This study aims to identify my personal choreographic approach to physical theatre-making and then to experientially expand on it by engaging with Joanne Butterworth‘s five-tier Didactic-Democratic spectrum model for choreography. Being accustomed to, and trained predominantly in, one mode of approaching choreography has become limiting. Butterworth‘s model may aid me in expanding choreographically in the context of physical theatre-making.
My research is located in a qualitative paradigm. I use an auto-ethnographic, practice-as-research approach to conduct my research. To apply my practice-as-research approach, I use concrete experience, reflective observations, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation as outlined by Kolb‘s Experiential Learning Cycle. Kolb‘s model provides an overall structure to this study, but is also the way in which I frame and read each of the three separate choreographic processes that I use in the study.
The concrete experience I consider in this study is The Entertainer, a work which I choreographed in 2017. To establish a baseline for my research, I retrospectively reflect on The Entertainer to locate it on Butterworth‘s model by using units of analysis that link to the five tiers of the model. These units of analysis are the choreographer‘s role; performer‘s role; choreographer‘s input; performer‘s input; pedagogical positioning of social interaction; instruction methods; and the pedagogical positioning of performers. By using these units of analysis to consider The Entertainer, I position my initial approach to physical theatre choreography along the spectrum of Butterworth‘s model.
I then use Kolb‘s abstract conceptualisation to plan how I will move beyond my initial approach to choreography as located on Butterworth‘s model. I do this by selecting tiers that lie to the extremes of my initial approach on the model. I employ Kolb‘s active experimentation, to choreograph two works, WALK and Swem, that each align with one of the extremes. I utilise the extremes since they are the furthest removed from each other and, as a result, challenge me to approach choreography in two ways that are not just completely different from each other, but also from my initial choreographic approach. Each of the three choreographic processes in this study (consisting of a choreographic approach and a resulting choreographic product) starts a new cycle of Kolb‘s Experiential Learning. I use each rehearsal period, along with panel and performer reflections, to create a thick description by means of a choreographic score based on the choreographic approach of each work. To create these three choreographic scores (the physical documentation of the rehearsal period), I also utilise other auto-ethnographic tools, such as journaling and reflective questions. Each score serves as concrete experience that I retrospectively analyse to locate the choreographic approach on Butterworth‘s model.
To choreograph WALK and Swem, I utilised a rehearsal period spanning three weeks with the same three performers to calibrate reflection by asking them to complete reflection sheets based on rehearsals. Three panel members were required for expert analysis and therefore have at least a Master_s degree (with choreography as focus) and at least three years‘ experience of choreographing in physical theatre. These panel members attended two rehearsals of each choreographic work and, like the performers, completed reflection sheets in order to mediate my subjective experience of each choreographic approach for a thicker description of the choreographic instance. The panel also completed reflection sheets based on choreographic tracks (see following paragraph) observable in performance to mediate their experience of each choreographic product with my own subjective view. I identify similarities between a greater range of inputs (my own perspective, the perspective of the performers and the panel), to layer my thick description of the choreographic process as a whole.
Since Butterworth‘s model is focused on choreographer-performer interaction and roles, it focuses on the choreographic approaches (rehearsals) and not on the choreographic products that result from each approach. I therefore highlight choreographic tracks that link to Laban Movement Studies. These are the treatment of the theme; general space usage; approach to the kinesphere; utilisation of shape; dynamics of movement (Effort); application of elements of choreographic craft; incorporation of soundscape; arrangement of choreographic structure; and integration of structural components/ assimilation methods.
Dissertation (MA (Drama))--University of Pretoria, 2019.