The Pendulum Concept

photo from sassi / pixelio.de

Pendulum is a pretty easy concepts that is very similar to Equilibrium. A pendulum goes from one side to the other and back again. So this is what we use as the guideline to create our dance.

I use two versions of pendulum:

Basic Pendulum: You make a move or a way to the one side, come to a stop and go to the other side. That is all you need to start creating with basic pendulum. The reach, the way to go and the speed are all yours decide. And don’t forget to dance your ways from one side to the other.

Turning Pendulum: Here are no ways or moves to the sides but we use rotation instead. You are doing a rotation to one side, stop and continue to the other side. You decide how far and how fast you turn. I tend to do most of the rotations slow to give me the time to fill it up with a lot of moves, but that is only personal preference.

This is an easy one, enjoy it and get creative without thinking to much. The concept stuff is here to set us free in the dance, not cage us.

Let people do their Work

Photo from: Bernd Christian Gassner / pixelio.de

A lot of artists that are building their reputation are used to do a lot of stuff themselves, even stuff that is not really their core competency. We get so comfortable with doint it all, that there is a risk of thinking we can do everything that is related to our work better than others.

Most of the time this happens due to us not having the money to hire experts for some parts of the production. Later when we might have the money or we find people that can do the job, we think it is needless. We overlook that there is a big difference between a job done because we can do it and a job done by an expert who is really good at it.

I just saw this in the festival distribution of our movie Elsewhere. I have sent the movie to festivals myself and we got some screenings. Now a festival agency is taking care of that and within the first month of the cooperation we had new screening and won an award.

As a reminder to myself and everyone who finds himself in the situation from time to time: if you let people do the work they are good at, it pays off.

Why we must be able to count our music

One question that comes up frequently in beginner classes or even some intermediate classes is: “why do we have to count the music?”.

The answer is very simple. Counting is THE way to navigate inside music. All western music that is based on notes (and this is at least 99% of the music that we use to dance) is created on a numeric system. Musicians give numbers to bars and notes. These act like a gps or a map. So everybody can play the music together.

For us dancers, it is the easiest way to communicate the relation between our moves and the music. And while you can learn a part of a city or a piece of music by heart, as soon as you move to new territory counting will come in handy.

If you only dance solo for yourself, then you can skip counting because you can work with your intuition, but as soon as you want to dance together with others you need to count. When you want to learn or teach choreography you must be able to count. When you want to talk to musicians, you must be able to count to get somewhere fast. If you want to make dance your job, you must be able to count.

It’s not hard. We will cover the basics next week. Don’t wing it.

Fill in the Blanks

Fill in the Blanks is a simple concept to create variation within your vocabulary of movement. It works with every movement that has multiple parts. In between two parts of the same move there is some free “space” where we can insert something new.

Let’s take any regular two step movement as an example. It consists of two steps. By filling in the blank we would add an additional movement between step 1 and step 2 and therefore create a more advanced version of the original movement.

If you apply this idea to some of your moves, you will see it opens up a lot of possibilities for advancing your stuff.

The creative Break

When you are deep in a creative project and force yourself to work on it every day, chances are high that you will encounter some sort of mental block on your way.

For people who write we call it writer’s block. It is a state where you seem to can not proceed any further in the process of creation. While there are many recommended ways how to deal with this kind of issue, there is only one that works well for me. To walk away from the project for some time. This does not mean you have to stop doing your work completely. It just means you should leave this topic alone.

If you write, you can write another story. If you do choreography, you can work on other music. The goal is to give you mind a break from the thing that causes the block. Of course the best thing is to do something completely different, if you can.

When you do this, your subconscious mind keeps working on the issue and more often then not, the solution will come to you in a moment where you are doing something totally unrelated to the topic.

I am out, going to play some video games, to cure my writer’s block.

don’t talk to talk

I am not quite sure if I’ve become intolerant or if our society cultivated a certain kind of behaviour where it seems more important to talk about stuff, than actually doing it.

For every guy out there that is creating something or doing his own thing there are five that talk stupid behind his back or upfront without ever trying to do the same he does.  That is plain stupid.

I think most of us know when they have something valuable to say and when not. If the big NOT is the case, it is a great thing to remain silent or openly state that you have nothing to contribute in the actual matter.

Of course there is nothing wrong about giving feedback to other people. That is one hell of an important tool that helps us grow in whatever we do. But giving somebody shallow or crude feedback that is far beneath the amount of thought that went into creating the thing or idea in the first place, is an affront and a waste of precious time.

If you want to waste some time, waste yours. Don’t get into the way of people who actually do things.

Understanding Music

When I teach advanced students I put the focus of education on understanding conceptual work inside the dance and understanding the music. I already started the dance concepts series and I will start a series of texts about music soon. I wanted to call it “music theory for dancers” but that would be misleading because it is not really music theory.

So for lack of a better name I call this new series “understanding music”. I will cover topics like:

What is counting and why do I need it? Alternatives to counting and their applications. Why the f#~k do we count until 8 and start over? What is a bar, a measure, a meter, a rhythm, a polyrhythm, a syncope, a backbeat, a clave, a triplet … and so on.

I will explain why it is a good idea to know this stuff and how to take advantage of that insights. In order to do this in a understandable way I will have to create some audio examples. Therefore it might take me a little longer to come up with this posts.

I will start out with the basics, so that everyone has the possibility to follow the rest. From there we can go into any direction. So if you have preferences on which topics to cover first, let me know.

conquer the space – an introduction

Using the space that is available for your dance is one of the most widespread concepts out there. What it means is that you consciously work with the space that surrounds you.

This can be as easy as trying to remain stationary or being everywhere in the space at some time during your dance or as difficult as following a predefined path with a set speed or chasing an opposing dancer in a battle.

Using a lot of space in your rounds results in a more dynamic look compared to being stationary. In a performance setting you can guide the audience towards important things in your performance by strategically changing place to let them know about a change in your story.

To get started with conquering the space around you pay attention if you favor stationary movement or moving through the space. Try to find a balance with those two and try to move in directions that you don’t use normally.

A simple exercise to improve your movement is to mark a path or form on the floor and try what you can do with your dance by following it. I will give you more complex instruction on this concept in the future and some additional exercises in the newsletter. For now, try the “follow the path” exercise to get used to using the space for a specific task.

Reading Matter for the next Year

In my last post for this year 2017 I am doing nothing but recommending 5 books that I enjoyed very much this year. All of them gave me some new insights and helped shaping the work I do.

Without further bla bla, here are my top 5 book recommendations to read, if you haven’t read them yet.

I) Tribes from Seth Godin. The book is about global community building and how the concept of the tribe has evolved through the internet age.

II) Rework from David Hansson & Jason Fried. Rework introduces ideas that change the way one can approach work. A lot of these are completely the opposite of the status quo. The authors explain why they do things different, so you can decide for yourself if you stick to the old ways or the suggested ones.

III) Steal like an Artist from Austin Kleon. This really small gem is an introduction into doing your work as an artist. It installs methods and rituals that help you do your daily work.

IV) Die große Hitze from Jörg Mauthe. This one is fiction in german language. I don’t think it is translated to other languages and it’s relevance to readers from outside Austria might be small. For everyone living in Austria or having friends there, get this book and have an excellent satiric novell about austrian officialdom and dwarves. (No joke)

V) The Prophet from Khalil Gibran. Philosophic stories and metaphors about dozens of timeless topics.

If you have any books that you recommend, let me know in the comments. If you already read some of those above, share your thoughts.