Our new guest blogger, Lucía Piquero, is the founder choreographer of Diciembre Dance Group, which she started in 2008 to bring together artists from different backgrounds and disciplines.
Lucía was born in Asturias, Spain, and trained there with Elisa Novo, while doing several courses with professional schools and teachers. She also got her 7-year Classical Ballet Diploma, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. In 2006 she moved to London where she completed a Certificate of Higher Education in Contemporary Dance at London Contemporary Dance School, and a MA on Choreography at Middlesex University. Lucía has performed with Neon Productions, SuperB Dance Theatre and mavinkhooDance. Her choreographic works have been performed in different festivals around the UK and in Spain.
In this post she talks about the challenges and rewards of simultaneously wearing the hats of dancer and of choreographer.
For me there is no other option but to be a dancer and a choreographer, and I guess a lot of people in the dance world may feel the same way. I don’t want to and cannot stop dancing. And even when I promise that I’m going to concentrate on my dancing, I find myself writing notes of ideas for choreographies… Just as I feel very jealous of my dancers when I try to be only a choreographer.
When I was asked to write about my life as a choreographer and active dancer, I thought the best way of reflecting the chaos was to write a dialogue between Lucía-the-dancer and Lucía-the-choreographer. I quickly dismissed the idea because I feared being branded insane. So what is it like to be both? Well, it is wonderfully difficult – with more bits of wonderful than difficult. It would be impossible for me to cover the topic fully, so instead I’ll leave you all with some thoughts:
On translating movement:
When you are a choreographer, you generally work with two types of dancers: those with whom it is easy to communicate and those who will never look like you want them to, no matter how much time you spend with them in the studio. It is not a matter of right or wrong, but more of personal movement style. When you really connect with a dancer things happen much quicker and look much nicer. This is not a groundbreaking concept, but it does present an added difficulty when you are an active dancer yourself: as you demonstrate the movements and generally choreograph on your own body, you are instinctively looking for dancers who are either similar to you or very adaptable. This in turn can lead to a lack of evolution in your choreographic language… One of the lessons you need to learn while developing as a choreographer-dancer is to, whilst having your own style, help your dancers be themselves, by letting them adapt your movement. Another is that by letting them improvise you can find additional ideas for movement.
On Movement Styles:
I find that “what I want to dance” and “what makes sense to dance when choreographing” are not always the same. Usually, I want to move more as a dancer than I direct my dancers to move as a choreographer. There is a gap between my dancing self and my choreographer self: the first tends towards technique, the latter towards expression and meaning. I do believe this gap will narrow with time, and I am personally working on it right now (although whether it narrows because you find a middle point through experience, or because an aging body doesn’t want to move as much, I’m not sure!).
On Working Hours:
Keeping active as a dancer takes most of one’s time, especially when you need to work in more than one dance company to be able to pay, not only for your own projects, but for rent, food, and such trivial matters. When you add a choreographer’s life on top of this all, it really teaches you about time management and multi tasking! And, sadly, it doesn’t always work. For the last couple of years, the choreographer in me has always won in this kind of situation (meaning I would stop going to a class if I needed to work on a project or an application). This has reversed in the last couple of months, with the dancer prevailing, and a whole lot of deadlines missed. I guess even when you are both a dancer and a choreographer, you feel more like one or the other at different times.
On rehearsals and pre-performance:
This is a problem I always encounter and haven’t been able to solve yet. Studio time is precious, so I use it on my dancers and their material. If I am dancing my own piece (often necessary even though I don’t like it), then ideally I would need to be watching and rehearsing at the same time. But this is impossible. Usually I just end up watching much more than rehearsing. If I happen to have a solo within the piece, rehearsing my own solo comes last in my priority list. Can audiences notice this in performance? I hope not…
Pre-performance time can also be an issue. Happily, I’ve been very lucky and have usually worked with very professional people but logistics and technical aspects can come in the way of warm up time; and I’m so used to focusing on plotting that I am left cold for the run through. At some point it is very important to focus back on being “only a dancer” and warm up till about five minutes before the performance, and then wear the choreographer hat again to get everything together.
On “the Best of it All”:
As you can see, juggling both roles is complicated, but I wouldn’t change it for anything (as if I had a real option!). It is rewarding and liberating to be able to decide what I want to dance and to use my choreographer hat in choosing how I want to dance it or how I want it to be danced; where else could I do that?
The great professor of dance (and Head of ResCen at Middlesex University) Chris Bannerman said the other day that the trick is “to choreograph oneself out of the dance” – what a pleasure it is to work with people that can drop a pearl of wisdom like this at any point! – I think this is the ultimate goal of any choreographer, both in the sense of letting others dance your work, and in that of letting your work evolve out of your own borders. For this, however, you need to be ready to quit being a dancer. And even though I hope it still takes a good while, I guess it will also come for me when I’m ready.
For a sample of Lucía’s works for Diciembre Dance Group, check out this show reel with extracts of Alba (2009), Mad, About You (2009), Anthem: Absence (2009) and Kensington Gardens (2009/2010):
Connect with Lucía & Diciembre Dance Group:
DDG Facebook group
Lucía on Twitter