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Notes by Adam Hougland:
I am a freelance choreographer who mainly works with ballet companies. Whilst I find the dancers to be extremely technically proficient and very hard working, their movement vocabulary is very specialised and therefore somewhat limited. While they can easily move within the classical idiom they often lack the ability to break out of those boundaries and move more freely. Whenever I create a piece for a ballet company I am always confronted with the same dilemma: do I stay rigidly true to my aesthetic or deviate from it in an effort to make the dancers look their best? Usually the desire for a good-looking end product wins out and I let my pieces become more balletic so that the dancers can do what they do best.
My main concern for this study was to create something that meshed all of that classical technique with my contemporary sensibility. I knew right away that I would have to make the study on Riley Watts, a fourth year dancer at The Juilliard School that I have had the pleasure of working with on a few occasions. Riley is a remarkable classical technician but is not limited by ballet at all. He is a remarkable mover and is always eager to try something new.
Rather then being constricted by it, it was essential for me to find a ways to use the classical vocabulary to my advantage. I wanted the study to flow like one beautiful line of calligraphy. The movements had to be connected to each other without any sense of passing through a neutral place in between. The body would have to initiate each movement from quite extreme positions in order to avoid the inherently “vertical” quality of ballet. It had to feel jointless and spontaneous, almost like a leaf in the breeze.
In order to make the movement look effortless a lot of control is needed. Riley’s impeccable technique and lush movement quality enabled me to create something much richer than I would normally make. Working with him helps me educate myself about my movement vocabulary because I am able to find more than I could imagine on my own. I feel that the next time I work with a new group of ballet dancers I will have a better understanding of how to get the most out of them physically and how to help them find new and exciting things about moving. This research project has enabled me to investigate things in a way that I normally wouldn’t have the time for and I am extremely grateful.