When it is time to start working on a new piece, there is time set aside to work on its design. I have to think about many things including what I am going to get out of it. I have to know that this piece is going to change me even if it is just a small change. That change can be due to many things. It could be that it pushes my physical boundaries of technique and physicality. It could be that is pushes my emotional boundaries and helps me explore disturbing situations from my past. It could be that it pushes my intellectual boundaries and helps me explore a concept that I have not yet wrapped my head around.
When it comes to physical boundaries, this is often the easiest boundary to push. It is one that I already know exists. Going after than boundary is easy because I can identify it and find someone who can help me break it. This is one of my favorite boundaries and not just because of its ease of identification. I love to push myself and be pushed beyond what I thought I was capable. I like questioning my technique and finding a new way to do something that I hadn’t thought I would be able to accomplish. This only helps me grow in the physical part of my dancing.
When it comes to emotional boundaries, this makes for pieces that define my life and career. Being able to lay my heart open on the stage for people to understand, judge, and discuss is vulnerable. More vulnerable than me talking about it. Expressing it physically exposes more than words can express because it touches the audiences at such a level that is hugely unconscious. There is a visceral response just as I had when I was going through it in my past. Sometimes in discussions after a performance, I feel like a little kid with a secret because I know what my show was about and I do not want to give away the true story. I prefer that my audience had an experience that they cannot quite explain. This is how I like to experience art as an audience member.
When it comes to intellectual boundaries, this is the hardest for me to define. I am not a know-it-all type. I know I have a large capacity for understanding. Defining what I do not understand takes inner work. Sometimes starting with what I don’t like about it is easiest as my dislike might be a defense against a lack of understanding. Once that is identified, the research starts. The research explores expression of that disliked part. It involves reading. It involves discussing with my partner or partners about their insight into it. Bringing a cluster of artistic minds together on a topic and having all of us explore it can make for interesting and varied work.
The journey through a new piece of work enriches my life like nothing else. At the beginning, I am very excited. When I hit roadblocks, I feel discouraged and have to dig deep to find a way to carry on. Those are the pieces that make me the most proud because they are a complicated journey. They usually evoke the greatest change in my thinking, my physical body, and my intelligence. I am always sad when difficult projects are completed because they touch me so deeply and it feels like I am breaking up with them when done. The lovely thing about pieces is that I can revisit them, so they are never really gone. Revisiting often brings new insight as well, so it is something I practice on this journey.