The Things You Learn in Dance Lofts

Darion Smith, choreographer and artistic director of Janusphere Dance Company, looks back on the nascent stages of A Place of Origin, his latest work exploring identity through dance.

In 2015, I began conducting a character/movement study based on identity: my own identity, the identity of movement gestures, and fantasy storytelling inspired by researching the origins of an identity. The 2015 identity project led to other similar explorations where the idea of identity was expanded upon, with larger groups of dancers and more complex themes and structure. 

 Photo by Pam Cressall

Photo by Pam Cressall

In the new dance work that began to grow, A Place of Origin, I recognized the possibility to combine elements of previous work with emerging methods of creation. The result was a work that encounters archetypes and human behavior and a draft that invites deeper development and distillation.

The purpose of the Dance Lofts at the University of Oregon, where A Place of Origin was made, is to bring choreographers deeper into their processes without the pressure of an end goal and productivity standards and expectations,. Even though I tend to work under a set of standards and expectations, this experience provided me with the space to begin new conversations through my work and a deeper exploration of where it has taken me and where it is going.  

 Photo by Pam Cressall

Photo by Pam Cressall

The project also provided a platform to collaborate with composer Daniel Daly. In the early stages of the process I had originally imagined the work with a female soprano.In the end, Daniel developed the work for clarinet, oboe, and percussion, which was performed live. Daniel's music composition shares the same title as the choreography.   

I explored additional dimensions, working with sets, props, and lighting design. Having so many elements to contend with sometimes made the work get lost in figuring out how to use those elements effectively.

 Photo by Pam Cressall

Photo by Pam Cressall

This challenge helped to push the choreography forward and prompted me to make decisions about what to change, or what to let go of. Another constraint was working for 1 hour/week for 10 weeks in the studio with the dancers, set, and props.

Every challenge and opportunity contributed to the way the work took shape, the ideas I was able to relay through the work, and the lessons I was learned from the process.