Kevin O'Day: starting at the top - choreographer and dancer Kevin O'Day, the redheaded dancer so familiar to us from his distinguished tenure with the company of Twyla Tharp (he toiled there eight long years), his duties as soloist with American Ballet Theatre, and his current membership in Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, has made a bravura leap into the tenuous, difficult world of choreography and emerged a winner. makes me realise that choreography isn’t easy, and not everyone succeeds, not even experienced dancers) With astonishing aplomb, O'Day, at thirty-two, seems to have sprung full-grown into the arena of making dances, forging a vocabulary that while tinged with influences nevertheless shapes movements and phrases at once formal, musical, inventive, and genuinely felt. realise my choreography will probably show influences from teachers I have had) That his choreographic gifts should have made themselves evident within the p of less than a year, and through only two brief works, each under a distinguished aegis, is a tribute to his finely honed dance sensibilities and to the eyes and minds of his champions, Baryshnikov and Peter Martins.
Indeed, so strong was their belief in O'Day's talent and so positive was the audience and critical response to these fledgling works that both directors instantly commissioned new works for their respective companies. (shows that if people believe in you and guide and support you the choreography can become amazing. Also if something is so spectacular your work can get noticed and take you far) On February 9. O'Day's second work for New York City Ballet (still untitled at press time) will be premiered.
It is set to a score by the young English composer Graham Fitkin. Last December in Tokyo, White Oak unveiled O'Day's The Good Army, to music of John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards, with Baryshnikov as one of its dancers. This uncommon whirlwind of choreographic success (success is hard and uncommon! ) all began in March 1994, when the White Oak Dance Project gave its first New York season at the New York State Theater. There was no question that O'Day's first ballet. entitled Quartet for IV (and sometimes one, two or three ... , was the unqualified hit of the company's first New York appearance.
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While several pleasures were garnered from Baryshnikov's small troupe, not the least being his own masterly and immaculate performances, the company's repertoire was short on originality or genuine interest. When O'Day's moment came, audiences responded with an immediacy that indicated the relief they felt at finally encountering a work that, in its exuberance and emotional focus, proved as intellectually engaging as it was entertaining. This para shows that if something isn’t original or interesting the audience just doesn’t respond, but when something amazing is seen before them they react and now are much more engaged) A few critics carped at what they considered O'Day's glaring Tharpisms, such as his noodling with her polycoordinations and her odd manipulations of phrasing. But some, notably Arlene Croce in the New Yorker, found this choreographic debut remarkable and worthy of attention.
When only a few weeks later O'Day presented his second ballet, Viola Alone (With One Exception), set to Hindemith, created at the invitation of Martins for New York City Ballet's prestigious Diamond Project II, the rarity of O'Day's gifts became even more evident. Here was a work of very particular craft and content. (Not all dancers can choreograph) Dance Magazine senior editor Tobi Tobias, writing about the Diamond Project premieres in New York magazine, stated, "O'Day's ballet, the most vivid and engaging of the seven seen, shows him attempting to steer clear of the Twyla Tharpisms that are his heritage. (still need to be individuals and break free from your influences)Then, describing the flow and structure of the ballet, Tobias concludes, "At the end, Alexander Ritter gestures toward the onstage violist, as if to say, `
The carefree days of my life gone now lie in this music,' but sentiment is so ruthlessly excluded from the earlier proceedings that the chief elements of the piece remain lusty energy and bold motion, deftly marshaled. On speaking with O'Day, one learns that the act of choreographing has long been part of his life as a dancer, a by-product of observation and, of course, desire: "I had always worked in studios on my own whenever I could,". he says. I'd get a video camera, set it up, and I'd dance around. I was collecting material. (I will be doing this this year – e. g. experimental research) "I learned from Twyla Tharp that if you're going to choreograph, you had to go into the studio by yourself and spend time working. You just had to work and work and work.
And you had to work on your own way before working with a group of people or even just two people. The point is, you had to have an understanding of what you want from dancers before you start working with them. You can't just snatch things out of the air. (This is excellent advice - working by yourself before working with the class so you can perfect the piece. It takes a lot of time and lots of practice but this way you know how it looks and what to expect from the dancers) "The influence of Twyla helps me when I'm in the studio alone.
You see, Twyla has a lot of ways of putting movements through a road test. She'll improvise, make a phrase, then turn it into something very solid. She would also change the music. Within the p of an hour she might change the music four or five times. So, she makes a body of material, and that's been her greatest influence on me: how to put together a body of material. "(a lot of trial and error will be involved, so must allow time to experiment) Thus, explains O'Day, he, like Tharp, will try things on is own body, sometimes to different music, and create a patchwork that may ultimately be used in a work: "The more I try this, with different textures, different music, different road tests, different qualities of doing a movement, to see how far a movement can be stretched or shrunk. All these things serve to build a body of material, which might then go into forming a piece. "
Will really apply to me as most of the students I will be working with don’t have much experience so will have to have simple steps. This means that I will have to enforce that dancers have to be so energetic to really bring the moves to life. This shows that my choreography, although very important, isn’t everything. There’s a big responsibility on the dancers to bring the dances to life. I will share the quote with the group when it’s looking dull so they can bring it to life.
Visual Demonstrations –this is the most effective way of teaching dance. This is the main method I have used so far and it’s the method I will continue to use the majority of the production. This won’t have to be done as much once the dance is learnt as the students have to know how to do it without me because I will not always be standing at the front. This method is so useful for them to get a picture of the dance in their head and how to do it correctly.
Usually when we start a rehearsal and before I begin to teach a new dance I sit everyone down and stand out the front and do the dance properly so they know what the dance is meant to look like. Then I break down each move, visually showing the cast each step. This would best suit visual learners. Audible Cues – when I am teaching a dance from the beginning this method will only be used in conjunction with the visual demonstrations. Just verbally telling them how to do the dance won’t work. This will be used also when they are doing the dance and I can call out the counts or “Arms straight! , “Point your toes” etc. When I am instructing, have to ensure that instructions are short and simple so I don’t confuse/overload the learner and once they know the moves the instructions can get more complex. This obviously suits a verbal learner who understands best through written and spoken words. Manipulation – haven’t used this methodology so far, but from past experience in dancing I know it’s very effective. I believe it’s more useful for beginners or those who struggle with dancing. Basically I have to physically put the person’s body/arms/legs through the correct range of motion.
Obviously there is a slight ethical concern here, I have to ensure I don’t touch someone in the wrong way. But I think I will start using this more especially with arm movements as they can be quite tricky and visually and verbally showing them how to do it doesn’t always work, Reflections about article Tips for Teaching – Seven Principles of Good Practice .
Have to keep reminding cast and they have to help. I have to completely plan rehearsals and set realistic goals. Communicate high expectations – “Expect more and you will get more” reflects my way of teaching. I have such high expectations of this musical and have a vision of how good it will look. Expecting the cast to perform well is a bonus for me as I will put in the effort to ensure it reaches this standard. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning – have to ensure all dancers have opportunity to learn in ways that work for them.
Seize the moment – if people come and ask for clarification – even though I might not have time to help them, I should as they are probably ready to learn at that moment. Involve the student in planning – this could help if I’m stuck for ideas giving the groups challenges to come up with choreography. There is some student involvement in the freestyle parts where students get the chance to be creative and do their own thing. Move from simple to complex- I can use this principle in my teaching for sure – If I teach complex choreography to begin with and then assess everyone’s progress who finds it easy and who finds it difficult.
Then if everyone gets it and it looks too simple I can make it more difficult. What do you think works well in auditions as a performer? Having confidence is the key to success. Believing in yourself. Forgetting a move – just keep going I will have to reinforce these points to all the cast. They should be confident and believe in themselves and remind them to keep going even if they make mistakes. How does a dance audition usually run?
Get there and register (giving name, age, details experience). This is a good suggestion; however, using numbers could be a bit intimidating for our students. We would get them to fill out their details of experience etc You then sit in a waiting room – most people warm up here. If it is an audition with a prepared dance you practice it. We’d give them time to warm up, but not in another room Usually there would be 2 sessions with 40 dancers. You get called and line up and learn the dance in rows of four. First four would do the dance and then go to the back of the line.
Because of the time constraints we’d only have one session but I like the idea of doing it in rows and them moving to the back of the line There isn’t usually a set warm up- done by the performers while they are waiting. I’m considering doing a set warm up – only because a lot of the performers are inexperienced and would not know what stretches to do. c) What auditions have you been successful in and why is that? Is it because of the way the auditions were run? It is mainly the auditions which make you feel really comfortable.
You are already nervous enough as it is and the places that make you feel safe and secure make you perform better. The environment makes big difference, for example you would be feeling scared auditioning in a spooky house so rooms with warm nice colours give it a good feeling. I will make an effort to be really friendly, welcoming and kind to make the students feel comfortable. A lot of them would never have danced before and I wouldn’t want them to feel scared and not come back. In no way would I get angry, frustrated or grumpy if they’re not being cooperative. I’ll be the nicest person I can try to be. Are the dances usually hard so the good people excel or easy so everyone has the opportunity to shine rather than focus on the moves? Usually you would learn a dance that is either going to be in the show or a similar style to what is going to be in it. At first I wanted to do a different dance rather than one we’ll use but after hearing this, and after talking to the director, I have decided to do the chorus of “We’re all in this together” for the audition dance. Anything else you would like to add? You would usually receive a phone call, email or letter in the post about 3 eeks later saying if you’re successful or not. I’d have to discuss this with other teachers involved, but we’d probably take 1-2 weeks to decide and let them know by hanging up the parts or telling them in person. You need a large wide room as there is nothing worse than trying to dance when it is crowded and squishy. Mirrors and bars are something you need but if it’s at school you might not have it. The auditions would usually be held in the hall but from past experience this is narrow and squashy. Ideally I’d like them to be held in the spacious gym, but guess it depends on the availability of the gym.
The main thing is to talk loud. With echoing rooms the noise can bounce off the walls and it is hard to hear which is difficult for people at the back. You are already nervous enough and this makes it much more stressful if you can’t hear the instructor. This is a good point. Nothing is worse than not being able to hear the teacher, especially in a big room where there’s lot of people. I’m going to speak loudly and clearly so everyone can understand. This also raises the issue if there’s so many people in rows, it’s hard to see people up the back
I think this interview was really successful as ST gave me some really good ideas and insights. On Monday I gathered 3 close friends to trial the audition process. The aim was to teach the dance I had prepared for the audition and get some feedback on what the dance was like and how I went teaching it. I chose three friends with 3 diff levels of dancing ability: one is a talented well coordinated dancer; one is a competent dancer but inexperienced and one is not into dancing at all.
I filmed the majority of the audition if I need it for future reference. I think this was a valuable task and I got so much out of it as I faced some hurdles but the main thing was they learned the dance in the allocated time frame. One thing I learnt during this mock audition is to be totally prepared. On the day I forgot the CD I was using. I also thought about what was a more appropriate method of teaching; facing the cast and therefore the moves being opposite direction or facing the same way as the cast with them not able to see what is going on the front of the body.
I also had to think about how much I would teach at once. For example, teach 4 or 8 counts before renewing it. How competent did they have to be before we tried it to the music? I also demonstrated the moves in different areas around the room so everyone got to see exactly what I was doing and from different angles. I found I needed to speak slower and clearer to G as she needed more explanations so I have to remember there will be a variety of standard in the room.
Giving the cast the opportunity to do it without me, whilst I sit back and watch not only gives me the chance to see how my choreography looks but makes the students think harder. From past experience I know that doing a new routine without the teacher demonstrating with you gets the routine drilled in your mind, especially as they’ll have to do it alone/pairs at the audition. Giving the cast the opportunity to watch me and the way it is meant to be done will also help. Finally I think I have to show I’m confident and happy with my choreography because I thought I looked a bit embarrassed and worried about what others would think.
Things I’ll do the same- filming, deconstructing choreography into 8 counts, demonstrate with them not participating, demonstrate with them following, face same way as cast then swap so they get to see the whole picture, stand aside and watch them do it alone, move around room demonstrating + giving advice, get feedback. Things I’ll do different- be more organized, more confident, speak with louder voice, don’t get frustrated as everyone learns at different pace, get into it – be over the Top, wait till they’re more competent before practicing with music. Useful Advice From VN about how she chooses successful dancers at the udition (from email):Compare the dancers to the strongest performer in the group. Other things like heights to make the sure the group is evenly balanced. How the performer presents themselves for an audition is also important. A problem we encountered during this process was a large number of people pulling out after the audition and callback process This really worried me as I was stressed that everyone would pullout and we wouldn’t have a big enough cast. After talking with the other teachers involved I realized that this was a positive.
A smaller cast would be a lot easier to handle and would be easier to get 50 people looking tight and uniform compared to 100. This number would also fit on the stage better and give everyone the opportunity to be on stage for most of the time. Another problem with picking parts was that we had a lack of boys to begin with. I think I will have to learn not to stress too easily as things usually fall into place at the end. Keep in mind people’s feelings. A lot of these kids have never danced in their lives so I have to treat them with respect when teaching the dance and give them the time to pick it up.
Not that I want to do this, but I can not laugh, or stare or give sarcastic comments or do anything to restrict them wanting to return to practices. Also when choosing parts I have to be aware that my friends are auditioning and not be tempted to favour them and give them important roles if they don’t deserve them. I have to leave friendships aside and be unbiased, treating everyone fairly. I also have to remember not to copy the choreography from the movie. The part I did adapt for the finale is the only part I am really going to use.
This just reminds me that someone else has spent so much time choreographing these dances and it is not fair if I take them completely and say they are mine. Not to mention legally this would not be allowed. I actually don’t like some of the choreography in the movie so I don’t want to take it and besides a lot of the choreography would be too difficult for our standard of dancers. So sticking with the another method I have just come up with ,where I play the music and just do what comes to my head seems like a good thing to do. There are not any huge problems at this stage.
One thing that I have to go is remember to keep researching. I am doing a lot of choreographing at the moment which is obviously a positive thing, but I also have to remember that this subject is the research project. Now the audition process is over I don’t have to keep researching that but I do have to keep looking at ways of teaching and research choreographers and what makes other musicals good. In my last discussion Ms W told me I was not doing enough researching.
What do you think of the choreography of ‘We’re All In This Together’? It’s great, for someone so inexperienced. Looked effective and strong as a large group. Obvious that it’s taken from the movie which is what your audience will want to see, but some of your easier modifications look cleaner. Some students are struggling –especially some boys and some leads. What could be changed? Perhaps some of the hard moves could be modified/slowed down, especially in the Wildcats’ cheer at the end. Arms look messy and un-uniform in “wave your hands up in the air”.
It doesn’t even look like there are any set moves. In chorus, “When we reach, we can fly”, maybe arms could be simplified. Looks all over the place. What am I doing well in the area of teaching the moves? The way you break down every single move helps cast know where the placements are. Modifying moves as you go along is a positive as you’re not changing it later when the old move has already stuck in their head. Like the way you demonstrate it alone first. What do you think I could do to improve? Louder voice! Don’t look as nervous, your body language makes you seem not confident.
Stand closer to cast, feel free to mingle and help individuals. You did seem more capable and confident as time went on. What did the choreography look like so far in Status Quo? Looked great, loved the big chorus around the tables. Good idea doing it around one big circle so everyone gets a feel for the directions. Good concept – Brainiacs and book dance. Overall looks like a fun piece, shows great potential. What could be changed? Brainiacs’ dance needs to be sharper, maybe tell them to get into it a little more (footwork needs to be the same at the end of the dance).
Analysing performances of musicals on DVD, during the Fringe, TV shows like “Dancing With the Stars”, “So you think you can dance”; Adelaide Fringe or Festival Shows Interviews – with dancers choreographers, I know + to get feedback on my choreography Will have to work with and negotiate with many others, e. g. the director, stage manager, costume designer, all the performers, choreographers. Be open to suggestions Experimenting with different routines (often in small groups I’ve got to think of the ethical considerations too e. g. : Safety of the performers – make sure choreography is safe. Privacy – get permission from people I interview them .Plagiarism – must make my own steps original and not copy the choreo Suitability to audience- make sure moves are suitable to audience of all ages and not offensive in any way. My Outcome The video of the dances + an oral to my teacher explaining my choreography. My Outcome The video of the dances + an oral to my teacher explaining my choreography. This student’s research development was presented in large scrap book folios, too large to reproduce as an exemplar. The following is a selection of this evidence, reduced to 10 pages, for inclusion in the student's portfolio to be submitted for moderation and marking. This selection of evidence, with the student notes to record the discussion, can be used for moderation purposes to confirm the teacher assessment decision.
On balance the Folio is indicative of a B standard. Planning: The research topic is well defined. Thoroughly considered research processes, which are appropriate to the task, as well as manageable and ethical, have been planned. The research is developed in a mostly resourceful and considered manner, including web-based research on choreography, features of successful musicals, how to teach and the audition process. Feedback from more experienced choreographers, has been sought although evidence is not provided of the way the research develops in response to this. At times, there also appears to be an over emphasis on ‘doing’ the choreography. Information to develop the research has been methodically collected and documented. There is also some evidence of information being analysed in order to develop the research. Some complexity in analysis of information and exploration of ideas to develop the research is evident, such as in the responses to some of the sources located, interviews and the mock audition conducted. Knowledge and skills specific to the topic are applied in a highly effective way, such as in careful planning of patterns for different parts of the dance, preparation for the auditions.
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