This is the third in a series of four interviews about COLEctive Notions – a concert program that will be presented in Chicago on November 1st, 2nd and 3rd. We are featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the choreographers that are involved–today we are hearing from Olivia May…
Can you describe what your piece is about?
The dance started as a bit of a character study of women. I had each of the dancers write a bit about a women they saw as supremely feminine and then also write a bit about a woman that they admired. From those written traits we created some dance phrases and character movement and eventually created relationships (with movement) between each of the women/dancers. For me the dance plays on my admiration of Southern women that I grew up observing but not having a strong understanding of. Through the creation of the piece I have let the interpretation of “the women” really be the dancers’ own, so I know each one of them has a different connection than I do to the piece.
As both a choreographer and a dancer I really enjoy the part of the creative process where first connections are made. Where the raw interactions really show themselves for the first time. In TDC we spend a while creating movement (usually individually), then “rubbing” it together to create relationships and layered phrases of movement, then lastly putting these phrases of movement together. I really love that second step, when all of the creative possibilities are revealed.
How was Margi able to help you clarify and shape your vision for this piece?
Snowballing off of my answer to the second question, my other favorite part of the creative process is when Margi comes into rehearsal and adds what we call the “Margi Spice.” She gives suggestions about tempo of movement and spacing and makes little tweaks to the phrases that really bring out the richness in the movement quality. When she mentors the choreographers during COLEctive Notions, she is able to add her “Margi Spice” by asking questions. These questions really help me understand what my piece is saying to the audience and thus help me to clarify what I am trying to say with my work.
What was it like to work with the dancers?
Working with the dancers is always enjoyable. These ladies are some of my closest friends, and I am very comfortable being creative around them and sharing my creative vision with them. I especially love when they interpret my creative vision through their dancing; that is when I feel the process is truly collaborative, which I have come to know is my preferred way of making dance. This time around with COLEctive Notions, I gave my ideas a little room to be interpreted. I didn’t try to be too rigid with what I wanted to see on stage, and I really think I was able to create a more well-rounded piece that the dancers really feel connected to as well.
How is choreography different for you from dancing?
Choreography for me is definitely more challenging than dancing with my peers. I feel that I make intuitive creative choices when I am dancing and creating movement on the floor with the other girls, but when I step to the side and become the person in charge, I don’t always have that same intuition. However, it is always very satisfying to see movement develop from a thought to a theme and then into a dance, and it’s great when it is yours truly, an idea that grows and takes shape.
Are you interested in doing something like this again?
I am always interested in creating, and I truly appreciate the opportunity Margi gives us with this project, so I have been quick to take advantage and submit a proposal because you never know when the opportunity will happen again. As with anything, having the time to really put thought and energy into the project so the final piece is a quality product is always the deciding factor for me. I know I don’t really have the creative spontaneity to come into a project like COLEctive Notions and work off the cuff, so I know I need to spend a lot of time developing and creating outside of the studio. Hopefully I will be able to commit if and when a project like this happens again.
Olivia May is in her 6th season with the Dance COLEctive. She is a Dance BFA graduate of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has studied dance through middle school and high school as well as studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa during her time at UNCG. Here in Chicago she is the director of Starbright Dance as well an athletic trainer at On Your Mark Coaching and Training. This past summer she completed her first half Ironman Triathlon and is really looking forward to new challenges with the Dance COLEctive this season.