A few weeks ago, I began setting a new work on Cambridge Dance Company. It’s an ambitious piece from both a technical and physical standpoint, and the dancers are rising to every challenge I put forth. While I have always enjoyed choreographing, I was struck by how satisfying this process has been compared to some of my other experiences. Over the past several years, I’ve worked with dozens of talented and passionate dancers. The ideas, vision, rehearsal space, costumes, and performance venues were all at my fingertips – a cornucopia of resources. What, then, was lacking? An analyst to the core, I noodled the situation, trying to sift out the vital ingredients of the choreographic process. And much to my surprise, cookies came to mind.
I wholly admit that what I know about baking can fit in a teaspoon, but I do believe that sometimes the key to the perfect chocolate chip cookie lies in how it is made as much as the ingredients used. Maybe the first time you follow the recipe on the back of the Nestlé Toll House package to a T, and the cookies are pretty darn tasty. Next, you try melting the butter, and your taste buds dance like teenie boppers at a One Direction concert. Over time, notes are scrawled in the margins and asterisks lead to handwritten footnotes with reminders, transforming the recipe card into a veritable treasure map to your chocolate chunk paradise.
“Over time” is the operative phrase. For me, satisfaction with the choreographic process and creating a final product equivalent to cookie nirvana are inextricably linked to giving the creative process enough time. Time to let the process and the piece unfold in their own manner, however illogical, unruly or nonlinear they may be. Time to set the movement. Let the dancers digest it. And then more time to experiment. Even if the piece came out “pretty darn tasty” on the first shot, who’s to say that a canon or shift in formation won’t melt in your mouth like gooey studs of chocolate?
Given that these days we are often overscheduled, overcommitted and overworked, I’m sure there will be occasions when I create a dance that I find a little half baked. In the meantime, I will be grateful to have a piece that, like a home baked cookie, is a true reflection of the love and care that inspired it.