I love chance technique. I remember learning about Merce Cunningham for the first time when I was about eighteen and thinking how tough and ballsy his method sounded. I was also terrified by the idea of not knowing the future (i.e. the next step or phrase).
As I have gotten older, I have really begun to fall in love with chance. I find the entire experience exhilarating and thrilling. You walk into the studio with an idea and then guide it slightly, or perhaps you let it completely run wild.
Taking a chance in my work
My first experience using chance in my own choreography was in 2014 when I started creating a piece now called ‘Automatic Unconsciousness’.
To be really honest, I was struggling to come up with a storyline I wanted to tell, and was feeling a bit burnt out as a choreographer. But I went back to my roots and education, and I brought some tools to the studio.
For this piece, I used colored index cards labeled with a variety of things such as: Phrase A/Phrase B, invert, repeat, slow, fast, and more. First, I taught the phrases, then I had the dancers choose cards from each pile of: phrases, how to manipulate them, and speed suggestions.
We got to work and rather than ending up with too little material, we had far too many versions of all the phrases! I was so intrigued and excited by how these simple manipulations created enough meat for an entire piece.
I believe that chance allows the dancers to have a deeper involvement in the creative process. I also love knowing that we (as I believe chance often is a group process) can keep, discard, and further manipulate any material created.
Fast forward a couple of years and I have begun to challenge myself more and more to allow chance to be a part of my choreographic process.