Research week at Dance4

The dancer's experience of the choreographic process

My research week at Dance4 took place a fortnight ago. Myself and three other dancers, Nick Smith, Kirsty Russell and Sarah Butler worked with choreographer Angharad Harrop in the Dance4 studio for 4 days. Although on the surface, it appeared that we were working with Angharad to make a short piece of dance, the real purpose of the week was to gather information about the dancer’s experience of the process for my PhD research. 

To enable this, each dancer kept a journal throughout the week writing about their expectations and the realities of the project, documenting how these develop throughout the week. The thoughts that emerge from these journals were then used to instigate group discussions at the end of each session. These discussions are kept very open ended—no topic of discussion was more or less important than another—the aim was to hear what dancers wanted to talk about naturally and as a result, what might be important to them.

 Analyses of the data gathered has signified some key themes that regularly emerged:

 Social interaction

  • How important it is for dancers in terms of relationship building
  • Whether the choreographer is involved
  • How it impacts the choreographic process

Dancer relationships

  • How dancers communicate with each other
  • How dancers perceive each other
  • What happens when a dancer is absent

Dancer and choreographer relationships

  • What their professional relationship is like
  • What the social relationship is like
  • How open the choreographer is about their process

Adaptation

  • The impact of morning class led by choreographer
  • Dancers adapting their movement style
  • Dancers adapting their working methods to work with each other

Dealing with problems

  • Tiredness
  • Physical injury
  • Confusion
  • Lack of communication

 Ownership

  • The hierarchy among the dancers
  •  What the choreographer shares and how this changes throughout the process
  • Creativity
  • Generating movement material

All of these ideas crossed and interlinked with each other throughout the process and were things that repeatedly came up during writing or discussion in various forms. Some are fairly obvious and often discussed within the choreographic paradigm; others provide more of an insight into the dancers tacit experience and how they perceive the choreographic process. It is these themes, which often go unrecognised, that I will continue to probe and question throughout my research.  Look out for the survey monkey I will be sending out to hear some of your thougths and experiences of the topics I am researching!