Why do I make dances?

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  • June 13, 2012

 

Why do I make dances? 
For a long time I couldn’t answer this.  I just do.  It’s who I am.  I tried to stop dancing a few times but it is one of the few things in my life that I’ve always gravitated toward without question.   But its important to question it. 
I started dancing for my own pleasure.  To sooth my loneliness and channel my manic energy.  Moving in unison with the other children was a ritual that lifted my spirits.  Working hard to learn new things, challenging my physical memory, working together to solve problems.  At the end of the year there was a performance.  The adrenalin rush that pumped through my veins as I prepared to step before all the people, the dizzy ease I felt once I stood on stage, the palpable exchange of energy I could feel between everyone in the room, performers and watchers, these things sealed my deep commitment to the form.  Everything about it. 
I made dances with the neighborhood kids.  I made dances in the school playground.  I made dances when I was alone.  I made dances in the living room during my parent’s grown-up parties, often to drunken applause. 
As I grew older I studied many forms of live performance,
gathering training and professional experiences that gave me a range of tools to continue expressing myself and took me further into the world of the arts. 
I started making dances to work out my own questions.  My own desires and my own fears. 
I made dances about being alone.   I made dances about discovery: of the world and of one’s self. 
I made a lot of dances that weren’t “about” anything but sprung from my awe of the complexity of human exchanges, a celebration of the absurdity and the sadness of our basic human quests and the awkwardness and beauty in our attempts to connect.
As a performer I discovered humor and reveled in the ways it highlighted the exchange between performer and the audience.  I spent a good amount of time in the training and creation of physical theater and clown work.
I then moved my dances out of the theater to give the audience more agency.  I focused significant energy on creating a world that the audience could literally step into, where the discoveries were theirs to make, sculpting a journey that they could follow and be followed by.
I opened my process to include the voices of the design collaborators at the onset of each project, reaching out to a range of artistic minds as relevant to the project at hand.  Sustained relationships with a pool of collaborators allowed each project to build on the next.  I built up the skills to helm large-scale projects and manage complex investigations (the mathematical love of organizing patterns combined with my dreamy idealistic sense of things)
After several years of focusing on the exchange between audience and performer, between collaborators and dancers, I am wondering what would I make if I returned to a less elaborate process?
With this year of research and discovery I wanted to ask myself:
What would I make if I weren’t collaborating with designers?  
What happens if I stand alone? 
Why do I make dances?  Really truly, why?
What are the questions that I myself am wrestling with and how can I share that with an audience?  How can I make those questions relevant to wider circle?  What is the cultural context that my questions sit within?  How can I play with formal structure to support the weight of personal content? 
And how do the stories of the dancers fit in with my own?
So I don’t have the answers. 
I don’t want to make dances that appear to be statements.
I want to make dances that honor the questions.  But give you a window in.
On Monday night I’ll be sharing my process as it sits thus far.  Flinging the door open to share these discussions with people other than Wendy and the dancers I’ve been working with this year.