Inside the Mind of a Choreographer

In this post, Artistic Director and choreographer, Alex Dellaportas, shares how she has been creating and choreographing our new piece for the Victorian Dance Festival.
FEBRUARY 19 2017

Choreographing a dance is a challenging process – it is always hard to create art and love and accept your art at the same time.

I’ve been making my own dances for a while.

I think a lot of dancers will create their own work at some point – but it took a few years for me to realise that I loved the artistic element to choreographing as well as the dance part. I love thinking about pieces as much as I love actually moving.

So, for the Victorian Dance Festival this year, we decided to create a standalone five-minute piece that would represent who we are as a company. We wanted to create something with meaning but also something that would challenge us creatively. And not just me, but the whole team. We have each had a say in the choreographic process and we have all contributed our ideas and movements.

And there are a million ways to create a dance.

But here is the way I have approached this particular piece:

We started with an idea. I had an idea that had been sitting in my phone notes for a while and so I decided that this would be the perfect time to explore it with actual dancers.

I then found a piece of music that I loved. Music is very important to me. As much as I love silence in dance and using silence when improvising or trying to focus on movement, after a lot of experimentation I have discovered that music is actually a main ingredient of my passion for choreography. I’ve been surrounded by music my entire life and I often find that if I don’t have a strong and inspiring piece of music to refer back to, I tend to lose focus. I love it when good music and movement intersect to create something together. That’s when theatre magic is created.

So, our first rehearsal didn’t actually involve a whole lot of choreography.

I used to pre-choreograph all my pieces and would just show up to rehearsal with all this movement in my head and teach the dancers.

And sometimes I still do this – like for group sections.

But I’ve also discovered the fun of creating in the moment. It’s good to be able to actually use the bodies in front of you and use improvisation in real time to create something. So for our first rehearsal, we began to workshop both our idea for the piece and some movement. Firstly, we all sat in groups and I had the dancers discuss with me their ideas about our theme. And I am SO glad we did this because it actually provided me with even more material for creation.

We then workshopped some movement ideas I had – most of them were choreographed on the spot with a lot of input from the dancers.

I must admit – it was totally scary going into that first rehearsal knowing I only had an idea and some vague ideas of movement structures.

I felt unprepared.

But in fact, I had actually prepared myself in the best possible way because I walked into that studio with an open mind and was only able to rely on myself and the dancers. And it actually worked out to be a wonderful rehearsal.

The next part of the creation process was actually sitting down at home during that week to watch the videos of rehearsal and start actually choreographing. It was here that I pre-choreographed some bigger, group sections. I also made detailed notes about where dancers would be standing and where I wanted to use improvisation or where I wanted to try many different things with the dancers in the studio until I saw something that fully resonated with our intention.

So this brings me to the rehearsal we had last Sunday.

I went in feeling again slightly unprepared. But really, I had just the right mix of pre-prepared choreography and ideas for creating with the dancers. We learnt all the pre-choreographed parts first and then experimented with improvisation and tweaked different parts of choreography afterwards.

It was incredible to see our dancers becoming closer and more focussed as a company through this rehearsal. We got through a lot of the piece and we only have a little to choreograph before we start refining and developing further.

Choreographing a dance is a challenging process – it is always hard to create art and love and accept your art at the same time.

There will be many moments of doubt and fear before our performance but I know that this is just part of the process. It’s actually sort of exciting to know that we are creating something that is able to stir up so many questions and emotions just in the creative process alone; and that has been able to stir up many more emotions and life questions in the way of storyline as well.

Check back on this blog soon for an explanation of our VDF piece. We are truly so excited to share it with the world and I can’t wait for the next few weeks of creation and rehearsal!