Choreographers & Composers
There have been many choreographer and composer collaborative projects throughout history; most notable are the collaborations of Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) and John Cage (1912-1992), and that of George Balanchine (1904-1983) and Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). Each was innovative and progressive in their particular fields, creating a vast body of work. Both duos have been renowned by critics and historians alike, but the process they used was different based on the relationship projected between the music and the movement.
Cunningham and Cage used chance methods to fit into their theory that dance and music may be presented at the same time in the same space without having any relationship to one another. In contrast, Balanchine and Stravinsky believed that the choreographer must have extensive understanding of the music and should work to create a piece in which the elements of music and dance are related such that the parts together create a work more expressive than if one piece were missing. Clearly much has been written on each of their processes, but who besides dance critics has looked to see if the relationship defined by the process is apparent to the audience viewing the work? Our interest was to model two separate pieces, one based on the Cunningham-Cage theory of no relationship (other than the length of time), and the other on the Balanchine-Stravinsky model of complete collaboration, and then survey the audience to see how the process behind the product actually registers, and if the audience would even recognize a difference in what is presented. Although many critics have commented on both of the pairs’ works, no one has yet made an extensive study of how the audience views the relationship between music and dance, of if the process behind each performance is relevant to what the audience sees and hears.
By utilizing elements from the Cage-Cunningham and Balanchine-Stravinsky collaborative relationships, we were able to create a choreographic study that will be reviewed by an audience to answer these questions regarding the process being read in a product, how important musical relationship is to dance, which process is more effective for dancer retention, and overall which method is more interesting and beneficial for an audience. The next blog will discuss the methodology we used to set up this study, the context of the dance work created, and the hypothesis for the experiment.