thumbnail of Creative mind; The choreographer as creator
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
I. Created. A low Institute cooperative broadcasting Council presenting Agnus demo that choreographer as creative as a number three and actual association of educational broadcasters series The creative mind produced by WGBH FM in Boston under a grant from the educational television and radio center. These conversations explore the creative process as it pertains to the American artist and scientist in the 20th century. And here is our host and commentator for the creative mind. Lyman Bryson. In these essays about the creative mind in the arts in the sciences where does the dancer come
in. What does a dancer create a pattern. It's clear enough. Pattern which is ephemeral in its nature it goes on the wind like a song song or a poem recited but never the less while it's there and we're watching it it works on our nerves and muscles in a sympathetic way so that its rhythms are reproduced almost in our imaginations. In fact they're reproduced potentially in our actual bodies. We get something of the same sensation something the same mastery which the dancer by her tremendous discipline and her native powers is able to have over her own plastic behavior. We get some of that in ourselves we don't deserve it it's vicariously produced for us by the artist. But it is our enjoyment of course. Mozart is reported to have said about a young lady in whom he had a passing interest that she couldn't possibly be a musician because she couldn't count. This seems at first thought rather trivial I think not I
think this is the this is the basic getting at the root of the saying of the great genius. If the lady couldn't count she certainly couldn't be a musician she probably couldn't even dance. She was in the arms of someone who had so strong read them that she had to submit. Rhythm then timing motion which by great discipline is conveyed to our imaginations and in which we participate. This is what the dancer creates. One thing Mr. Mills says strikes me a very special importance we all know something about the cruel discipline which a dancer has to go through. We know something about the arduous manipulations of the muscles and the nerves and the very structure of the body which makes a dancer able to express in her body in her plastic action the thought that she has make these wonderful patterns we can imagine ourselves trying to perceive that trying to do that but not with I think and hear any great supposition that we could do it easily it's much too hard.
We're inclined to think that because of this the artist dancer having acquired this coke and then just well just let herself go act out in motion his caprices just as a child might do with the child's gestures. Mr. Mel makes it quite clear that the dancer like a pin ist or a singer is trying to give expression to the thought of an inventor and inventor of the dance a choreographer trying to carry out designs which someone else has invented with their own interpretation of course but nevertheless expressing a design which somebody else created. The real creative artist. Well perhaps that's not true either because if you say the real creative artist is the composer not the interpretive musician then you could say that the real creative artist is the choreographer and not the dancer but I wouldn't say either one of those things there are two kinds of creativeness. When you have an interpretive artist the composer and the pianist the choreographer and the dancer. And each one of these interpretive artists use all his skill. All his
intelligence all his intuition or his intuitive sensitivity to bring into a structure of beauty for our delight and our enjoyment of what the composer originally thought. The real difficulty as Mr. M. makes quite clear is that there is not yet any. Form of notation any way of writing down what the choreographer thinks any way of expressing on a sheet of paper. They design of the choreographer so firmly that the interpretive artist is thoroughly guided. But dancers work with musicians. They have to they dance to music. So there's a relationship between these two arts which is inescapable if we're thinking about the dance and larger Isenberg And Mr. M. began their conversation at this point. When we respond to a dance over responding also to a composer Mr. Mel was asked about this relationship.
Well of course from ancient time. From the beginning of any kind of creative movement I think I think sound found movement inextricably. Intertwined and dancing is in many ways dependent on music because dancing that exists without music seems somehow incomplete or rather it does to us now because we're so used to hearing rhythm. We're not used to seeing with them. They are both time out. They exist in time but that thing exists in time space and have cause as a spatial logic. It is like architectural painting. It's the only art that is a time space side but in the sense that it is a time out. It is like music and it uses many many of the devices that music uses repetition. Development of basic themes recurrences reprises of melodic lines and so forth. It develops that way as
opposed to the way architectural painting develops. Ah storytelling dancing of course is also dramatic but that's another thing. The main point of difference between dancing and music as a functional artistic experience is I think that there is no written language. There's no script for dancing that is practical and in use up to now we are beginning to get one now. But that has not been and. This reason there's no literature which means that the material of dancing the living human body moving in time space is a fresh experience always for the composer. Each time he composes and he has to work on. Well how should I put it with live ammunition so to speak. He cannot do his preparation before hand and record it the way a composer can. This moderate modifies every single thing he does right through the whole experience. Doesn't that make it rather difficult for the choreographer who is just beginning here has essentially no
school to go to. It makes it difficult for the choreographer who is ending as well. It's hard it's a tough problem and means that every day rehearsal relies on human memory and human goodwill and human patience and demands this and the way that no other does. Is the recording of the day before the development of dance notation a physical situation such as parents might have whose fingers I say remember the music. Well dance a spot is remember the debt's steps and as they hear the music they tend to go back through the old patterns automatically. But of course human memory is fallible and choreographers a notoriously bad about this. I think because they keep erasing from that the tablets of their minds over speak everything they did previously the have to or they'd never get any new ideas you have to wash clean all the time. That is probably have the most highly trained memories of any people in the world. I think this is true much more highly trained than musicians. They remember every role in their entire
career. Do directors have to be musically trained as well when you are speaking of of the relation between dance and music I wonder whether in the actual performance for instance they have to understand music. Many of them are not and many of them are very faulty musicians. If you mean do they have to have a response to beat to rhythmic beat. They ought to have though some quite famous ones have not had and are off beat all the time. But most of them do have a sense stuff. Instinctive reaction to the down beat to the rhythmic impulse as far as being musically trained can they read music and understand music. Not all of them by any means. It is almost essential to a choreographer a choreographer who can't read a skull and compose along with the musical composer as at a grave disadvantage. And of course I always advise dancers to get as much musical training as they can. Does the choreographer compose in a simultaneous law and with the music or in
contrast to it. Do you mean with the composer or with the music. Now I met with the man with the music with the beat of the music does the strong point of that step come down the strong beat of the music friends. Well this is a matter of taste and artistry. And the greatest music musician acknowledged in the field of choreographers is probably George Balanchine and his extraordinary use of music. I have really magical. I think rests partly on the fact that he never does the expected thing. Sometimes he weathers a climax in the music he will narrow it and the gesture and sometimes he will bypass it and reflected back in another way. This is entirely odd. Judah had a tutor who was a master choreographer invented a whole way of doing light. Designs against the musical. And if you understand what I mean it's a kind of a counterpoint visually. But this has to be done with
great subtlety and delicacy. I imagine that otherwise the two laws could simply separate like a separate never come together again. And there are certain elemental things like It's nice to end together. I would imagine so do you actually have the choreographer composer all the suit in the room with you while you choreograph it. Well it depends for what purpose the dance is and who the current composer is. When I worked with Aaron Copeland for instance on Rio de Oro which was my first my first big success in the ballet world I made up a scenario and broke it down into actual minutes. He had typewritten pages in his hand he said I want to know how many minutes you want each episode and the exact qualities you want. And I did that for him. I also had devised some of the movement patterns earlier I've done this before I went to him so that I could say it's this kind of movement and this is the kind of sound I would like to have with it. Thank you
U.S.. He then went away and composed great hunks of it and brought it to me and said Is this fine and I said yes and then he played me I think six weeks later the entire school start to finish and I said divide and fell weeping into his arms with joy and he said that's it honey. Not one bar and I went away with the Ballet Russe and then I changed the Sonata because I didn't see you as I worked on it quite strong enough and I improved it. And at the end the girl got the ball I that we didn't think she would. Instead of the boy I had a regular product again and I said to Aaron she seems fine if she changes her mind an ex-boss of music and he said I'm sorry but it was because it was now on the other hand when I worked with Martin Gould Fall River legend. He kept adjusting and changing. Some composers won't cut a bar no matter what the choreographer want. Because I feel that music is sacrosanct. I feel I'm not really thinking a man and I think dancing does belong in the theatre.
There are different forms of that but I think it does belong there and I know that the great works. Nearly all of them have been collaborative works. Stravinsky you know collaborated with Hakim but I don't think you know the one of the other should be rigid about this. When we worked for the musical comedy thing. There you have to work from the song material and watch you're given when you start a show in the play and some songs and then it's decided between you and the writer and composer which songs shall have dancers attached to them. The choreography as a rule makes that choice. But it is done in in consultation. And then he goes away with the arranger. But that's a range that is that as music arranger and not the original composer very rarely court file did. But he's the only one that ever did that I've read and sit in the room with the composer and I say now this is the kind of movement I would like to work through. And it's generally a woman named Trudy written on who was an absolutely
brilliant person and has done pretty nearly every smash hit that you can name in Broadway. I don't think there's been anything from South Pacific through my fair lady through Brigadoon and wellnigh in them and she's done and she will kind of improvise along with me. And when we get something that we both feel is good rhythmically that's the beginning and I work on the dances and then she works literally shopping spree shopping the musical began Rafiq as we go. Do you compose in your head or all of that fuel where you actually physically test out the movements that you're thinking about growth. I don't have to not speak of my own methods because other people have other methods. I generally approach had any and evaluated as with a central idea of what I want to say and how I feel maybe how I feel. And then you get. If it's a formal dance you get your atmosphere and general pattern you get those ideas
first. If it is story dance you get. Sequence of events and the characters ation. Then I have to find what I call the idiom of expression. And this is not thought through. This is discovered and is discovered through movement and it may take me a very long time. I get personally dramatic episodes and gestures acting gestures that reveal cop character are quite easy and instinctive on me but the dance gestures the style I just just that reveal emotion. Hard to come by and I really have to work a lot of time you get yourself a lot of work into a sweat literally. And spiritual about when you have stopped thinking and I don't mean that and I mean trivial silence when you have reached any add depth of consciousness which is beneath. The editing part of the brain. You will come up with something that you didn't know you had all that you didn't know you remembered and it will speak to everybody. The dance of the
fire that is of a thought out through the top of the head. Then when I have those gestures then I can sit down and make a dance up on a piece of paper. Now it may not always work because when Mr. Copeland composes for the piano he has a scale and it never changes and the piano keys sound like the piano keys they don't suddenly sound like they struck him. But if I take a dance of Sam working for a man and say these are the gestures and I show him. Of course the thing has to be totally transformed into his body. He's a man and not a woman. He's six feet something and weighs so much more. He also has his entire way of moving at each human being is unique. Do you compose for a solo and a group at the same time. Do you have many figures around the stage in your head when you're doing the initial work. Oh yes oh yes. That as I say if I have the clue. The nucleus of the pattern. Ingestion. And put
proven on another body so that I can see and I take advantage of that and I was me well and I can work with comfortably and try things out and I say that's wonderful. It will probably modify in the course of a couple of hours of work. They were modified and classified and then with that in mind I can compose a round sometimes I do the whole pattern first of the of the the group and I don't the solos and sometimes I begin with the sellers not on the group. It depends on the different different methods in the same dance is the difference between lyrical expression as to composition and dramatic. A question of temperament. You you mentioned before that I don't know I think it's just the different I mean does Copeland a composer or a player. Dramatic layoff that's not a very good simile. It's like writing a letter telling parliament an opera. It's not temperament it's if you're working for a different style it's not your money. Yes it is I wondered whether I think that
your dad has a very well known for their characterization friend so that's I think my chief gift I used as long as line of the Guild said you use personalities like color on a pallet. And when I go into a show I hire the dancers and promise them nothing that is understood if they I've known dances with reputations I also promise them that they can leave if they don't like what I give them after two weeks. But that they are and that's the way I've made discoveries. Just on the rehearsal floor if I see a girl with a lovely quality I actually build that into the dance. So that actually there is a two way response between you and peace in creation. Oh yes and the dancers are very largely responsible for the creative effort because a lot comes out of them back you sing changing and modifying and things. Acting above all suggesting you mentioned who are with children the rhythm was an important factor in your collaboration with the composer. Would you say that this is the governing communication between you and the music.
No I don't think so. I've been told by my hand as to range I try to read and that I get most of my ideas on a melody. I wasn't aware of this until she did say so but she's worked with me for so many as I think she must know I am terribly moved by melody and changes the key have power in effect. I have Jerome Robbins works with a rhythm apparently once he gets a hold of a rhythm. It absolutely possesses him and he can spin out of his own body a great deal of most beautiful movement pattern and then the composer catches up at the other end. Both process and costs are extremely important. Do you find the story Leon that he was speaking about before is ever derives from actual stories that you have read or legends or events or is yes sometimes I make them up but very often I won the ballet. Lizzie Borden was just taken straight from the border because we changed a lot. They have to be
changed they have to be transformed so that they make dance material. You take the inner emotional batters out that's what you try to do. Is that true also a gesture that's adopted for instance in something like today oh the Western feeling if you get is a question of of adapting. Well yes this is a very interesting field. How far can you change and distort it. I think you have to first try to understand the kind of people the produce the gesture and the circumstances under which it was produced and never violate that you can have people jumping very high whether they are not able to because they're not trying to. But if they would like to jump high then I think that's a legitimate. Never did take you cannot have a nice girl who's gone to a party with her best boy stand on her head and because she would be sent home and he wouldn't like her anymore. And that's when I think you are really violating the principles and then there are styles you can't suddenly have it. A girl of English extraction go
into a series of steps that come from the Congo off from the Indian rituals. Even even if her mother had arrived. This is a matter of really delicate taste. Do you think that there is a lying word that is almost the same as as an order to live with the various thoughts the country related people's movement. A Well this is very interesting gesture goes way back. And the most common gestures like nodding and shaking the head or shaking hands or signing the nose. Ah beyond history and with the earliest cave paintings and even marks on the pyramids we know that those gestures existed and they are common to every race everywhere in the whole world as far as we can tell. So that is an extremely interesting point. There are certain races that have variants of these gestures. The Italians use a hand and special ways all the Latin people trust certain to dress just as a way of shaking the hand of the risk as though something had gotten too hot for handling which anyone who's traveled in Spain are or Italy will
recognize immediately. I know I know Saxon uses it but at the same time we know what it means when we say it. Do you think that modern jazz owes a great deal to the expression used to use hearing to Duncan to Dungavel will use that stems its direct line and she was the great revolutionist she it wasn't just taking the ballet shoes off and hanging about as gets off that it was just the peripheral indication of what she did she what she said was remember why men dads remember what they danced about and it was the most profound reasons in life and they had been dancing for those reasons I'd been that thing for the most leopard and delicious mind you and and pretty. But look around and casual and attainment. And she reminded them that they danced for life and death in the worship of God and your mind of them very strongly. And after that. There was an enormous change not just in dancing but in the whole approach to the art and of the art of the
theatre because she was so involved in it and people began remembering that in the old Greek days the dramas were ritualistic. They were expressions of faith between the artist's hat and the people who went to see them and that they expected to have their lives in a novel by this experience that was I'm not cyanotic and particularly in America which is very Calvinistic read that thing had been considered absolutely unforgivable that any person brought up in the care of God and just as any person who had made it a career was an outcast socially. Those are facts not all of this is changed do you think that a ritual quality that you spoke of before has anything to do with the role of male in America that is as the day that it's lost its its dramatic or dynamic relation to the society the male dads are no longer at a function and
the Christian Church through dancing out and it never developed the Christian Church used music and architecture and painting and developed into the forms that we now know of them. For instance it was the monasteries that invented musical script. I took 500 years to do that. And that tremendous gift to our civilization. That means that if you were a man of great powers you will write books so you will write music but you won't write dancing because it's gone tomorrow. What advice would you give a young choreographer starting out with mention that there are no schools actually to go to and he doesn't have scripts or texts to refer to or past dances well is a very hard row to hoe. But I would say the first thing he must do is to try and you must try with people so that if he's in school or college he was tried there with whatever people he can get his hands on to come into a Roman and be patient. Then he must see whatever good dancing he can. There are many companies now
travelling round and on TV and pictures and so forth and he's discriminating he can see a lot of very good dancing. The best thing for him to do though. I believe absolutely in the apprentice system and I think you should attach himself to any group he can where there's a first class choreographer with you and watch the process of the work and prefer the professional bonuses. Get in there as a dancer somehow. And watch and participate. You'll learn more than any other way. Do you think a choreographer for instance needs a liberal arts education or a college education even to do you think that it would be better for them to start dancing right away. I think that a college education helps a choreographer. But there are only two in the world that I know of that have it and. There just isn't time. That's all there is to it. And that just can't happen. Renaissance of dance in America you think is partly due to the musical comedy giving dad
was a living wage in another. That's partly Carrie because she's not a know it all the basic thing is as I say that the social taboo has been lifted. But it's time for people to die and I think these things happen but this is a type of gesture and movement and in every field you feel this power that has to do also I think with the resurgence of women as creative artists and in our business fields and fields of ambition an endeavor for the first time there's really almost no or very little restraint put upon them. And I'd sing is their most beloved function I think it's very basically could sting to them. What do you think that women can do. You mention the fact is you do make create curry out of us and that is that is I don't think they make the best but they make the most daring. And that is a function they make wonderful doctors. Then they can run the full
set psychologist. They make great teachers and scientists research scientists wherever patience and continuity play a part. Well they have been always great novelists because they're good storytellers. Another has been a lyric poet on a par with a great man. Another has been a painter but as far as I know there's never been a great woman architect of any kind on any part. I think that's because no man would lay a brick. She asked him to name being great visionaries and when I say poets in a sense Joan of Arc and Santa Teresa and self all well visionary poets and I think if women are expected to do what they can do that is meaningful and effective. And not compete with me and compete with every possible expectation of falling short of the ridiculous go you know you see something happen. It's like having women go in for high jumping. Why.
I don't see why men do either because exams go higher than any other hundred yard dash all you need is a good cheese and that's it. That's pretty one that if you ask people to do with what they are then Nature can do best. And then honestly I think you'll get great craic. I've noticed the M.. The choreographer has created our conversation number three in a series exploring the creative process as it pertains to the American artist and scientist in the 20th century. Host for the creative mind Lyman Bryson producer for the series Jacques de Summerfield with William cavernous and Niger Eisenberg as production associates next week. Harlow Shapley the theoretical scientist as creator. The creative mind is produced and recorded by WGBH our family in Boston for the National Association of educational broadcasters under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. This program was distributed by the
Creative mind
The choreographer as creator
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-9z90dg99).
Episode Description
This program features Agnes de Mille speaking on creativity and choreography.
Series Description
This series, hosted by Lyman Bryson, presents radio essays about the creative process for the American artist and scientist in the 20th century.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Guest: De Mille, Agnes
Host: Bryson, Lyman, 1888-1959
Producer: Summerfield, Jack D.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-44-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:24
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Creative mind; The choreographer as creator,” 1964-03-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 4, 2023,
MLA: “Creative mind; The choreographer as creator.” 1964-03-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 4, 2023. <>.
APA: Creative mind; The choreographer as creator. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from