Images vs Tasks: Interrogating the authenticity behind impetuses in TDC's creative processes

Yesterday, May 9, I presented ongoing research and opened the discussion regarding authenticity to the rest of Transitions Dance Company. The overwhelming interest in the Q&A was a clue that the topics of imagery, tasks, and more importantly, authenticity and personality in performance are very important.

Disclaimers: I assume that creators want dancers to be authentic in their presentation of movement both in the creative process and in performance. This was what was required of us by our three choreographers: Dog Kennel Hill Project, Theo Clinkard, and Ederson Rodrigues Xavier.

Q: David Waring, "You say that you prefer and work better when given tasks to work on. What do you do when just an image is presented?"

A: If I am to be given a concrete image, I will work with it superficially and grab hold of the physicality and feeling of it as soon as I can. Then I can dive in deeper using that physicality and any feeling or emotion that may arise from it. For example, I don't think of the Kyokotsu image within 12 anymore (strings pulling the sternum back and forth). I am often thrown into those movements, manipulated by a higher being that controls all of us for the 25 minutes of the piece.

Q: Amanda Gough, "You said that tasks are 'Prescribed doings that have no specific end result look in mind'. In my choreographies, I often use tasks to get the dancers to a very specific image I have in mind. How do those compare?"

A: By 'no end look in mind', I mean mainly for the dancer; that these tasks need not be fueled by an end result look, per se, in case of the dancer putting on a superficial image rather than allowing it to emerge. As for the choreographer, I don't think it's necessary for them to know either. If you do and you are clear, that is also an option. But would that be too restricting?


Kazuo Ohno in  Butoh: Shades of Darkness  taken by Nourit Masson-Sekine

Kazuo Ohno in Butoh: Shades of Darkness taken by Nourit Masson-Sekine

When I gave Vera and Katherine their image and task, respectively, Vera got the closest to my inspiration the quickest (suffering mother who has lost her child). Katherine was in another world exploring the physicality of longing. Initially, one could say that the more concrete image was the more fruitful, "better" option. Retrospectively, Vera jumped there potentially all too quickly leaving very little room for continued research and further emergence. Katherine, on the other hand, set herself up on a journey that could be fed with direction, images, other tasks, etc.

This conclusion could be due to my own bias towards task-based work. While the image worked in that quick 1-minute improvisation , with time, there was more emergent possibility in the task than the image.


Fin brought up the idea of duration. She sees tasks as blocking. "You can only do the task and can't explore further." She finds that one can research images much longer.

I see images as closed-ended, allowing the dancer to only strive for that image, thus restricting anything else to emerge.