Monday, January 17, 2011

Choreograph me (but my way)

I recently signed up for a part-time job. I was to choreograph something for them, and the theme they had chosen was 'Unity in Diversity' in India. Yes, done to death, I agree. But I agreed to do it because I could think of several ways to do it differently and frankly, I could have used the money. But as time went on, I got more and more uncomfortable with the way things were shaping up. 

The first obstacle lay in the fact that the organisers (them) and the choreographer (me) had very different conceptions of unity in diversity. But given that they had hired me for their show, I went along with their conception of it, but only on the condition that we did not do any 'filmy' stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but most importantly because I'm not trained in it, and am not qualified to teach it.

After numerous phone calls late in the night to tell me the same things, and after telling me my choreography was either too slow, or unsuited to the kind of audience they were expecting, I finally lost patience. When they asked me to produce all the music for their entire performance (which included a 'fashion show'), turned a lot of it down for being too classical/too slow (what's the big deal with speed?!), and said they expected me to be on call from 10am to 4pm everyday, I told them it wouldn't be possible. We parted ways.

I later thought about why I felt so liberated, and was so happy to let go of a substantial sum of money (which I could have used to make ends meet this month) over a few extra hours than I'd imagined. It wasn't the few hours of extra work, or the 'out of office hours' phone calls. It was the fact that I'd been hired more as a coordinator than a choreographer. They wanted me around to make sure everything fell in place, in the manner in which they wanted. My choreographic freedom was completely curtailed. My aesthetic sensibility was held in utter disregard. Under such conditions, I found it impossible to work. A completely different experience to what I'd had at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, where the teachers trusted me, and the amount of time I needed to work with the kids. I had complete freedom to work, and the only interference came in a positive form - discussions, suggestions and not narrow-minded ultimatums. What's the point of hiring an outsider if you're not even open to their suggestions?

When choreographers are hired, I hope they are hired for their choreographic skills and their aesthetic sensibilities, not for their coordination/organisational skills, or the amount of time they spend on the work. The process should be rewarding for both the teacher and the students. And the end result should be good. How the choreographer ensures that the work is good should really be left up to the choreographer.

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