This autumn I was one of the lucky choreographers, who were invited to participate in Choreosound a pilot project in Göteburg conceived by Swedish choreographer Marika Hedemyr. During this lab choreographers and composers, dancers and musicians from all over the world met and explored new ideas for collaborations without any predetermined agendas. The invitation came at a perfect time for me. My dance company was touring a programme of short pieces entitled between sound and silence, which had been created with composers John-Marc Gowans and Matteo Fargion. Choreosound was an opportunity for me to question, where my passion for music collaborations had come from and where they could go next. It was also a chance to meet new artists and to work with musicians, something I wanted to do for a long time.
My desire to choreograph always originated from a personal place, without wanting to be narrative or autobiographical. Seeing the works of choreographers like Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Rosemary Butcher, Deborah Hay and Jonathan Burrows left a lasting impression on me. Their performances were not concerned with displays of skill but with the movement material itself. They made me see movement through the eyes of an individual artist. Working with chosen limits, they seemed to find expressive potential of movement within its internal details. As a young dance maker I had a hard time though to analyse the methodologies of other artists. I didn’t really believe in borrowing toolboxes. To create my first pieces, I just used all the movements I liked and left out everything I didn’t like. Relying on intuition, the materials were then mapped out in space and time. The choreographies were created with a group of dancers I brought together for each project. We performed in silence, with the intention to reveal a personal type of musicality interwoven with the physical language and to maintain a simplicity and directness.
I took a break from performing, because I wanted to sit with the audience and watch. I felt the need to improve the composition and one way was to introduce an exterior logic. I found inspiration in Estonian composer Veljo Tormis, whose music is developed from folk songs. I choreographed a duet entitled Newly based on Veljo Tormis’ choral composition Estonian Wedding Songs. In this process I interpreted the music as a set of patterns and drawings, which were then given to the dancers. They responded with movements and vocal sounds. The musical structure created a framework, in which the dancers could reinvent their relationship in surprising ways. I came to Choreosound with ideas and questions about how to work with structures and about how to engage the performers and the viewer within them.
My first session was with composer Yong Nan Park, accordion player Anti Leinonen and marimba player Elin Sander, and dancers Katja Schia and Karin Hedin. We borrowed an idea from composer Tom Johnson's piece Abundant Numbers, in which he divides the number 12 into 2, 3, 4, and 6, which are then combined to create a pattern.
-2-2 -2-2-2 - 2
--3- -3--3- - 3
---4 ---4-- - 4
---- -6---- - 6
Each performer’s task was to create 4 materials, which could be performed at the same time and in all possible combinations on certain counts. The structure determined a fragmented type of movement. Without having thought about sound or rhythm, there was a “musical logic”, which tied together everyone’s actions. What I liked about this experiment was the concentrated effort between the 4 performers to stay together. An interesting discovery was how the combinations of sounds seemed to work better. Each time they build up to something new and the repetition was enjoyable to witness, while the combinations of movements and their repetitions didn’t always produce the same effect. The experience raised questions about the difference between hearing sound and seeing movement and what this meant for music and dance collaborations based on rigorous compositional ideas. If we had the chance to work on this sketch again, I would experiment more with the translation from pattern to movement.
My following session was with composer Daniel Skoglund, double bas player Benjamin Quigley and Elin Sander and dancers Ari Kauppila and Andrius Katinas. We worked with structures and chance elements. Each performer acted as a dancer and musician by creating a sequence of tasks, which involved movement and playing instruments. It was important that the materials were clear rather than skillful. The sequences were then looped, and because they were of a different length, different combinations of actions between the performers were created each time. We then introduced more options for the performers to ad new materials, to copy each other, stillness and so on. Sometimes this sketch produced a totally unexpected theatricality, and sometimes it fell flat. We realized that we needed to be careful about how many elements could change at once, so that the structure was still there, but that it remained unpredictable for the performers as well as for the viewer, what would happen next. It was a very fragile balance, but that was also, what really excited me about this experiment.
My last session was with composer Amanda Cole, guitar player Barney Strachan and Elin Sander, and dancers Gilda Stillbäck, Lisa Fahlén and Alice Martucci. We interpreted a piece of music Amanda had written. This piece had a minimal rigor and the musicians’ interpretation brought real beauty to it. It was a peaceful experience to be in the studio with them, and I was looking for something the choreography could do to meet the music half way. Although this session took place in the most conventional set up with clear role divisions and a need for virtuosity from both dancers and musicians, I still felt I was on an experimental pathway. The dance part was based on very limited material. Each dancer had a set score of steps and pauses, and the combination of 3 dancers’ patterns created a strange “start and pause” effect. What interested me was how the dance could have its own rhythm.
Back in London, I realize that I have taken so many new inspirations and ideas with me from Choreosound. What will stay with me is the experience of everyone’s generosity and I really hope that we will find a way to develop the begun collaborations.
Listed to Amada Cole's music
Listed to Daniel Skoglund's music
Read more about Choreosound