Inside the Choreographer’s Head

We’ve been working on the new dance, How It Ends, for about a month; it’s time I wrote about how it is being created. Before rehearsals began, I was reading Out Stealing Horses, by Per Peterson, and the book sparked the idea behind the dance—how differently things end than we expect them to. I first was drawn to Out Stealing Horses because of the cadence of the prose—the contrasting use of very long, simply-worded sentences with very concise ones created an exciting energy. The story of an older man recalling the summer when he was fifteen is full of surprising twists. There are puzzling hints of an undercurrent that stands out against the experiences of the boy and which is explained, gradually, later in the book. The ending of the book took me by surprise—the event, in the boy’s mind, was an odd and unsettling combination of flickering happiness and profound disillusionment.

With that in my mind, I chose the music—four separate pieces: by Xenakis, Marcos Balter and John Tavener—for their contrasts in driving energy, introspection, anxiety and calm.

At the start of the rehearsals I showed movement phrases and, separately, a number of gestures which the dancers combined/reversed/ excerpted/made into duets; however I could not explain any underlying ideas other than my interest in the odd and unexpected way that things sometimes end. The ideas became more evident as we shaped and defined the movement and I found ways the movement and the music worked together.  The hard part of the choreographic process comes now, organizing the larger sections of movement and specifying dynamics, transitions, relationships and architecture to deepen the underlying concepts.

The ending of an event colors the memory; and so the piece is about what happens at the end —how the groupings and the various relationships unfold—and why.