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Stories from the Field: Alejandro Bahia on the ArtWorks Open House

This blog posting is more painful than most because I have to admit that my dad was right. Yes, he’s probably jumping up and down right now as we both realized he has won a moral victory after all these years.  When I was younger my dad would always say “you have to put pride into your work!”  I hated hearing that because it was usually applied to some menial chore such as taking out the trash, or cleaning out a litter box.  For better or for worse, this little phrase became more poignant this past  week as our interns put together their first open house/ performance.   I love performances because they’re all about pushing the limits. Of course, when you’re pushing the limits strange things happen.  You discover that your perfect plan isn’t so perfect, or what you took for granted isn’t so easy when you have to do it yourself.  So yes, we definitely experienced a lot of new discoveries this past week. The ArtWorks Open House strengthened our interns’ creative process, forced them to reflect on how they’ve grown professionally and artistically, and  above  all learn to put pride in their work.

These past few weeks I’ve thrown our interns into unfamiliar water.  I asked them to choreograph a two minute piece.  It shouldn’t be too hard for dancers, right? Wrong.  I took away all those crutches they’re used to.  I didn’t want to see movement or phrases they learned in class,  I didn’t want flashy were simplicity would do. I absolutely refused to let them slide by on their technical prowess. I wanted them to be aware of where they were in the space and understand how space can affect the meaning of their dances.  I asked for them to motivate movement with emotion.  In other words, don’t move for the sake of movement, move because it means something! In defense of my interns, I will mention that most studios don’t teach how to create choreography. Most people learn how to arrange steps.  If I received a penny for every time my interns grumbled about creating movement without music, I would be a very rich man.  However, I truly believe I’m richer for making them go through the choreographic process.   Some the pieces that were created for the open house were absolutely amazing.  If you missed our open house, you really missed out.  We have a culminating event in a couple of weeks, I suggest you mark your calendars and get there early because it will be standing room only!

Saying you’re going to do something and doing something are two different things.  Our interns realized that as they worked hard to produce last week’s open house. Things that are considered OK in casual company became glaring no-no’s.  Giggling and laughter backstage had to be controlled.  Cellphones had to be silenced or even worse- turned off! Pieces had to be performed numerous times, and speeches had to be rewritten.  I think the interns learned that creating a good presentation takes more than just knowing your part or your dance.  There are lots of little things that take an amateur presentation to a professional presentation.

For our open house, many of the interns presented solos.  Solos can be fun or absolutely frightening for the performer. But when the choreographer and the performer is the same person the fun and fear factor are compounded exponentially. In these instances, the performer/choreographer really has to believe in the work.  Any self doubt or hesitation will become apparent in a nanosecond. I believe a healthy dose of pride in your work will always save the day.  I have to remind the interns that they created their pieces on their own.  Nobody gifted them the piece.  When they realize what they’ve accomplished their eyes light up!  I guess my dad was right.  I might even call my dad and let him know he was right all along.  I hope he doesn’t gloat about this on twitter!

This entry was published on July 16, 2012 at 11:37 am and is filed under Projects, Teaching Artists, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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