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What’s New

Choreographer Cory Bowles  is one of the choreographers featured in PROGRAM 1. His critically praised Live from the Flash Pan runs August 25-26 at FODAR.   Recently he stepped away from the studio to answer a few questions about the production and how he builds a dance work.

1 – Your career in the performing arts spans multiple creative roles in multiple genres – film, music, theatre, dance. As a choreographer how does this background and experience influence your creative process as you build a dance piece?

I don’t have one set way of working. It always adapts and changes. Elements of one discipline creep in; others at different times; different elements for different moments. I’m fortunate to have a pretty big toolbox. It’s a constant tinkering and exploration, and of course a lot of trial and error.  At the end of the day we just try to tell a concise and interesting story.

2 – Live from the Flash Pan was originally set on Carolle Crooks in 2010 and will be performed at FODAR by Rhonda Baker. When you create a new piece or remount a dance work, how much are you influenced by the dancer/dancers with whom you work? Are you influenced by personality? Technique? Physical type?

I’m influenced by the fact that we build a piece together.  For “Flash Pan” we created the character and story. We’re influenced by a general idea or general themes, but it’s a jump off point.  No two people are the same, and they don’t or shouldn’t interpret the same. When I work with someone new I should hope to get that person to own it the role as soon as possible. It becomes something of a new piece, from a new perspective. There’s definitely influence at the beginning from the original casting, but it’s more like having an unseen partner in the beginning stages and then the piece eventually becomes someone else’s story to tell.

3 – Do you have a fixed choreographic process? Do you start with a theme? An image? A movement? The music?

Again, always different. Most of the time it starts with an idea. Sometimes specific from start to finish, other times something smaller – like a quotation or an incident. Then go with the instinct as much as possible.  I ask myself “What am I trying to say and is it worth saying?” “What are the necessary steps?”  Then I try my best to trust that instinct. If I can’t…well…

4 – How do you get to the life of the work?

I don’t believe that you can force a theme, even if you think you know the theme, a new one will arise. I try to get to the life of something by nurturing it. Something doesn’t flower unless it gets water, sunlight, nutrients, etc. If work is fed, something fresh emerges.  You can analyze what it is and what it wants to say.

A lot of times the work will steer me in a new direction. Or, a person’s interpretation of the work will steer me in a new direction. Sometimes the essence in someone’s movement will prompt me to change direction. I follow it so that the artist can approach the movement from their most honest perspective. I’m there to help the approach with an honest conviction. They need to understand the work more than me. Eventually I just provide an outside perspective.

5 – How much do you engage the dancers in your creative process as you build the piece?

Collaboration, artistry, ability, safety and trust.  There are times when I’m really specific in what I want the artist or artists to do -– other times when we are completely collaborative. I try to never leave artists abandoned. Time to themselves, sure. But never alone.

For the collaborative, I engage in a joint exploration. I don’t believe in the choreographer, or the dancer having one set way of working. It is a constant dialogue all the way through, even when I know exactly what I want. We have to inspire each other and inspire the room. I have to be driven to not only make them look good, but eventually, as a choreographer, I aim to be invisible. I want to empower the people I am working with and give them the framework to deliver that empowerment. I am there to always work for the dancer who is working in the piece, for the piece, and in turn for the initial idea and my direction.