This week we have an award winning piece choreographed by Amanda Gruhl. It’s had some real staying power. I still hear people talk about it at exchanges as that performance that made them step back and say “Whoa!”. She definitely accomplished her goal of being “beautiful, powerful, and disturbing”.
What did you want to express with this choreography?
I hadn’t seen a modern blues piece that explored the dark side of relationships, and felt a need to fill that void. As far as the actual story behind the piece, I’m not going to be specific, because I’ve heard so many different interpretations of this piece from the people who’ve seen it, and I love that. I think the best pieces of art evoke strong emotions and thoughts, but not necessarily the same ones in every person. I will say that Paul and I wanted people to walk away saying the piece was beautiful, powerful, and disturbing, and I feel like we achieved that.
Why did you choose the song for the piece?
I actually chose this song in the early 2000s as a piece I really wanted to choreograph to. I find songs that inspire me first, songs that make me feel a certain way, and the entire piece comes out of that – the emotions, the moves, the costumes, everything. All the ideas about this piece had been brewing in the back of my mind for a very long time. I think this was just the right time and the right partner for them to come to fruition.
What other dances influenced or inspired this one?
It’s obviously a modern interpretation of the Apache style of dance from the turn of the century, but it was also highly influenced by a few So You Think You Can Dance pieces, most notably Mia Michaels “Gravity.”
How did you go about combining your concept, song choice, and influences to create the finished choreography?
Like I said, the music really drove everything about this piece from the beginning. The concept and basic story had been in the back of my mind for a long time, and Paul was immediately on board with that, which was great. I always gather source material first – we stole moves we thought worked well with the emotions, modified others to make them fit the feel, and created a few new ones we hadn’t seen before. When it came time to choreograph, we figured out the climactic moments first, and the places in the music where a particular move fit perfectly, then backed out and filled in the gaps. After we finished a draft of the piece, Paul and I showed it to several people we trusted and collected their feedback (an invaluable part of the choreographic process), then used it to refine the execution and the flow of the emotions in the piece. I think that was the hardest part of the choreography, and the part that evolved the most throughout the process – making sure both the moves and our expressions matched what we were trying to evoke at that moment. We wanted to bring the audience with us every step of the way, so they arrived at the end with us, feeling like they had been part of the experience.