Choreographers’ Evening, a showcase of local choreography that began in 1971, is happening this year on November 29th. Two shows at 7:00 and 9:30 pm on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, it’s regular slot for the past few years. That’s not where it started, and it’s only this years incarnation of a forum that’s served the Minnesota dance community for over 35 years.
Every Choreographers’ Evening is curated, and this year Sally Rousse chose 13 choreographers from over 60 that applied. I’m one of those 13, feeling lucky to get to present my work at the Walker next Saturday. Actually I’m presenting the work of 10 other choreographers from past evenings. “Dances You Might Remember” is a piece of archival recovery and community based contemporary art. That is a complicated way of saying that I have collected and watched videos of past choreographer’s evenings and taken 30 seconds of dance material from 10 different dances. My dancers have each learned one 30 second sequence and will be looping that sequence for 15 minutes in the lobbies and public spaces of the Walker before the stage show begins in the McGuire.
You want to see this work, so make sure you show up 20 minutes early and don’t immediately grab your seat. Also, four of the Walker’s amazing tour guides will be taking audience members through the piece describing details and discussing the development of the Walker’s architecture and programing. Did you know that the Walker created the performing arts program in 1970 just one year before choreographer’s evening was started? True!
It’s been a trip doing the research for this piece. Besides watching videos I’ve had conversations with Judith Brin Ingber (the impetuous behind the first CE and it’s first curator), Wendy Morris, Tom Kanthak, Tom Carlson, Laurie Van Wieren (who will be performing an excerpt of a piece by one of the original 1971 choreographers on Saturday), and more. Every conversation brings me closer into this community. It’s fantastic.
Final Thoughts and Tangents - Last night I was talking with one of the choreographers about their piece. They told me they were surprised I had seen video of their piece before getting their permission to use it. This reminded me of an issue I was very interested in digging at when I began Dances You Might Remember. Since dance is fundamentally ephemeral, the documentation of it is incomplete and filled with informational holes. I think there is also a sense of time in dance that the present is the only real incarnation. Because of this watching video of my own past work is a little shocking and a little invasive. Similarly video raises issues of ownership and control. I have gotten the permission from the choreographers whose movement I’ve stolen/appropriated/assumed, but in many instances I didn’t have to do that. Their material is out in the world. I could steal it. But what is the point in that? Is it really even valuable? If I reacreate it off of the video is it really theirs? How much do I have to recreate before I begin to impinge on their ownership rights? Western choreographers have been directly lifting/using/taking inspiration from other people’s movement as a standard technique for a long long time.
Question: What is the function of copyright in an ownership society? Is it to allow creators to take risk and make money? Is it a protection for personal expression? I’m not sure but there is certainly a better system than the one set out by Congress and the US court system. Take a look at: creativecommons.org
Thanks for reading. See the show and talk to me afterwards. If you want to document my piece feel free. Cameras are everywhere so let’s get used to using them. I claim ownership of my art and my concepts.