Re: choreographer collaborations

Nick Rothwell (
5 Jan 1998 14:01:03 -0000

> 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.

Absolutely not. In all the cases I can recall, it's been various kinds
of administrators. The kinds of problems I've had seem to stem from a
position and opinion that musicians should not make attempts to
initiate dance projects. (I'm thinking in terms of organisation,
production and so on; I'm not referring to artistic content, which is
really the thrust of the rest of your article and while I'll address.)

> 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.

Generally I agree. Certainly, my dealings with the "big names" you
mentioned have always been open and amicable.

> 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.

No, no; let me try and clarify this.

Yes, I have clear ideas in my head for the sort of art I'd like to
make. However, at present I'm happy to treat these visualisations as a
sort-of guiding aesthetic for the way I approach things. I'm also more
than happy to engage in collaborations in the sense that you mean (and
practically all the projects I've done in the last couple of years
have been like this).

I think that there's a place for both kinds of project. The former
kind gives direction and focus in terms of process; the latter
generates ideas and surprising outcomes.

> 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.

I don't necessarily see this as a problem, or even an issue in the
short term. While I would like to have the opportunity to create what
I visualise, I'm certainly using that approach in the collaborations
I'm trying to set up at the moment, although it'll certainly be an
influence in terms of who I feel I can work with (in terms of what we
might have in common aesthetically).

> Also - your somewhat jaundiced view of choreographers and dance in Britain
> worries me.

It worries me as well!

> 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.)

You were talking about opportunities to develop new ideas; I mentioned
Mark Baldwin because I'm fascinated by his approach to making
choreography and working with music - it's not quite what I expected
having seen his work - so perhaps that's a good sign. We'll have to
wait and see.

> 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.

Sure, but as I said, the fact that I might be able to visualise
something as dance does not mean that I must be prescriptive about

Let me turn this question round to the choreographers here: how many
of you, when creating a new work of dance, have reasonably clear ideas
about the music you imagine while doing so? And how many of you feel
that this is enough justification to be prescriptive when it comes to
commissioning a score or entering a collaboration?

(A further, related question: how do you choose a musical
collaborator? Is it something to do with how you think that their
style will fit what you have in your imagination, or is it a desire to
see how this person's creative process will mesh with your own?)

         Nick Rothwell, CASSIEL        contemporary dance projects        music synthesis and control

"...but you? You've got a monkey on your back: dedication."