Composition is a difficult class to take for everyone. For people that hate to create movement, it’s a constant struggle and negotiation with oneself, the assignment, and the teacher. For the people that love to generate work, it can become plain frustrating. I identify as the latter. Nevertheless, one has to learn to take the structure of the course and tailor it to how how one desires to work. And as if this struggle wasn’t meaty enough, another layer becomes the influence of personal life. More so than in any other movement class (though still notably prominent in any movement class), it is hard to not let personal life influence your performance. It’s no secret that creating art is nearly always coupled with crippling self doubt, and often the feeling of distress just compounds any personal problems. And as a first semester sophomore, myself and all of my peers ambiguously had our own personal problems. So, for everyone of all styles and predispositions, including myself, composition becomes intensely personal, intensely emotional, and intensely difficult to take. And yet, as artists, we all relish in it as much as we detest it.
With that preface, composition has made me grow as an artist and simultaneously reattach myself to my roots in terms of personal artistic voice. The act of constantly creating alone was imperative. Creating more prolifically than in Composition 1. The more I create the more I divulge myself into the experience of movement and to the possibilities my body offers in terms of conveying and expressing. After a year of creating much less than I ever did before college, I felt myself begin to lose that ability. I also felt my own artistic foundation slipping out from under me. While there is still so much doubt in whether or not I am ever accessing my full potential, I am closer than I was at the beginning of the semester. But the concept of accessing one’s “full potential” is such an elusive feat, that I have to constantly remind myself to not be terribly bothered by it. It’s a struggle I don’t see ending any time soon, if ever, but I am accepting that my process does not end with the conclusion of this course.
Even with this reconnection to self, I still feel a bit lost in myself. Though I have relocated my voice, I am still ever questioning the validity of said voice. I am constantly asking myself, “who cares?”, and “Does this work matter?”, and “Does my voice matter”. Compounded on the aforementioned self doubt, it can sometimes become stifling to make movement. Nevertheless, an assignment is an assignment and you have to do it. Another benefit of composition is that you cannot get around creating. You can get around doing the assignment, which I shamelessly have done many times, but either way you need to create. The forcefulness of that fact is balanced out by Hadley’s insistence on irreverence to one’s movement and insistence on not being precious. The combination of those factors in and of itself force people to create more and create better. So while I am stuck on my own concerns, I was never able to let them stop me from making work because the environment provided did not allow for it. It did not allow me to give up, and in contrast it never allowed me to get full of myself.
All being said, I actually struggled greatly with a lot of the assignments in Composition class. In past reflection papers for Composition I have written about my concrete subjects. I wrote strategically about how I navigate studies that are difficult for me and I wrote strategically about my strengths. I think for the purpose of this paper, it is more imperative to view the class from a holistic view and to analyze the concreteness for its future potential. The first assignments that were metered were very difficult for me simply because I am not used to working that way. All of the assignments have been based on external rhythm and sound which is new to me. I had to teach myself to get over the hum of being concerned with why I struggled with the assignment, and to do it and do it well regardless. Rather than finding tools from these limitation studies as Susan intended, I actually found myself take different lessons from them. It was a lesson in teaching myself to not just consider my studies “throw away” just because I didn’t like how they were created. If I never use any of those strategies again, I will know to be humbled in my own creation process. And I will know that in the real world, it truly isn’t just a game of doing whatever I want. Therefore, I am training myself in finding value in every process and accepting every process I endeavor as being whatever it is that they are without weight or tag.
I think here it is important to also consider my strengths as an attempt to holistically asses my performance in Composition class. While established that I am incredibly stubborn about how I wish to work, I think no matter what the confines, I am able to push myself to make interesting choices. I make work that most people may not necessarily be willing to or even consider making. Risk taking is an important factor in this. I cannot ever be sure if the work I make will be received well because I chose to make things that people may shy away from for fear of them being weird, or ugly, or awkward. And truthfully, I acknowledge they could very well be received that way. Sometimes they are received negatively. However, they are also received positively just as often. Risk taking has allowed me to be innovative not just in composition classes, but in my entire choreographic and artistic life.
The constant emphasis on composition and the perpetual act of giving and receiving feedback based on movement and special choices has effected the way I watch dance (as have most of the other classes I have taken in this department). Particularly, I came out of viewing the Dance Downtown performance with many thoughts about the works.
The first piece I felt was carried by the dancers’ embodiment of the movement and the powerful setting of the stage, lights, and music. The actual staging of the work would not suggest any meaning besides that of time, space and energy. The inclusion of the dresses made the largest impact on the work. Without them I would not have assumed any sort of message about modern feminism. I felt that they alone conveyed a sense of restrictive identities, and the self sabotage that women have on one another. By moving the dress from one woman to the next, Sofie suggested that when women are liberated, they seem to perpetuate oppression of other women. Watching it I could imagine that Sofie Clemmensen provided facilitation for the work, but allowed the work to carry itself. I am incredibly intrigued by this concept that the artist is no more than at service to the work they are creating. The work owns them; they do not own the work.
Eddie Taketa’s next work took on an entirely different tone. The all-white costumes and the power and flow of the movement, coupled with omnipresent, persistent music, suggested an overall theme of ethereality. In my effort to watch for meaning, I found that I was awarded with nothing but frustration. I began to realize that Taketa’s work was not one to contemplate, but one to be washed over the viewer in a more general experience type of way. The tone of the work was constantly up with no breaks. This made for an overwhelming viewing experience and I found after that the only two parts I remember are two specific gestural moments. While I do wish I could recall more of it, I find that it makes the in-the-moment experience that much more valuable.
Bebe Miller’s work resonates with me in a particularly personal way. Her work dominated the show in length and was a stark contrast to the first two works that were primarily perpetual movement. Her work, in my mind, created a world. I felt that as a viewer I was not watching one specific event, but rather the evolution of a society. The books appeared to be storing the history of these societies, and their tendency to either show the books immense care or total irreverence was indicative of how people in our society treat lineage and the past. Simultaneously cherishing and disregarding it.
This Composition course was a huge learning experience for me within myself and on a more abstract plane. Regardless of how I changed as a mover and creator, my outlook has changed and that alone will carry me through as a choreographer further than I could have hoped to at the beginning.