Monday 28 May 2007

The Invisible Moment

photo by Dian Rosita

Examining ‘documentation of the creative process’ as a mode to read the choreography

This essay investigates the creative process by a choreographer which usually is "invisible" and queries how it is documented. An invisible process which generally unknown by the audiences and then becomes visible if it is well informed or performed and packaged into a good form or media of documentation. How the documentation could expose in a well articulated way so it can give a good impression and adequate points of view of the choreographer its dance work. That documentation of creative process can also be seen as the final product. It’s a product within the product itself - a "cycle of process" in the creativity of a dance work. It is a cycle to see ‘process and performance’ as an eternal rotation of creativity.

Seeing and reading a documentation of creative process may help the viewers to understand and appreciate the choreography. Investigating the documentation of creative process, I will refer to Susan Leigh Foster’s (1986) model of choreographic analysis. Considering how these elements of documenting can support the audience in reading and understanding the dance. Does it also create ‘meaning’?

Dance is an event that exists as a form of performing art, presented and received by the audience when it happens. Dance is present. The identity of a dance is established when that dance is being performed. As an "event", that dance becomes the end-product when it is accepted and perceived by an audience. A dance work is not "completed" until it has observed by an audience. As the final work presented, the audience has the right to "interpret" it, and then it belongs to the public. The choreographer will have to accept this as the final result.

Meanwhile, the process of the creation of a dance work happens before the "product" is performed. This part of the creative process is usually invisible, where research and the formulation of an idea or concept by the choreographer are being done. This creative process is done through intensive practice. This journey leads to the process of selecting the materials up to the refinement of the idea which then leads to the "real" performances. This whole process is a journey of the choreographer's creativity and involves collaboration with dancers. It is a creative process which is invisible and mostly not exposed to the public.

Observing the creative process of the choreographer in creating his/her work could open new opportunities and possibilities to present and introduce the profile of the choreographer besides through his ‘masterpiece’ or finished dance work. It can also open the viewer’s eyes to the creativity of the choreographer which is normally invisible and gives an insight view and critical perspective toward the dance besides the information and description on the program note. These will develop the sense of appreciation from the audience while looking at the dance.

Dance turns out to be a ‘finished product’ because of the limited budget and time to meet a performance deadline. To create an art work, the reason of funding and timing is considered as a must. The funding body or commission needs to see the work to be performed or presented to public. They need to have and see the result, which means to have the ‘finished product’ and meeting the deadline. The artist has also an obligation as well as a moral responsibility towards the funding body to show or perform his/her works. Thus, choreographers should meet these requirements to perform their dances; however it does not mean that their creativity is blocked. As John Adams (1999), an American composer writes:
‘Can’t I come up with a better idea? But I have to just go ahead, and this is why I always work with a deadline. If I didn’t have that date, not too far in the future, a crisis of confidence might overwhelm me, and I’d simply stop’. (Adams in McCuthan, 1999: p67).

In the process of making a dance, the choreographer should decide that the work is finished and being performed, so it can be said the dance is a ‘finished product’, except if the performance is described to be a ‘work in progress’. Therefore the audience will see and value that performance differently. The existence of a dance work normally is perceived as an end product by the viewers. Seeing a documentation of the creative process as an end product or putting the creative process as part of the performance, such as lecture demonstration (performance) or lecture concert, process becomes a ‘product’ as well. Through this kind of ‘documentation’ or ‘performance’ by having the explanation of ‘the creative process’, is that help or guide or open the possibility for the audience to ‘understand’ the work? What is the effect by giving the ‘frame’ of information of creative process to the viewers? By ‘knowing how’ or ‘knowing the creative process’ of choreographers for the audience, does it help and give benefits for the choreographer as well as the audience?

Susan Leigh Foster (1986) identifies five conventions for the viewers to read and create a meaning from choreography.

‘Once familiar with movement, the viewer can apprehend the choreographic codes and conventions that give the dance its significance. By focusing on these conventions in a particular dance, the viewer comes to understand not only what the dance means but also how it creates its meaning’ (Foster, 1986: p.59).

The five broad categories of choreographic conventions are: the frame, the mode of representation, the style, the vocabulary and the syntax. Foster helps the viewers to understand how to read dance and create a meaning from choreography. The knowledge of five conventions are mainly provided and easily understood for the general public or audience. For the experienced choreographer, those five conventions are employed for reflection and reference toward his/her choreography. In the dance production, the choreographer’s creative process unconsciously implements those five conventions. Choreographer gives information in a specific “framing” to the viewers, uses movement vocabulary as well as creating style into the dance. This is a process that is made for the audience, so they can read and understand the dance. Reading or seeing the creative process through observation and documentation will also help the viewer to read and understand the choreography, so the documentation of the creative process is also important for them. Besides to understand the dance, experiencing (witnessing) the creative process will open up the strategy, skills as well as knowledge of ‘knowing how’ for the others choreographers.

Middlesex University, London 10 May 2007

1 comment:

Tottenham homesteader said...

hello - this is a very interesting idea and i have added this post as a link on my own blog best -christine