From ballet solos to hard-rock videos, modern companies and summer dance camps, fresh choreography is constantly in demand. DS interviewed two young, male dancers who also choreograph professionally, to find out how they build a piece for the stage. A resounding theme in both of their processes is the willingness to try new things.
Christophe Garcia, 25, started choreographing when he was 20, while he was a member of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne in Switzerland. For his first work he turned a solo he had made for a friend into a group piece using several dancers from the company. The work, titled Alice, is a version of the classic Alice in Wonderland story, a theme that Garcia credits for much of the dance’s success. “The piece works because it touches each of us who had to give up certain parts of ourselves in order to grow up,” he explains. Note: Sticking with themes that are easy to identify with can help your work appeal to a wide range of people as well.
Turning a solo into a group piece doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds: When Garcia made Alice into a group piece, he kept the solo exactly the same and simply added characters who interacted with the title character. Béjart liked it so much he decided to include Alice in a gala performance.
Pierre Lecours, 29, began dancing 10 years ago at Les Ateliers de Danse Moderne de Montréal. A year after he started he knew he was destined to choreograph. La Présentatrice, the first piece he choreographed, was praised by critics and audience members at Tangente, a Canadian organization that promotes and presents young choreographers. “The success of my first piece, at 24, gave me the power to keep going,” he says. “I don’t like the idea of a choreographic recipe; I like to renew the creative process each time. I’ve entered the studio with a piece of choreography almost entirely written out on paper and right now I’m working on a piece where I’ve started with no preparation.” For La Présentatrice, Lecours relied on a storyline, much like Garcia did with Alice. “The process was relatively easy,” says Lecours. “I created solos, then duets, while simultaneously working on text about a mistress of ceremonies married to a lion tamer. I added a narrator in addition to the four dancers.”
Tapping Your Resources
Lecours prefers that dancers participate in the choreographic process because when they improvise, the results can be surprising. “There are times [when] I ask the dancers to move an arm in any direction, then I ask them to move [one] leg [while spiraling their] torso, then I put it all together and create something that nobody was expecting,” he explains.
Instead of waiting for motivation, Lecours goes looking for it. “For my next piece,” he says, “I am going to seek inspiration from the dancers’ ages. I’m using people who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s, which means they [won’t be able to] do the same things physically. I’ll be dealing with injuries, varying experiences and different backgrounds.”
Garcia usually enters the creative process with some idea of what he wants to create. He incorporates the dancers’ personalities by asking them to add movements to phrases. Then, step by step, they create choreography that suits both his artistic vision and the dancers’ movement preferences.