Entitled Mapping motion: impulse, object and trajectory, this talk and demonstration opened with a discussion of the need for the creative artist to identify and then focus on the ‘object’ of his or her work. For choreographer Kim Brandstrup, the ‘object’ is a single movement that stops. Working with Royal Ballet dancers McNally and Sambé, he demonstrated how a series of sustained movements constrained by predetermined periods of time can become the building blocks of a dance work. Just as a poet may work within a strictly defined verse form, using its rigour to release the inner voice, Brandstrup uses time, broken down into specified sections of related lengths, to set free choreographic creativity.

Brandstrup explained that he may use a precise structure that derives from a specific piece of music, but only give the dancers carefully counted intervals of time, for each of which they must sustain the arc of movement. This frees them from the constraints imposed by their preconceived ideas about which types of movement belong naturally with particular musical genres. The music may be added at a later stage.

McNally and Sambé are, of course, extraordinarily beautiful dancers, each of whom has a track record in choreography (particularly so in the case of McNally, who has created pieces for Draft Works, Chance to Dance and BalletBoyz). However the method can be used with dancers of any level, as the shared structure facilitates dialogue between creator and dancer. The structural discipline means that each movement occurs at a specific time in relation to all the other movements making it possible both to remember and to reproduce it.

This is not, of course, the only structure that can be applied to dance, and Brandstrup revealed a surprising lack of interest in floor patterns, setting himself firmly apart from choreographers such as Marius Petipa and Frederick Ashton in that respect. For Brandstrup the energy, impulse and trajectory of movement matters more.

Although they had carried out some preparatory work earlier in the afternoon, the focus of the evening was on how to create a new work from the very beginning, and this was a powerful demonstration of his method. Brandstrup gave the dancers series of time intervals to work to, starting with a simple pattern (short – short – medium; short – short – long) and becoming progressively more complex. This precise and mathematical structure enabled each dancer to create a highly individual dance that they were then able to perform simultaneously to the same piece of music. It was a brilliant illustration of the use of an abstract method to generate an immediate effect.

Maggie Watson

25 May 2015