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Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
The seriously imaginative business of choreography
Animated, Winter 1999. How can the subtle process of coordinating the intimate delicacy of space between dancers be made explicit and offered to the wider echelons of business and industry? Kate Flatt explains
I have recently heard the word choreography used by a journalist in relation to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. It was not in connection with what they might or might not have been doing in the Oval office but referred instead to the awe inspiring manipulation undertaken by Kenneth Starr and his supporting network. If the media can use the word choreography to describe Starr's surreptitious engineering feats and the power shifts they have caused, then it is time to recognise that the rest of the world has caught up with the choreographer's true operating potential. Until recently, I have often felt despair at the popular media image of the choreographer, which seemed to have not got beyond the pantomime personality who wears a medallion, or the woman from Fame whose main activity is to count 'straight eights' loudly. Instead, in a range of non-danced meetings, contributions in the form of flexible inversions, extensions, and lateral leaps of thinking often come, though not exclusively, from the choreographers present. I also find myself choreographing areas of work or life unrelated to dance, using tools that are sharpened and maintained in the dance studio.

So what are these choreographic abilities? I have heard writer Tom Paulin refer to research as "having an idea and seeing it through" (1). Choreographic practice is a form of ongoing research, with imagination as the primary tool. Choreographers can initiate an idea, nurture, research, coordinate, develop and realise it, without a prescription for the final outcome. As they invent and map out dance material, grapple with ways to articulate form in the territory of feeling, a host of flexible thinking skills are utilised. Imaginative systems of organisation are applied to fleeting passages of time and space called movement, and conduits emerge for this fluid and living material called dance. The choreographer's ability to produce feeling response and physical empathy through their work, need no longer be perceived as only mystical or intuitive. Choreographers are consciously pragmatic in editing, shaping, cutting and pasting, often against the clock. Tomorrow they could casually start to reshape the rhythm of yesterday's material, find a new area of movement investigation and then decide in a flash that it would be better done by two in the down left corner. Could this subtle process of coordinating the intimate delicacy of space between dancers be made explicit and offered to those who manage, control or direct work forces in business and industry?

Choreographers do not belong to an exclusive artistic club and have much to offer other worlds of work. They do not, like Starr, indulge in covert manipulation, but they could be as brazenly confident in recognising the value of the remarkable skills they possess. The time is ripe for choreographers to become more articulate and actively promote their working practices in a wider arena. It would appear that the world of business is more than ready for its workforce to operate like choreographers. There is a need expressed by the business community for engagement with imagination and feeling. The leaps of thinking possessed by choreographers bring flexibility that can aid the process of mapping out uncharted waters in both business and industry. For choreographers, the new challenge is to choreograph experiences for the business community which inform, liberate and enlighten, without dismantling or over simplifying the artform. And no one knows how that could end.

Kate Flatt, Freelance Choreographer.

1 Paulin, Tom, The Late Review, BBC2, 1997.

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001