Re: choreographer collaborations

Sarah Rubidge (
Sat, 3 Jan 1998 19:31:15 +0000

Dear Nick
On 3.1.98 you wrote:

>I started off in this scene full of enthusiasm for dance and really wanting
>to facilitate and support the dance genre here. Over the last five years I
>seen a lot of Scottish, UK and Continental dance (hundreds of
>performances), had meetings with many many dancers and choreographers in
>the UK, have put a huge amount of time and effort into trying to get dance
>projects off the ground here in Scotland (and a fair amount of money,
>funding performances), to be met almost universally here by complacency,
>apathy and even hostility.
>Yes, I'm biased. We're all biased by our experiences, and our experiences
>are always subjective. So was my message; I wasn't intending to present any
>opinion as objective fact, and on the Internet I usually assume that my
>opinions will not be taken as such.
>On the other hand, I'm one hell of a stubborn so-and-so and tend to become
>defensive and intolerant of people who I percieve to be getting in my way
>or seem to be unwilling to let me make the art that I want to. I want to
>believe that there are dance practitioners out there who are open to new
>ideas and not locked into a parochial, defensive microculture.


I just have to reply to the above, I do think you should try to see the
choreographers point of view as well as your own. I am not sure who you
are talking about when you talk of people 'getting in the way of you making
the art that you want to'. I hope against hope that it is not
choreographers. Most of those I know (and they are many and various - from
Rosemary Butcher, Richard Alston and Siobhan Davies, through artists such
as Mark Baldwin, through other artists who have worked or are working in
Scotland, to some of the newest of the emerging choregraphers) are the most
co-operative of people. Many are open to working with other artists to
develop new ideas in tandem, and thus produce art that they didn't quite
know they were able to make. But not all choreoraphers are interested in
this kind of collaboration, indeed some, like you, want to make the art
_they_ want to make, and want people to help them to do that. They are not
the right kind of choreographer to work with. (Few that I know are so
rigid, however)

You said in one email that one of your problems is that you have the dance
you want to see created in your head before you start on a piece. It
appears that no choreographer has managed to produce this for you yet. Nor
are they likely to - and, I would suggest, nor should they necessarily be
asked to. Choreographers are artists as well, with their own ideas. We
tend to see collaborations as opportunities to develop new ideas with other
artists, to allow ideas to rub up against each other and, hopefully,
produce something new that would not have been produced by only one of the
artists concerned. We do not really like being used merely as tools to
realise someone else's, obviously very clear, dance ideas (and then slated
because we don't produce what that person wants.) - any more than composers
like to be used to produce the music a chorographer hears in his or her
head, or designers to produce the set the choregrapher has designed in
his/her head, or digital artists to merely facilitate the images and ideas
the choreographer has without contributing to them. In all these cases the
artist is being used as a technician, not as a collaborating artist.

It seems to me that you do not really want an artist choreographer, but a
kind of choreographic 'technician' who can generate the images you perceive
in your mind for you. Unfortunately it is, as we all know, impossible to
access the ideas and images in someone else's mind - so you are,perhaps,
asking for the impossible!

Also - your somewhat jaundiced view of choreographers and dance in Britain
worries me. It is not all bad - really. (And after twenty odd years
watching dance performances and working in the field in a variety of
capacities I probably have more reason to be jaundiced than you do!) You
mentioned the kind of work you like to make, but mentioned choreographers
whose artistic thrust is in opposition to this. (I would suggest that Mark
Baldwin is not the right choice for you.) There will be choreographers out
there who are interested in the kind of image you are (or may be, how can I
tell from words?) simply because the variety of dance styles, genres and
imagery is _so_ various now, but they probably have a slightly different
image in their minds than you do. I find that it is at that point that a
collaboration gets exciting, when you try to find an image or set of images
which satisfy you both. You may need to take even more time to find a
chroeographer you can collaborate with - but please, when you do, treat
them as an artist, not as a technician. I suspect that you will not find a
satisfactory collaboration until you do.

good luck