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Windswept choreographer journal – going back to basics for inspiration

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Going back to basics to find inspiration

by Jo McDonald

All my life, music and dance have competed for my attention.  I cannot tell which one I love the most.  Do you feel the same?

A postmodern influence on contemporary dance was to separate the music and the dance. Choreographers sought to create dance without music, or at least, to not use music as the primary impetus for the movement.

As I was learning to become a choreographer, I was keen to learn about these non-music motivated tools for dance creation. I would say I almost eschewed ‘just’ choreographing to music.

But then, I lost confidence. I had come to see the need for dance to be concept driven. But while I came up with interesting concepts, I struggled to express those ideas in dance.  I lost interest, enthusiasm and self-belief.

As a result, I didn’t choreography for six years. Instead, I focused on teaching.  But then an inkling of a desire to choreograph again sparked inside me.  And it grew.  And I realised I didn’t need to express concepts and complex ideas or issues through dance.

It was possible to just create movement for no reason other than to enjoy the way it felt, and the way it looked.  I realised dance for dance’s sake, inspired by music I loved, was perfectly valid.

And that is where Windswept arose.  Windswept is the title of the dance I have choreographed for the 2021 Adelaide Fringe Festival, with a company of 18 wonderful dancers and human beings.  A company diverse in age, shape, size, and dance experience.

Windswept isn’t a concept for the piece.  It is a word I like, a word that for me suggests the way dance makes you feel – swept up in the joy of it, the love of it.  And the dances I’ve created are inspired by music from three musical artists who I love. Frederick Chopin, Nina Simone, and Beth Hart, who are all linked by their pianos, their creativity, and the struggles of their lives.

The movement is created in response to how the music made me want to move, or to represent what I heard in the music.

Just as I’ve intertwined music composed or performed by the three piano players, I have blended the dance styles my body knows – contemporary, ballet, jazz, and Flamenco (although I’m still a beginner at the latter).

My intention with Windswept is to treat the audience to two things.  A soundtrack that may move them, or make them want to move.  And beautiful, entrancing, mesmerizing, dance movement, that is simply a pleasure to watch.  No need to work out the meaning of the dance.  It is just there to be enjoyed.


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