David Morse – The Choreographic Process
May 17, 2017
Choreographer, David Morse will present a new ballet, performed by levels 8 and 9, at BAE’s Studio Showing performances, February 16-18 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. David recently sat down with level 9 student, Zoe Stein for this interview.
How did you become interested in dance?
My great aunt gave me a tape of Michael Flatley’s “Riverdance” when I was 3 and, since then, I’ve been completely in love with the art form.
When did you first start choreographing?
I grew up in the school at North Carolina Dance Theatre. The school holds an annual choreography workshop for its students. I started making ballets for the workshop when I was 14. I’ve always found a tremendous amount of inspiration in the music I’m working with; I believe it’s the lifeblood of all dance.
How does you’re being a musician affect how you choreograph?
As a choreographer, I feel very fortunate to have a musical background. My musicianship informs almost every single decision I make choreographically. I spend a considerable amount of time studying, even analyzing, a piece of music before I even start thinking about steps.
I honestly believe that I might not even be a choreographer if it weren’t for my musical background.
What has been your biggest challenge as a choreographer?
There are many different challenges one faces as a choreographer. For me I’m always trying to carefully temper new ideas into the classical idiom. I’m constantly searching for the perfect blend of traditional and contemporary ideas that will best serve the music I’m working with, and also be interesting for audiences.
What do you look for in a dancer?
There are many things I look for in a dancer, but I think one of the most important is dynamic range. Nowadays anyone can do five pirouettes or stick their leg up by their ear, but it takes a special kind of artist to be able to play with movement in a more subtle, sophisticated way. I look for someone who can handle fast movement with tremendous precision and accent, but can also move slowly and lyrically with ease.
Where do you look for inspiration for your pieces?
I take inspiration from many different places, and where I look is always different. As I mentioned before, the music always comes first, but then I often look in many different directions. Recently I’ve been inspired by several different graphic artists and their geometric way of dividing space. I think this idea translates quite well to the ballet idiom.
Who is your favorite choreographer?
There are so many wonderful choreographers out there so it’s difficult to give one the title of favorite, but if I had to name a few they would be: George Balanchine, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Paul Lightfoot, Crystal Pite, and Nacho Duato.
What advice do you have for an aspiring choreographer?
My humble advice for aspiring choreographers would simply be to ask, “What is it that you have to say?” Charles Caleb Colton is often quoted as saying that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” but I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t make for good art. It’s important to find your choreographic voice and speak it clearly to the world.