Dance is perhaps the oldest art -- when you walk in rhythm with your heartbeat you are close to dance. Choreography is the art of arranging movement in time and space. Even if a work is performed in silence, it is only dance when it contains the elements of music, particularly rhythm.
The most essential element is the dancer. Sometimes a creator in dance may envy a writer or a painter, who can work in solitude with materials that don't have changes of mood or fluctuations of interest or energy … or do the colours on a palette begin to argue amongst themselves from time to time? Although the human instrument is fragile, it offers qualities that artists in other mediums would envy, because each performer in modern dance is trained to offer creative possibilities to the choreographer.
Often, the creator of a work needs only to suggest feelings, ideas, or style and the dancers begin to produce physical vocabulary that, with organization and revision, generates a work from the inside out. Not all choreographers avail themselves of this method -- some prefer to prepare movement phrases privately and teach them to the dancers.
So, the choreographer's tools are the highly evolved living instruments entrusted to them, an awareness of the elements of music and an ability to arrange bodies in motion in space. There is something of the sculptor that is needed, and something of the architect.
My way is to drown myself in the music. I listen all my waking hours, and sometimes beyond, to the music I am to visualize. My goal is to find the exact complement to the sound in movement -- something which does not distract from it, but illuminates it so that someone discovering the music for the first time, with the addition of physical images, absorbs it as they would on the third or fourth hearing.
All creation requires a leap of faith. There is no direct connection between reason and art. This is undoubtedly why it is so often held in such suspicion. This is also where art connects with the sacred. We were given all the materials and the imagination to enhance paradise. Perhaps because we have denied the fact that every individual is born with a unique gift to deliver, we have destroyed that garden into which we were born. The suppression of expression is the root of anger. We have never seen a world in which every human gift was received and nurtured.
I like to go into the process of creation like a blank page, a white canvas, with few concrete ideas but with a flood of energy from the music, waiting for the impending release through the collaboration with my dancers.
I've worked with my current company for six years, and they are my muses. Desire is an essential part of all creation, and I have been in love with the precious, fragile, powerful individuals through whom I speak, and whose voices I seek to realize and liberate.
Sometimes I have to face the realization that most of my works are lost -- even those few that were videotaped have disappeared. I cannot wait for the time when the arts are appreciated and embraced, and for dance to be recorded in print by our writers of substance. But despite these challenges, because of the life element unique to dance, I am grateful to have been chosen by it.
The writer, the painter, the sculptor, the architect, the musician and the composer have all left lasting achievements. But they did not embrace their materials of creation as I have done after a performance, feeling their pounding hearts and knowing they have survived an arena where their honesty, their hard-earned physical and psychic powers have entered directly into people's lives as surely as blood can be passed from one living being to another.
David Earle, Elora Festival Program Note, 2001
Click on 'eye icon' for an image of the work, original program notes and an excerpt from the book, David Earle: A Choreographic Biography.
L'Histoire du Soldat
Piccolo Teatro or Self Portrait as a Drowned Man
Jesu, Meine Freude
The Creatures of Prometheus
There Was a Song
somewhere i never travelled
The Merman of Orford
Tango for String Quartet
The Death of Enkidu
A Farther Shore
The Heart at Night
In Spite of and Because
The Bridge of Dreams
A Play of Light
Only 2 For 4 In 5
Pavanne From The Sleeping Beauty
Vanishing Perspectives: parts one and two
©2007, Dance Collection Danse
Graham McKelvie and The Tactus Vocal Ensemble in Richot Mass, 2001
Suzette Sherman and Michael English in In Spite of and Because, 2001