A couple of weeks ago I attended a talk at Barnard College with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Nora Chipaumire. They are collaborating on a new work set to premiere this week at Harlem Stage called visible. (I’ll be there on Thursday night! Who wants to be my date?)
Over the course of the talk, the choreographers were peppered with questions about process and Jawole mentioned a term that knocked me upside my head and has stuck with me ever since: devised choreography. She compared it to a theater process in which a director and players work together and through a series of facilitated improvisations create a script as a group. This process is named in the theater world as devised theater. What is important to note about this is that all the players help to create the script, even though it is created under a single director’s vision and guidance. The name “devised theater” though, alerts any outsiders to exactly what the creative process was and there is an automatic understanding of how important the performers were to the process.
Jawole said it on the panel, and I’ll say it again: we do this exact same thing in dance ALL THE TIME! But the process isn’t named so clearly and most times credit isn’t given when credit is due.