Saturday, October 13, 2012

Questions for Diego Carrasco Schoch, Dancer and Choreographer

Diego Carrasco Schoch is a performer, guest artist, choreographer, and educator.  He has over 25 years experience as a dance artist, including being the Principal Dancer at the Milwaukee Ballet (1991-2003) and a soloist with the North Carolina Dance Theater (1987-1991).  His choreography has been called “joyful” and “dynamic.”

(Photograph:  Steve Clark)

How would you describe what you do?
I make dances. I try to make dances that will have some kind of emotional resonance. I try to create something that will define space and time and will affect both viewers and participants in some manner. I try to do this by directing the use of shape, space, time, energy, and focus, around and/or between 1 or more bodies. The X-factor is that how these essential elements are received and interpreted is entirely dependent on both the viewers and performers. There’s no telling how they might change my best-laid plans simply by what they bring to the process of viewing and creating.

Is this different than what other people think you do?
I don’t believe audiences think about dance as a way of defining space and time. And I’m not sure it would help if they did. I believe most people think of choreography as a way of synchronizing moving bodies to music and having those bodies do things that are amazing, or, at least, outside of the perceived norm. Which, while perhaps a little limiting, isn’t wrong.

How do you know if you’re on the right track with a project?
I don’t. I enter into a project with a few ideas and begin creating or directing movement that reflects those ideas in some way or another. I basically hope that at some point the dance will begin to reveal itself and coalesce into something that I recognize and shows me that I’m on the right track. This doesn’t always happen. When it doesn’t and opening night is fast approaching, I’m most likely not on the right track.

How do you go about making choices?
Often the ideas I have are disparate ideas that have been on my mind and much of my time is spent figuring out how to make sense of those ideas. Choices are made predicated on the notion of what seems to belong and what doesn’t, what seems to be consistent with the ‘world’ I’m creating and what isn’t. It’s a very intuitive process as I try to ‘feel out’ the dance.

Also, the moment the curtain goes up, the audience begins to build a set of expectations based on the information they are given and as the dance progresses those expectations get stronger, building on each other. If the expectations are not fulfilled or dealt with in a satisfying manner the audience will most likely be perplexed and have a negative reaction. My artistic choices try to navigate those expectations to a satisfying solution including how I might subvert or alter them in a way that surprises or delights audiences.

Choices are also made based on my own set of expectations. What do I want from a new work? What am I trying to do with it? What’s the goal? Often the answers to these kinds of questions are unknown to me at the beginning and don’t begin to rear their heads until I’m deep into the project.

(University of North Carolina School of the Arts students 

Justin Dominic and Wesley McIntyre in "A Place Apart." Photograph:  Rosalie O'Connor)

How do you know when you’re done?
When it’s opening night and I no longer have time to continue working on it! Or when I seem to be out of ideas. There’s also a point when the piece is in the hands of the dancers and they have taken ownership of it. Unless I have an opportunity to restage a dance on other dancers, which is rare, I can only look at a dance and hope for a chance to make changes another time.

What’s your workspace like?
The bulk of my ‘workspaces’ are dance studios. These range from large, airy, and clean to small, claustrophobic, and dirty and any number of variations in between. But given an open space of any sort, I can work out little movement ideas. My daughter points out that I embarrassed her severely making little abstract gestures and movements while waiting to pick her up at school or while walking down a grocery store aisle.

Written notes are a kind of workspace and I try to keep a journal for the piece I’m working on, but often I don’t have it on me when I have an idea and end up with notes on various pieces of paper and a couple different notebooks.
The last workspace is my backpack. When on my way to a rehearsal, my backpack is stuffed with 1-3 notebooks, a video camera, an ipod, pens/pencils, socks, yoga belt, therabands, plenty of t-shirts, and various odd items that kind of live in the backpack until I get tired of seeing them there.

What are your essential tools?
The human body and imagination.

What’s the most surprising tool you use?
Snippets of movement I didn’t create. I often utilize movement created by the dancers in response to an assigned task. Sometimes I use a movement or gesture I’ve seen or experienced and use it as a catalyst to develop new material.

What was your biggest mistake or the one you learned the most from?
Words of wisdom - don’t retell the Pygmalion/Galatea myth as an allegory of female rebellion against the yoke of male domination, idolatry and obsessive search/need for unrealistic perfection in the feminine form and present it on Valentine’s Day weekend!

Diego Carrasco Schoch's's website  

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