Choreography and the Specific Image: Nineteen Essays and a Workbook / Edition 1

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“The world outside has burst into the studio,” writes the influential dancer, teacher, and choreographer Daniel Nagrin. Many dancers want passionately to confront concrete, difficult subjects. But their formalistic training hasn’t prepared them for what they need to say. This book, the first on choreography approached through content rather than structure, is designed with them in mind.
Spiced with wit and strong opinions, Choreography and the Specific Image explores, in nineteen far-ranging essays, the art of choreography through the life’s work of an important artist. A career of performance, creativity, and teaching spanning five decades, Nagrin reveals the philosophy and strategy of his work with Helen Tamiris, a founder of modern American dance, and of Workgroup, his maverick improvisation company of the 1970s. During an era when many dancers were working with movement as abstraction, Nagrin turned instead toward movement as metaphor, in the belief that dance should be about something. In Choreography and the Specific Image, Nagrin shares with the next generation of dancers just how that turn was accomplished.
“It makes no sense to make dances unless you bring news,” he writes. “You bring something that a community needs, something from you: a vision, an insight, a question from where you are and what churns you up.” In a workbook following the essays, Nagrin lays out a wealth of clear, effective exercises to guide dancers toward such constructive self-discovery. Unlike all other choreography books, Nagrin addresses the concerns of both modern and commercial (show dance) choreographers. “The need to discover the inner life,” he maintains, “is what fires the motion.”

This is Nagrin’s third book of a trilogy, following Dance and the Specific Image: Improvisation and The Six Questions: Acting Technique for Dance Performance. Each focuses on a different aspect of dance—improvisation, performance, and choreography—engaging the specific image as a creative tool.
Part history, part philosophy, part nuts-and-bolts manual, Choreography and the Specific Image will be an indispensable resource for all those who care passionately about the world of dance, and the world at large.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Daniel Nagrin asks the right questions and offers insight and meaningful information to guide performers, teachers, and audience members toward a greater connection with the self and the art of dance. He is a master.”

—Linda C. Smith, Artistic Director, Repertory Dance Theatre, Salt Lake City

“An extraordinary and indispensable resource for choreographers, from budding to veteran.  Here is a book that I can keep close by, reread and refer to again and again for comfort, inspiration, and contemplation for the years to come.”

—Li Chiao-Ping

“Daniel Nagrin is one of the genuinely interesting figures in American modern dance.  in the volume, informed by the wisdom and experience of an unusually long and productive creative life, he turns his insightful gaze upon the making of dances.”

—Robby Barnett, Pilobolus Dance Theatre

“Not a day goes by where I do not call on Daniel’s brillance as an artist and educator, a writer,a thinker, and a person to aid me in my job as a choreographer, performer, and teacher.”

—David Dorfman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822957508
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,249,786
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Nagrin, dubbed “the great loner of American dance” by Dance Magazine, has worked with Martha Graham, Helen Tamiris, Mme. Anderson-Ivantzova, and Anna Sokolow. He has danced on Broadway, in film and television, and has toured nationally and internationally as a solo concert artist. He is professor emeritus of dance at Arizona State University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
The Essays
1. Helen Tamiris and Her Teaching of Choreography 9
2. A Method of Teaching Choreography 24
3. Choreography and the Specific Image 41
4. Improvisation as a Tool for Choreography 55
5. "Rules" for Choreography in No Particular Order 59
6. The Play of Metaphor 76
7. Modern Dance Choreography--Ballet Choreography 90
8. Choreography for the Solo Dancer, Choreography for a Group: The Problems and Differences 95
9. Abstract Dance versus What? 99
10. Music 105
11. Words and Song Lyrics 115
12. Virtuosity 119
13. Direction 123
14. The Stage: The Costumes, The Lights, The Sets, The Sound 129
15. Choreography for the Theatre, Musical Comedy and Opera 139
16. Mindsets 158
17. The Criticism of Choreography 165
18. Anecdotal Material 181
19. The Ethics of Aesthetics 188
The Workbook
Workbook Introduction and Outline 209
1. Warming Up 213
Gifts 213
Medicine Ball 215
Outrageous Travel 216
Goldfish Bowl 218
Blind Journey 218
2. The Rhythm Series 220
Breath Rhythm 220
Pulse Rhythm 221
Inner Rhythm 221
Dedicate Your Motion 222
Go Visiting 223
True Repetition 224
Evolving Repetition 225
Spinning 225
3. Uncovering Sources of Movement: The First Steps 226
Circles 226
Each Alone 228
Backdoor 230
Hub Meditation 231
Visualization 232
Gesture Permutations 233
Gesture Rondo 234
4. Metaphor 236
5. Sense Memory Sources 237
Faces 237
The Obstacle 239
Passing through a Physical Object 240
Slalom 240
6. Sources of Movement Material 242
The Mind-Wash 242
Not Naming 242
The Other 243
A Duet 243
The Duet as a Structure 244
7. Finding Gold in "Bad" Habits 250
Cliche Rondo 250
Your Familiar 252
Possessed by a Mannerism 253
8. Music Sources of Movement 255
Ambient Sound 255
Rhythm Circle 255
Before, After and On 256
Who or What Is Alive in the Music? 257
Riff Cactus 257
Using Music for Improvisation 258
9. Words and Movement 259
Words 259
Creating Words 259
Being Created by Words 259
Becoming Words 259
Prison 259
Poems 260
10. More 263
Why Do You Dance? 263
Props Fantasy 263
Inside the Outside 263
Body Contact 265
Seeing through the Eyes of Another 266
I Dare You 267
Notes 269
Index 271
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