Roehampton research seminar: Stephanie Jordan – Strategies for Choreographic Intervention in Mark Morris’s Musical Settings, 2 Feb

Centre for Dance Research, University of Roehampton

Research Seminar

Acts of Transformation: Strategies for Choreographic Intervention in Mark Morris’s Musical Settings
Professor Stephanie Jordan, Department of Dance, University of Roehampton
2 February 2016, 6pm7.30pm, DU.102 Duchesne, Digby Stuart Campus

The use of existing (concert) music as a choreographic process is often read wrongly, seen as the poor sister of artistic collaboration, which is so often celebrated as the most fruitful meeting of great minds.  To go one step further, using existing music has been seen as an assault, a distortion of intention.  For sometimes music has been used as basis for the most unlikely connotations, even a full-blown plot, or ironically, as source for a joke.  Or certain musical structures have been emphasised and others ignored.  The whole shape and meaning of a piece of music can be subverted by choreography.

Using existing music is not an easy way out—I challenge fiercely the common notion that collaboration from scratch is somehow the most noble or stimulating way of going about things.  For a start, the choreographer has longer opportunity to get to know the music, perhaps through several recordings, and to think about playing with and against its grain.  Music can also open up a rich tradition of historical connotations, and an opportunity to be musically deeply analytical, thereby awakening our ears.

My examples stem from the work of the American choreographer Mark Morris.  While virtually always using existing music, he introduces many different choreomusical approaches across his work and is unusual in this respect.  As for history, Morris has adopted at different times, for different purposes, a number of choreomusical approaches that resonate with previous approaches by other choreographers.   This means that his work can be seen as commentary on the past, indeed drawing upon existing choreomusical ‘styles’ or ‘practices’.

The seminar draws from my new book Mark Morris: Musician-Choreographer (Dance Books, 2015), but also includes examination of his Sang-Froid (2000), transitioning into the subject of my next research project, Chopin and dance.

Stephanie Jordan is Research Professor in Dance at University of Roehampton, London.