Local choreographer and Dance Program instructor Jodi Leigh Allen speaks about her choreographic background, and the story behind her work "Breathe," which she will re-stage for Dancers' Viewpointe 10.
When/how did you start choreographing?
I began choreographing in my B.F.A. dance program at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. We had many choreography classes to craft and hone our creative spirit. We studied everything from Improvisation to Music Theory/Composition to Solo and Group Choreography classes. It was my first introduction in how to build movement phrases that would help to construct a whole piece and convey what you as the choreographer wanted to say within that piece. I was also introduced to and challenged by the book The Art of Making Dances by Doris Humphrey, which I believe every young choreographer should read from cover to cover. Choreography has been a creative outlet for me to express my life's journey throughout the years. I now feel that I am beginning to create pieces that express my individual viewpoints as a movement storyteller and a visual problem solver that incorporates an engaging physicality on stage.
How did this piece (Breathe) originally come about?
Breathe was created in 2003 when I was asked to choreograph a piece for Dancers' Viewpointe III at Harvard University. I remember wanting to choreograph a piece that challenged me as a choreographer mentally, as well as challenging the performers physically. Breathe was structured around a suspended apparatus that cut the stage space in half. This apparatus was also a way for the dancers to use the space that we as performers rarely get to investigate, the fly space - a space where we cannot jump or get to unless elevated. Breathe was my conception of trying to get to another place or space but always feeling trapped or held back by something, namely the pole, in order to move ahead.
What is different about re-staging it this time?
The re-staging of Breathe in 2010 will be significantly different from when the piece was premiered in 2003. I will have a smaller cast of new dancers with a more intricate investigation into the meaning of coming full circle in one's life.
What are the unique benefits and challenges of working with Harvard students?
Working with Harvard students has been a unique experience as they bring a certain professionalism and intelligence to the creative process between the choreographer and dancer. I have always worked with students here at Harvard that would bring a unique personality and physicality to my work. Harvard students are challenged by pushing the boundaries of physicality and structure to its limit, and these students have always been eager to take that leap of faith with me and my work throughout the years.
Anything else you'd like to add?
For my piece, I am looking for dancers with a strong modern/ballet technique that liked to be challenged both mentally and physically.
[Caption: Harvard students perform Jodi Leigh Allen's "Breathe" in 2003.]