by Amy Dillard
I’ve spent my life as a dancer, and the last two decades of it as a dancer for Elledanceworks. Sometimes, like last season, I put on the hat of choreographer, but much more often it is my place to perform a dance that someone else has created.
As dancers we take this job seriously. A choreographer has to trust her dancers completely in order to feel comfortable bringing a new, fragile work of art into the world. Taking an idea and forming it into a dance is tricky business; you never know if something will work conceptually, visually, or even physically until you can experiment with actual bodies. Dancers must be patient and supportive, willing to try things over and over so the chorepgrapher can see what’s possible.
If she wants to utilize complex lifts or bruising floor work, we get out our knee pads (yes, we really keep them in our dance bags!) or do a few push-ups to warm up our biceps. That’s our job: to be the best possible vehicle for this choreographer’s vision to come to life.
It can be a tedious, long process. That’s why, of all the arts, dance is the most expensive to produce. WE all need to be in the studio together for hours and days and weeks to make an actual dance come into existence. And, particularly in modern choreography, the dancers’ input and our physical abilities are integral to determining what the final dance will look like.
My background is in classical ballet. When I used to dance the role of Sugarplum Fairy, the choreography was set in stone…all of us do the same dance in hundreds of cities every Christmas, year after year. It’s an honor to have been a part of that tradition. But it’s much more exciting to be a key player in the development of movement and the creation of a new dance.
When I look back on all the dances I’ve learned, witnessed, or helped to develop with Elledanceworks I’m amazed. These talented choreographers have had so much to say, and so many different ways to say it. It has continually challenged and engaged me as a dance. That’s why I love doing what I do!