As a choreographer, how do you turn a complicated concept into a dance? Just ask Galen Hooks, whose latest project with director Sarah Wilson Thacker considers Alzheimer's disease and the ways we hold onto our sense of self.
Dance Spirit spoke with Hooks about what it was like to create the film.
DS: How did you come up with this idea?
Hooks: My friend Sarah, who's a director, asked me what I had been thinking about lately, and I ended up describing all these abstract concepts about how we can prepare for things in life but that life doesn't owe us anything for that preparation. That resonated with her, and she wanted to run with it. It was scary for me, because I usually start creating from a song rather than huge concepts. But from a director's point of view, she was game to tackle complex issues. She said it reminded her of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (which includes safety, love and self-esteem among other ideas). That's where it came from.
DS: Then what happened?
Hooks: We decided to use paper as this metaphor, because you can mold it and shape it, but it can also be torn up or blown away. Usually the next steps fall into place easily, but for this project everything was unknown. We had to find the right song and have discussions with a set designer. When it came time to choreograph the video, I just couldn't figure it out.
I asked Tony Testa for feedback and he helped come up with the idea of the hand opening like an egg—life starting. He hit the nail on the head. He also helped us resolve this piece in a hopeful way.
DS: When did you realize that this could relate to people with Alzheimer's disease?
Hooks: It wasn't until I was watching the second-to-last edit that I realized this was a story of Alzheimer's disease. When I watched it through that lens, it really hit me. The Alzheimer's Association of Orange County has given us a lot of support. This whole project was special because it really has a message. It felt good to do something that uses dance to touch people.