In our series of Artistic Director blogs, this Monday brings you The Awakening and behind the scenes of being a choregorapher.
The Awakening back on the road and the back seat driver!
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been introducing Christian to the material of Chris’ choreography The Awakening. An outdoor work created by Chris and the Company for urban spaces in 2014.
We’ve never hidden the challenges of supporting Chris to make work and we’ve never shied away from the vital role the dancers and myself have had in shaping the work. Yet when you lay the process out for scrutiny, we can see that it is quite simply our classic cocktail of collaboration and inclusion. So then why do we all feel slightly guilty when pushing Chris to pursue excellence in his work, when offering solutions to movement conundrums and then questioning his notes?
Well – we are still tiptoeing (or tilting on our back wheels) between trusting Chris’ choreographic vision and not trusting his skill. At times we doubt if we are really on an equal platform – so how do we achieve this? (That needs another blog.)
The thing is; this is no different from any other choreographer working with us. Even if the dancers know the choreographer’s work well – the choreographer still seems to be the only one with the map, the head torch and a vague idea as to where we are all going! I guess the difference with Chris is that so often the artist with learning difficulties is rarely the one with the power. We are often moving so fast both Chris and Hannah find themselves playing catch up – it is at this point the company has to pause, take a few breaths and check in with the full team to make sure Chris and Hannah’s voices are heard and, to be honest, this is always good for everyone.
Introducing Christian to the work has highlighted how actually with Chris’ work we needn’t have worried about the clarity of themes and vision. On the first day of rehearsals Christian said:
“This is so Chris!”
“It is just like Shadows on the Moon”.
Chris always has a simple narrative, clear drivers for the work and one or two motifs that repeat throughout, it doesn’t frustrate its audiences, there is not too much going on and there is plenty of space between moves for the audience to drink in the work. Chris has always been less is more – something I am still striving to achieve.
When working on Shadows on the Moon (Chris’ latest research) Christian told me that when he enters the studio as a dancer – whoever is in charge is in charge, he is there to support, interpret and animate their choreography.
Both Chris and I are very lucky to work with such respectful and trusting dancers – sometimes a dancer’s reassurance is all a choreographer needs to take a risk and discover something new!