On choreographic style

This time, I am considering choreography, and how important (or not so) it is to have a ‘choreographic voice’. After having attended a talk by world renowned Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall, which was based on his own style of making dance; through a complex politic of traditional Yiddish hand gestures, folk music and Israeli historical taboos, something started to correspond with my current studies.  Marshall spoke about his ideals of making work on himself and then transferring this onto his dancer’s bodies. This does admittedly seem very old hat, and I personally thought we had travelled away from the time when this way of making was fashionable, and have started to understand that all dancing bodies move differently and so an exact replica of movement is impossible. However, he did also make the very valid point that having the dancers create the main movement material, which the choreographers then just ‘mould’ could have a reducing affect towards the choreographer’s ‘unique voice’ and movement style coming through.
I have always felt that having a specific ‘choreographic voice’ was not necessarily a good thing. As dance students we are encouraged to expand our movement vocabulary and experiment with different ways of making and moving, as to not get stuck in that dreaded ‘choreography rut’. However, after starting to work on an autobiographical piece (as part of our course) the focus shifted towards the understanding of our own personal choreographic style. And, I suppose once you acknowledge the inevitability of actually having a style, you then acquire the ability to move away from it (or back to it) if and when you wish. A key promoter of this kind of thinking is American choreographer Tere O’Connor. He speaks about ‘getting rid of the authorities in your brain’, or taboos if you like, when you enter the choreographic space. This works to get rid of any rebellion that  you may be feeling against your own ‘style’ or how you believe your work is perceived by the ‘authorities’, therefore creating a sense of freedom.
I think style, whatever it is, and not just choreographically either, but in a wider sense of the word, needs to be something that comes naturally, otherwise it can’t possibly be yours. And it is something that is owned and acknowledged, but therefore flexible.
It was Quentin Crisp who once said ‘If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.’

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