The Choreographer's Duty / by Mathew Heggem

A statement on movement creation & the responsibility of being a choreographer:

This article was intended to be a statement about my movement philosophy, so that I could help others understand how I create and what I teach through dance.  It took a turn, because I realized that a greater purpose exists for a choreographer.  I wanted to share this with you:

When I create movement, I start from a place of curiosity. I want to know what is happening now in this body and how that can be translated to the outside world. I ask myself questions about what I see in the world, how I feel about it, and how that affects my life. 

This approach, at least initially, makes my work very autobiographical.  It is an expression of a personal story, experience, or emotion that is present in the body of who I fully am at that time in space.  

But, this is also an expression to the outside world. This is also an expression of the human body in a materialistic & technocratic society, which prevents us from hearing dance. I recognize the challenges of the art form and I work to unpack the movement material.  In doing so, I find that which speaks to a universal experience, or a current event, and I share my voice. 

I believe that art is called upon to make meaning for others. As a dance artist, it is my duty to add movement information to your narrative, so that you can make meaning of the dance.

So, the experience of the audience is actually important -- something that is sometimes forgotten by artists.

I also believe that the most impactful way to experience dance is through a commitment to authenticity and a willingness to listen to your whole self.

The dance I create is about physical expression. It's about the sensory experience. It's a wholeness and a freedom in the body, one that is holistic, one that is healthy, one that does not perpetuate the negative body image and expression of dehumanizing values.

Movement in the joints. Articulation. Flexibility. Strength and the power that comes with ease, but also with a deep sense of discipline, integrity, passion, courage and the ability to be vulnerable, to face fear.

We can fall. But, we can also fly. And, we can do things together that we cannot do alone.

Dance is a powerful medium to see the potential in humanity.

Dance is history too.  My dance, by the way, is influenced by Butoh, Feldenkrais, some theater & improv training, post-modern and contemporary styles, and an eclectic mix of ballet & modern techniques.  This unique cocktail provides a framework for the style and history of the movement material I create as co-founder of Left Side Labs.

I also believe that the most impactful way to make dance is through a commitment to urgently making art for now.

Every artist will make work that is unique to them. Sometimes the work is an essential compositional study and sometimes the work is a mind-blowing theater piece.  These things can also be the same thing. And so the impact of any work on the world is never truly known. 

But, the intention is always the same!

And it's on the topic of intention that I discovered a greater purpose for the choreographer:

I firmly believe that a choreographer's responsibility is to translate the world around them -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- into dance that has deep meaning for the audience. If you create a solo, that solo is intended to transform thoughts.  If they make dance with groups, it is also about sharing a dialogue with the dancers by unraveling their potential and helping others to see the beauty of the world around them.  And to practice the art and science of making dance is to do so with clear intention and a passion to make the world greater than you when you first arrived on Earth as an artist. That is the choreographer's duty.