As a student of dance at Sweet Briar College I was taught my first choreography class by dance educator Ella Magruder using Doris Humphrey’s book Making Dances. What struck me most about the experience of this first class was that she started by having us choreograph to no music! It was a very uncomfortable practice at first, but through it I came to understand why in the past, picking a piece of music (often with words which would spoon feed me a story or concept) and choreographing to it, I would end up with dances that felt somehow cheap. As a child doing cutesy recitals I always understood that something was missing, that we were missing the point of something deeper in movement but I didn’t know what.
I learned, “Don’t be a slave to the music” as Doris Humphrey would say, and that experience freed me from the grip of music, allowing me to be it’s equal partner after I had established my movement in it’s own right.
It is this teaching, that dance is it’s own art and should not rely on the music to give it life, which allowed me to begin choreographing in silence. Later, this opened me up to the possibility of combining my passions for dance and writing; ultimately leading to my interest in interdisciplinary arts.
The following clip is of the first spoken word dance I ever choreographed, in the spring of 2015. By choreographing in silence I was able to imagine something else which might fill that silence – my own voice.