. I would have two weekends to put it together, it needed to be 6 - 8 minutes long. I was stoked. Rearranged my schedule and obviously said yes. Then panicked. Would it be well received? Would the students feel empowered by it? What would it be about? Would it be about anything? Oh man, that took about five seconds for my mind to race. I went to Florida, used the plane time to brain storm themes and ideas. I came back feeling great... I was then informed, I actually only had three rehearsals. Sh*t. Ok, well nothing like a little surprise in our line of work. Here goes nothing. Thursday night, I walked in, feeling as unprepared as I could possibly be from stressing and rethinking everything. We started with an improv warm up, as I had never even met or seen these girls. I didn't know what movement looked good, what their strength and comforts were and what I could do to push them... naturally my teacher mode kicked into gear and I led them through a movement exercise and before you know it, we were creating phrase work that we would be playing with, manipulating and setting the work based on. Things started to groove until about 9pm when it was clear energy was fading, my brain alone was losing steam and needed time to process and play catch up, in fact all our jamming and creating made me need to step back and start setting... not just playing. We manipulated phrase work for the last hour and parted ways until yesterday. I spent hours working out timing and thematic phrase work and intentions to realize just how much it takes to set a work. I only had accomplished picking one piece of music and setting about 2 minutes of the piece on paper. Yay! I thought, but man that's not much. The good news, I had spacing set, lighting ideas, and casting for those two minutes completely done... I even had a name for the work... bad news, I only have one other rehearsal to set the bulk of the work. AHHHH.
I arrived at Howard U in beautiful wet and heavy snow, made my way into the studio and got to work. We learned three of six new phrases and set the 2 minutes I had written down. (My intention was to get this whole piece of music set... HA jokes on me). I did leave really proud of the girls, they were grooving well, their chemistry, their work ethic, and interest in the piece made me feel at ease even though I felt SO behind. You underestimate the power of having studio space and realizing everything you've set, you've set in the cozy and small space between the sink and island in the kitchen or the upstairs walkway. So much timing had to be altered, shifted... steps remade or changed entirely. Note to self, go outside next time, you'll have more space to work. In my defense, this weather isn't exactly helping me do that. Considering the humps and hurdles I was really pleased with how the piece looked when I left, or at least what we got done. The greatest news, Royce, the head coordinator for the dance department, stopped in, introduced himself and I had the chance to inquire about adding rehearsals.. he said absolutely... SIGH OF RELIEF. The hope is still to have the piece finished by end of Sunday, but knew I had a little leeway. I obviously called my mom on my way home (like I always do) and talked it out with her... or tried to. She both calmed me down and pointed out how much I still had to do and asked my plan for accomplishing it. Sometimes she says all the right things, other times, I shut off and get defensive for no reason. LUCKILY, she was perfect as always and I did, after talking it out, feel even better. I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I was excited because I had a plan. I just needed to sort out a solution for the second piece of music and to set it all. I got home, ordered Ledo's pizza and did some work until I had to pick it up. Then a took a healthy dose of walking away, watched This Is Us (and of course cried, they should just call this show - grab the tissues and be grateful for your life). I was exhausted and made my way to bed, began this blog post, and passed out.
Here I am, heading into my third rehearsal. All music has been edited as I need, I haven't had breakfast, but as I eat, I will be trying to set more of the choreography. I have two hours before I need to leave to work on it and then a four hour rehearsal. I'm sure I'll have an update tonight, but for now... just wish me luck. The name of the work is "Samudaay" this is the pronunciation/phonetic spelling of the Hindi word for "community". I'm really excited to see what the ladies bring to the table once we begin to spend time on intention, purpose, and emotional connectivity. These ladies rock, huge shout out to Siani, Arika, Da'Neisha, Imani, and Tamiea - proud of your work thus far and cannot wait to see what this piece becomes!! Now I'm off to eat some grub and fuel this brain and body... to continuing setting the piece in my kitchen and then get it put on the girls!