As part of our composition class at Goucher College we have been encouraged to keep a choreographic journal and write a series of reflections about our choreographic processes. The most recent reflection is about endings and our reluctance, as dancers, to choreograph endings. I thought I would explore our reluctance a little further on here, since it's 12.33am and pouring with rain outside and I'm procrastinating from leaving the library:
After reading chapter eighteen from Doris Humphrey’s, the queen (in my eyes) of dance composition, The Art of Making Dances, I have become aware of some elements of my choreography that need development. Humphrey’s notion that a ‘good ending is forty percent of the dance’ particularly resonated with me.
If the ending is worth forty percent of a dance, and is the last and strongest impression that the audience leaves with, then I should have begun considering the ending of my piece weeks ago. A strong ending is considerably more important than I had anticipated during my creative process. However it is understandable why the last image, frame, shape or emotion is so important in dance, since our very medium is completely movement based. If I just threw an ending onto the piece a week before the performance, the clarity of my concept would be lost and the emotional qualities I had carefully inserted into the piece would be wasted.
I don’t want the audience to leave feeling puzzled or confused about the meaning behind my piece or my choice of resolution of my conceptual exploration. The conclusion of the piece needs to fit with the tone of the work but shouldn’t be predictable; there should be an element of surprise. I know I want to explore the concept of suppressed anger: the way that suppressing our anger makes us feel and how suppressed anger might look. But I still don’t know how I am going to resolve this exploration.
Do we endlessly continue to suppress our anger deep inside of ourselves? Does anger that has grown deep roots in our identities ever disappear? Will there always be a small tight fisted ball of a feeling, of a memory, of the anger we once suppressed remaining in the pits of our stomachs? Or can we overcome our anger completely and just let it gently slip away, as if it were never there to begin with? If so, how do I effectively and successfully communicate any of those ideas to the audience in such a way that will both allow to them leave with both a positive image of the piece and make them actively think about their own experiences of suppressed anger?
I agree with Humphrey that we, as dancers, hesitate to even think about the construction of the endings of our works, because choreographing an ending means accepting that the dance has to end. Symbolically, the ending of a dance reminds us that there will eventually be an end to our extraordinary intense dancing days, whether it is five years away or sixty years away. I have had some the best times of my life during the last three or four years since I started formal dance training. We love the rush and the sweat and the sheer physical exhaustion of classes, rehearsals, auditions and intense late night choreography sessions that tire our bodies and blister our skin. We are happiest when we are dancing and unhappiest when we have to stop. Perhaps this is why we are resistant to even consider choreographing the ending of our works: because we never want to stop.