On choreographic density:
When I began choreographing, I started reading about film, and became interested in its elemental nature as an image against an image. I’m interested in the same thing with dreams. Ostensibly, a dream illogically sets up image against image. But actually, it’s natural in us. It’s how we correct the disparities of the day. You go to bed at the end of the day and you make a theater of the vicinity of images. This same density of information is important to me in my choreography.
People accept that music is abstract, but in dance, people project story onto the human figure. You may be creating a whole abstract network in the choreography, but people get stuck in their ideas about the figure. Let’s detach character from structure. Structure is it’s own thing. In post-Joycean thought, everything is not about a oneness and clarity in some logical way, but there can be a flight of character from actual space to metaphoric space.
On abstraction (redux):
I am ultimately looking for a pure dance concept, with a language that in its abstraction is not anchored to any hidden story. If you look at a Jackson Pollock painting, and you ask yourself what it is, you may find yourself with an answer such as: It is it. The painting expresses him, and then it resonates out against the rest of the world. And people come to it, and at it, and with it, and against it, but there it is.
In Mulholland Drive, director David Lynch lets the film detach from its narrative and it starts to fly into its musicality: here’s what it’s like for these beings to bat against each other without a resolution to the story. You find yourself gripping to hold onto the story—and then, you just detach, you can just let go. It’s the way that people describe going into death: I can let go, I can let go, I can let go.
On structural complexity:
My mind is fractal. People don’t operate in mono-thoughts. Any thought that occurs actually comes embedded in other ancillary thoughts. So, I was never interested in being in an art form where you pull a thought out in its purity. I want to examine a theme with everything that is also flying around it, and I’m interested in finding the music of the relativity of those things.
Dancing gets in the way of a dance. The audience may focus on the movements that relate to familiar or social forms, but that is not where the work actually resides.
On the creation of “meaning”:
What is intrinsic in choreography is that none of its imagery is denotative. So what I’m trying to do is make you keep a lot of balls in the air (in a subtle way, underneath), and to assess, to create hierarchy, to choose what’s important—like you do in your day, or in a conversation. You never know what’s coming next, so you never know how important the last moment you had was. But you still are assessing at all times what is accumulating during the day. In the theater, I’m trying to do an exaggerated version of what it’s like to keep so much aloft in your head.
In my choreography, I’m trying to locate a structure in my DNA, and when I look at the world, I will process it through this map that’s already in me. The music of my choreography is the interplay between all the thematic elements that are present in the work.
I am using this art form for something other than to reiterate pre-existing forms of music. I do, however, refer to the music at moments in my dances. Sometimes, I’m referring to the history of dancing to music; sometimes I’m referring to a dream state; sometimes there are references to film scoring; sometimes the score is atmosphere, sometimes color. I think of music in shifting ways. But I’m not saying, “Oh, Mozart, I love that. Thank god you made that because—now, watch me—I’m going to jump in front of it.”
On structure and feeling:
I’m interested in making the structure of the choreography have the potency of the material in its theme. For example, I might want you, at a structural level, to feel like a jagged soul. So I will not deal it out to you in a calm way.
On structure and narrative:
I want to create a structural runway for the audience to project narrative onto. They are all on one plane, and I am dragging them down the runway somehow with my structure.
Dance is a political way of looking at the world. It reminds me of feminism, it reminds me of holistic health, where you are looking at the well-being of the entire organism. You have to look at it in its entirety, and in its propinquity, and in its relation to the whole universe. It creates a theatricalization of life: radiates it, exaggerates it, makes one notice it.
I really want to make an experience that’s good for the audience because I do think that catharsis is a very valuable aspect of theater, and exorcising fear is something that I’m trying to do.
On intuitive apprehension:
Ultimately, I want to get to an arena of meaning rather than to one specific meaning. To do this, I must divorce the underpinnings of narrative from their specificity. I do this by detaching the audience from reading the imagery and having them just sense the kinetics of the structure.
A couple of years ago, I became re-enamored of the fact that people dance—at all—because in many ways, it’s so extreme. In a world captivated by sound bytes, it is an extreme choice not to use language as your expression. But I’m so glad that I’m in dance.
On being a choreographer:
I have got to do this while I’m on earth. I’m very aware of the work to be done. This is the only choice I have while I’m here.
© Suzanne Carbonneau 2003