lets not be difficult about this
the basic condition seems to be:
choreography is thinking about the organisation of objects and subjects
in time and space on stage
but this counts for theatre, music, visual
arts and cinema too in some sense
and not only for them
this is also what happens in the street, the community organises movement in
the communal time and space
would it be better to say:
thinking about the organisation of the movement between
objects and subjects in time and space on stage
but this still counts for the arts mentioned
above as well
thinking about the organisation of the moving relations
between objects and subjects in time and space on stage
that doesn't sound bad
but I exclude performances like Xavier Leroy's "Product of Circumstances" or
Jerome Bel's "Jerome Bel"
they do not only organise moving relations between objects and subjects in time
and space on stage
they also displace them, they unwrap movement
so the definition could be: thinking about the organisation and/or displacement
of the moving relations between objects and subjects in time and space on stage
contemporary dance performances often have a
circular way of organisation, contrary to a more classical organised
presentation, which is often more linear, as a consequence of its narrative
let's improve the definition to: thinking about the circular or linear
organisation and/or displacement of the moving relations between objects and
subjects in time and space on stage
but still I miss an important element: the
as there are many performances nowadays which not only deal with the movement
relations that are organised in the limited space and time of the stage
but which are also dealing with the tangible and intangible movement relations
between the performance and/or performers and the auditorium or spectators
I refer to Jerome Bel's "Le dernier spectacle" in which the main movement
notification happens in the mind of the spectator
so the definition should be: thinking about
the circular or linear organisation and/or explanation of the moving relations
between objects and subjects in time and space on stage and/or the tangible or
intangible movement relations between the performance and/or performers and the
auditorium or spectators
but still all this does not cover the term,
nor the way choreography has been practised
as in principle a choreographer does not organise time and space of what
happens on stage but mainly of what happens in the minds of the beholders, the
it is there where the choreography takes place, happens
but this is not specific to choreography
all arts finally try to trigger the mind of the spectators
but not all trigger movement relations in the mind of the
and then about this "thinking" in the
choreography is: a pleasure
this "thinking" is the most important task of a choreographer
s(h)e thinks about movement
about the many ways movement manifests itself
and (s)he thinks about what the motional aspects sh(e) uses trigger in the
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today means a set of rules which organises body movement in time and space.
Either pre-emptive – as instruction – or in the moment of creation itself,
based on decisions. The set of rules – and through it, the organisation of body
movement, time and space – can always change. But in every moment a certain
setting is created, organised by the choreography.
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I was reading a novel of Dashiell Hammett,
"The Gutting of Couffignal".
"Stop!" I ordered.
"I shan't," she said, but she did, for the time at least. "I'm
"You're going out when I take you."
I thought: Choreography is the art of giving orders.
laughed, a pleasant laugh, low and confident.
"I'm going out before that," she insisted good-naturedly. I shook my
"How do you propose stopping me?" she asked.
"I don't think I'll have to," I
told her. "You've too much sense to try to run while I'm holding a gun on
Choreography is the art of being obeyed: no drama, no psychological matters,
only shapes and moves. Like for a military parade, you decide and off they go.
laughed again, an amused ripple.
"I've got too much sense to stay," she corrected me. "Your
crutch is broken and you're lame. You can't catch me by running after me then.
You pretend you'll shoot me, but I don't believe you. You'd shoot me if I
attacked you, of course, but I shan't do that. I shall simply walk out, and you
know you won't shoot me for that. You'll wish you could, but you won't. You'll
Her face turned over her shoulder, her dark eyes twinkling at me, she took a
step toward the door.
"Better not count on that!" I threatened.
The point is: how to grasp the reality which always escapes from our will and
our understanding. Why this rather than that? Is choreography a means to be
more objective? There is always a part of the "indeterminable", of the
"not discernible" in things.
answer to that she gave me a cooing laugh. And took another step.
"Stop, you idiot!" I bawled at her.
Her face laughed over her shoulder at me. She walked without haste to the door,
her short skirt of gray flannel shaping itself to the calf of each gray
wool-stockinged leg as its mate stepped foward.
Choreography is a projection. It is based on the
gaze of the spectator.
It's the onlooker who decides if what he sees is not only what he sees but
also a piece of art with choreographic qualities.
greased the gun in my hand.
She sat down – plump! Utter suprise stretched her white face. It was too
soon for pain.
When her right foot was on the doorsill, a little chuckling sound came from her
"Adieu!" she said softly.
And I put a bullet in the calf of her left leg.
Here we are! One can easily take a part of reality and reframe it, and doing so
in a specific context, can create a choreography.
I had never shot a woman before. I felt queer about it.
"You ought to have known I'd do it!" My voice sounded harsh and
savage and like a stranger's in my ears.
"Didn't I steal a crutch from a cripple?"
So does Superamas: Choreography is a dirty business.
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Answering the question "What is choreography?"
we consciously would like to avoid common "word husks" which often flutter
around the term like moths around the flame. Actually, there should be at least
as many answers as there are, were, and will be artists who are using,
formulating, inventing, changing, etc. the medium of choreography. Still, we
would like to make a distinction between craft and art. They have
nothing in common, but in the case of choreography they are often thrown into
one pot together, and the one is always missed in the other. No one realises
that both harbour different risks and therefore cannot be compared with
In craft, technical refinement produces the
risk of mastership and thus the danger of failure.
In art, the art itself
becomes the risk, and strictly speaking there is no failure – just giving up.
And if choreography is an art of order, of sequence and of a community (of
strangers), it is an order which risks itself again and again.
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I make a
distinction between choreography and choreographic craftsmanship. The craft is
subject to fashions and styles. "Choreography", on the other hand, is a term as
far-reaching as "gesture". As such, this term contains a lot (if not
everything) and can stand for all kinds of things like, e.g., composition,
orchestration, timing, score, structuring. Choreographing as an action means
finding orientations within a sample of conditions. Those may be – but don't
have to – dance movements. On the contrary, the relation to dance movement is
just a tiny special case in the thought space of choreographing.
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Two kinds of choreography? – These days,
there exist at least two kinds of choreography … On the one hand, there is
choreography as making representation
machines by means of moving bodies that are always also meaningful
representations of bodies. Representation machines reduce the dancing body to a
tautological representation of itself (‘I dance that I dance') and primarily
address the observer as a passive viewer with a mental eye. On the other hand,
there is choreography as a multi-medial affect
machine, consisting of various sorts of movement. Bodily movements are put
within the same transversal plane as moving images and shifting sounds, moving
objects and shifting beams of light … The observer is therefore no longer
addressed as a bodiless viewer but as a material recipient. Within this new
paradigm, dance remains ‘the art of the (moving) body', yet the body is
re-articulated as the capacity to be
moved by pre-personal affects.
machines is synonymous with making a social as well as an artistic ‘common'.
This common is populated by bodily movements, sounds, video images … and of
course also affects. They all operate as networked ‘actants' thanks to the
always singular active networking that gives them this and not that role,
function, effectiveness … We may therefore describe an affect machine as a non-hierarchical performative assemblage,
a shifting connectivity of body parts, rays of light, sounds, movements and
non-movements, images … that constantly affect each other and ‘the bodily
audience', resulting in a constantly transformed focus of affectivity.
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is writing in space. bodies scan time, rhythm, energy in space. choreography is
the intentional collision of sediments in cultural and biographical memory with
aesthetic, up-to-date processing in/with time, space, body. choreography
produces situative temporal alignments of bodies and eyes, heads and bodies.
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