Dance choreography: Extended programme notes

Big Brother is a dance that explores the idea of being trapped and controlled within a “box. ” For me the box was a larger metaphor for society, and on another level, the dance explores the idea of society controlling the individual, and the desire to escape this control. The accompaniment I chose is called, “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance. I chose this piece of music because I felt it created a very strong atmosphere that largely reflected the emotions of the character in my dance.
Though only used for around twenty seconds, the varying pace and the complex rhythms in the piece created an air of frustration, desperation and excitement- emotions I try to convey as the character attempts to break free of the box. The electric guitars and drums complemented the powerful and often heavy dynamics. I chose to use a section that moved from a slower tempo into a faster tempo as I felt this represented the character’s situation at that point in the dance. The slower tempo, I feel, made the character seem weary- tired of fighting.
The transition into the faster tempo as the character makes a final attempt to break free of the box gives the final section an exciting climax, and creates a sense of excitement yet desperation at the idea of escaping. I decided to bring the music in slowly as I felt it built the atmosphere effectively towards a climax at the end of the piece. My piece is split into four sections of ABCD narrative. Section A focussed on the character’s discovery of being trapped, whilst section B looked at the character being controlled whilst being trapped in the box (this was also a theme running throughout my piece.

Section C, the largest of the sections looked at the character’s attempt to escape from the box. Finally, section D, the shortest section, was the character’s actual escape from the confines of the box. I began my dance at centre stage, in a ball shape on the floor. By making myself look very small, I feel it made me look very vulnerable, and as if confined- immediately defining the idea of restriction. I then began to run around the ‘box’ following a random pathway, pushing off the walls. Creating the circular box as I define these walls. This random pathway indicates the idea of panic for the character on discovering they are in a box.
The pathways being random represent the character’s lack of self-control over oneself- and underpinning the theme of my dance. Although within these random pathways, I never travel outside the box, outlining the fact I am trapped. The strong pushing gestures (motif A) I use in this section are one of the main motifs running through my piece, and reveal the fact the character is confined to the box. Section B is performed mainly in bound-flow, though the gestures move from closed to open. Initially, the arms are tight to the body, trying to pull away- symbolising chains.
Then when free, I take large steps, trudging around the box in a zigzag pathway, with my arms and head floppy yet tense- as if a puppet. Similarly, the idea of a puppet is reflected in the heavy steps here. I used the puppet to convey the idea of the character being controlled; his strings are pulled by society. I then make a gesture, at the edge of the box, facing the audience, as if ‘pulling’ away the wall of the box. My facial expression here completely changes to one of wonder and amazement, and I use the second motif – a mime of touching/exploring the wall before pushing off into a spin (motif B).
I do this very softly, a contrast from the strength of movements inside the box. I am then pulled back into the box, again like a puppet back under the box’s control. This provides the link between section B and section C. I am trying to escape the confines of the box in section C and this is reflected in the repetition of motifs A and B as well as running about the space. As the character is pulled back into the box, the space becomes larger, into a rectangular shape. I included this to allow me to explore a larger amount of the space. This section begins with similar puppet like movements from section B this time repeated on the floor.
After getting up, I then run about the space, repeating motif A. After pushing off each wall, I develop this motif by adding to the end of it- travelling to the next in various ways: spins, slide, leap and run. Using many actions emphasises the manic behaviour of the trapped character. The space then again becomes small, this time very small, as if within a corridor. Motif A is again developed, this time by using elbows to push instead of palms. As a result of being trapped in this new smaller box, the somewhat free flow gestures seen earlier in this section become bound flow.
I then repeat motif B, this time with a new emphasis on the movements. Instead of them being soft, as they were first, I made them powerful and developed them by adding a hop and push. The hop and push helped make the character look more desperate as if pushing up as well as out of the box. In addition, I developed this motif by repeating each section (the push and spin and then the hop and push) alternately facing to each side. I did this because I wanted to show my motif to the audience from several viewpoints to help add interest to my dance. Section D provides the climax to the dance.
The link between section C and D is a set of fast spins, with arms bent upwards. This shows that the character is breaking out of chains seen in section B. The music becomes louder, and moves into a faster tempo- I imagine this to represent the character’s heartbeat. The music in section C is slower, but as the character reaches the final breakout he becomes more and more frantic and excited. The climax is me running into a slide on my knees across the floor toward downstage left. I thrash my arms to represent the break for freedom. I then repeat my developed motif B, further developing it by changing the level.
This shows how tired the character has become of fighting to escape. For the final image in my piece I thrash my arms over my head, throw my torso forward and hold. The floppy arms here can be left to interpretation for the audience. They could be seen as showing relief at breaking free of the box. Similarly, they also resemble the puppet arms seen in section B showing the box’s control- and therefore may indicate that however hard he fights, he cannot escape the box’s control. I wished for the audience to make their own interpretation at this point. There is floor work in each of the four sections.
The transition between low and high levels suggests at the characters weakness- as if being thrown about the space, as seen in sections A and C. I choreographed this dance as a solo because I wished for it to focus around an individual’s fight to break free from the confines of a society that tries to force people into conforming to certain ways- as if the individual is a puppet. By performing in solo, it allows the audience to focus and speculate more on how the individual is affected by society. Similarly, I could have choreographed a group dance to display how this idea of control or the ‘box’ affects many of us.
Throughout my dance I mainly concentrated my focus forward, toward the walls of the box. I did this because I felt it revealed the character’s determination to escape the box. I only had a different focus during two other moments. When being the puppet I had my focus follow my arms and legs to suggest that my whole body was being controlled and pulled toward a point in the space. Secondly, in section B when I pulled away from the wall of the box, to show I was outside of the box my focus was all around the space ahead- as if looking in amazement at what was outside the box.
In my piece facial expressions played a huge part in helping tell the story. I used a large variety of facial expressions in accordance with my character’s varying emotions. In the opening section my facial expressions were wide and open, and my breathing heavy, to show the character is panicking at being in the box. In the puppet section, my face is blank, to show I haven’t control over myself. When seeing outside the box, I looked around in amazement to show the contrast between the box and the outside.
And during sections C and D my facial expressions were much tighter to show the character is angry at being in the box, and is determined to find a way to escape. I ensured that the music entered at a time that it went well with the narrative. The music was symbolising the character’s emotions. When controlled by the box the character has no control over his own emotions. The lack of music symbolises this- no emotion, no music. Similarly, in section D, the music indicated that the character was about to break free, and gain his own emotions back.
As a result my music only came in very close to the climax, when I finally escape the box. I had two main inspirations for the dance. The book “1984” by George Orwell looks at the idea of society trying to control all aspects of our lives, by taking away individuality and making each person the same. A robot; or puppet in the image of society. This is where I got the main idea for the puppet like movements, and for the idea of being trapped within a box. It is also the inspiration for my title ‘Big Brother,’ a term coined by the book.
Also, watching the piece ‘Swansong’ by Christopher Bruce influenced me hugely. I feel the greatest influence it had on me was to create a piece about the world we live in. The themes of bullying and injustices, that Bruce looks at in the piece, are things that happen in the context of prison all around the world. I took from the piece, that sometimes the most powerful pieces are ones that people can in fact understand and relate, to the dance idea. I am extremely pleased with the piece of dance I have choreographed for my coursework. I feel it clearly expressed an interesting dance idea in an engaging fashion.
I am particularly, pleased with my manipulation of spatial design to make clear the idea of the box, and the way the box got larger and then closed in around the character. I felt that the simple motifs very clearly communicated the dance idea, with the pushing motions, and were developed in a way that made them very interesting: by adding spins, leaps, hops, turns and varying levels. Feedback from my peers suggested that my main motifs very clearly communicated the idea of being trapped within a box, and that the message of the dance was very clear.
I believe I made the right decision in choreographing a solo piece, as I feel that this emphasised the idea of an individual against the greater society well. I did not like the section B I initially choreographed, as after watching it back on video and receiving feedback from my teachers I felt it was much weaker in comparison to the rest of the dance. The movements were much weaker, and the section did not clearly communicate the dance idea, as it was mainly just a set of non-complementing floor patterns and gestures.
I instead developed the theme of society’s control, and used this to create the puppet section- a section I am proud of as it is interesting to watch and expresses the dance idea clearly. I could possibly have changed the dynamic of section B to a slower pace to create a greater contrast between the controlled puppet character, and the character fighting for freedom. Other from that, I like the whole of my dance, and felt that all sections were powerful and communicated the dance idea effectively whilst being strong and exciting to watch- especially when combined with my powerful use of facial expression.
In feedback from my teachers they suggested that the music would be more appropriately brought in at the point where the character pulls the walls apart and sees outside the box, to show that the character has seen an outside world- a hope- and that now they are not being so controlled but instead fighting the control. My favourite moment of the dance was the ending, the climax to the piece. The loud fast music, powerful and fast dynamic, thrashing gestures and throwing myself to the floor made this very dramatic and a very exhilarating end to the piece.

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