We sat down with Darion Smith to chat about the premiere of his latest choreography at HCC. The choreographer and Janusphere Artistic Director shares what the experience was like not only for him, but for the dancers - including what it was like for students to move from the studio to the stage.
What was the most surprising part of the performance experience?
I wouldn't say there were any real surprises in the performance experience for me personally. That's probably because I was so in tune to what was going on.
I did notice the dancers were dynamic and nuanced during the performances. And although I don't know if they were surprised during the performances, they didn't divulge that information to me. When we talked about small issues that came up between each performance we were able to find quality solutions.
Moving the work from the studio to the stage made traveling in and out of the wings with large props more of a task because it added distance as well as having to navigate lighting instruments, legs, and wings which also became a challenge. So we had to run through that section whenever there was extra time on stage.
What kind of feedback did the dancers give about the overall process, and the performance itself?
I haven't received feedback from the dancers. I observed them problem solving frequently throughout the entire process, performances included. Of course, each dance piece engages the dancers in a different way.
In Leaving Now for Later, I also observed the dancers were highly engaged with one another as they rely on each other during the work for cueing, sometimes it's verbal cueing and sometimes it's visual.
Does it feel like your initial vision was carried out, or were changes made that affected the scope of the experience and the piece itself (for you, as a choreographer and a dance educator)?
I originally created the work as a sketch in four sections and along the way I edited one of them out. This made the work more compact and the three sections that remained were more developed as a result.
Speaking as a choreographer, I feel that I was able to get close to what I had imagined and I also left room for things that presented a question mark to develop organically with the rest of the work. When the work strayed from what I had expected I didn't mind because it gave me a fresh look into a place I probably wouldn't have ventured.
Speaking as a dance educator, it's always a challenge to facilitate learning in choreography because there's room for interpretation - even more so these days - depending on the task. There are some things I'll show and teach how to do, and there are things that the dancers learn by being inside of the work. It's a delicate balance between too much information and not enough.
On the one hand, I want them to know what to do, but on the other hand, I don't always want them to think too far ahead and rest on the idea of knowing the work so well that they can either embellish in ways that are unnecessary or not live on the edge -so to speak- inside of the work. There is such a thing a stale or sterile performance. It's like the dancers know it so well that it becomes routine. I like clean and tidy performances but I prefer to see dancers/performers take risks at every turn. It makes the choreography come to life. I think that's a valuable artistic aspect for students to grasp in practice.