Typically when we go to dance shows, we watch the dances and make up our own ideas about the work to figure out what it means to us. There isn’t a whole lot of understanding about how the piece came to be or what it was inspired by as we sit in the theater. In my experience, having the opportunity to talk to the choreographer or dancers can be eye opening, as you may not have looked at the work from their perspective.
While beneficial, it’s not often that you have the chance to hear the choreographers’ perspective about what their work means and how it was conceptualized and created in words. Most often you learn about the work through just the movement and imagery on stage.
I was fortunate enough to hear from Christopher K. Morgan about his first full-length piece, Limited Visibility, and now have the opportunity to share his insights.
How did you come up with the idea for Limited Visibility?
Christopher K. Morgan: The idea for the piece began over 2 years ago. I had the good fortune to be having my work presented in beautiful, large venues, which was wonderful and exciting. But it made me wonder, how could I create a greater sense of intimacy in a large space, so audiences would literally want to move forward in their seats? My answer to this was to use lighting. And the more I thought about this, the more I wanted to create a piece where the dancers controlled the lighting.
How has Limited Visibility transformed and changed over the past year?
Christopher K. Morgan: The workshop version last year was probably the first time I looked at a work of mine onstage and realized there was more to be said in the piece. In finishing it’s statement in the last several months, new sections have been added, other lighting sources, new pieces of music as well. And of course with new dancers come new ideas and movement vocabularies to best suit each performer.
When I saw the beginning of the piece last year, it made me both excited and uncomfortable because of the athleticism, imagery and the fact I felt like I was intruding on a personal intimate moment. What kind of emotions did you aim to draw from the dancers and the audience?
Christopher K. Morgan: That is exactly the range of responses I hope to elicit! I also really hope that as the imagery of the work washes over the audience, they find themselves in the work at some point and see their own story within the performers onstage.
The lighting for this performance is not traditional, what was your goal or inspiration?
Christopher K. Morgan: In addition to creating an intimate space where the audience feels close to the work, I want there to be a clear sense that the dancers are designing and in charge of their environment. I also really enjoy when a familiar object that we all know well, such as fluorescent tube lighting, can be used in way that might surprise us, or make us look at the object differently.
I absolutely love your movement vocabulary and quality of movement. Do you set specific movement on the dancers or did they take part in the creation of the work?
Christopher K. Morgan: It’s both. I create lots of movement whenever I make a piece. I have a particular aesthetic and movement vocabulary that my body of work has been developing for years; strong balletic use of the lower body, a sinuous use of the spine, an urgency of momentum, spreading weight into the floor and gesture. Frequently in the creative process I’ll create movement phrases, then give the dancers compositional assignments and ask them to reference the phrase work. This way they can invest themselves into the work, but it still maintains a cohesive aesthetic and identity. I also invite them to write about the subject matter of the work, and that then influences directions we chose to go in with the piece, and sometimes is a source of movement inspiration.
What is your favorite part of Limited Visibility?
Christopher K. Morgan: There are so many! Which makes me realize that I really love how you get an opportunity to see each dancer in the piece as an individual. Despite the “Limited Visibility”, they are all seen clearly.
If you want to see this work in its entirety, Christopher K. Morgan & Artists: Limited Visibility will be performed at the CityDance Studio Theater at Strathmore on Saturday, April 21 at 8:15pm and on Sunday, April 22 at 3pm. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by going to http://www.strathmore.org or by calling 301.581.5100.