I started choreographing in 5th grade because I was a fierce micromanager. Instead of playing four square at recess, I urged my classmates to “get down” to “Rock Steady” or Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” (one of my first pas de deuxs in which I researched contrast and abstraction). I wouldn’t say that I was bossy, per se. It was more that my brain worked like a multitasking 8-track tape player and it needed to be filled with individualized information of dance and movement. Now, I was no Rudolf von Laban, but I soon developed my own dance notation system because I needed to know what each dancer was performing in addition to each of her/his quality, timing and location. I was able to envision simultaneous dances and standpoints as if I was in more than one place at one time.
Today, this comes in handy when choreographing and working with dancers – especially when partnering. In fact, the work that I will present in March contains a good amount of partnering work. What is most important to me is to be able to know and feel what another dancer is doing to ensure choreographic success. Partnering is about relationships. It is about seeing and feeling each other and being present and sacrificing and taking time and deep listening and complete and utter understanding.
My advice to dancers and emerging choreographers who engage partnering work:
• In my estimation, simplicity is best.
• Find your creative voice! Only you sound like you.
• Know your choreography like it’s the back (and front) of your hand and be ready to make any changes, as needed. You never know what will happen!
• Edit, edit, edit! How many “adjectives” (for me, “adjectives” are the tonal colors of movement) are needed to convey a thought?
• Have showings of your work before final presentations.
• Be open to feedback and use it to your advantage.
• Be thoughtful, loving and smile in your dancers’ directions.
• Come prepared to rehearsals and be open to the creative process.
• Get professional recordings of your work for dissemination.
A little about Adam…
Adam W. McKinney is a former member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Béjart Ballet Lausanne, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet Company. He has led dance work with diverse populations across the U.S. and in Canada, England, Ghana, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Palestine, Serbia, Spain and South Africa.
With his work heavily steeped in social justice, site-specific performance and blurring the lines between temporality and place, McKinney served as a U.S. Embassy Culture Connect Envoy to South Africa through the U.S. State Department in 2006 to bring dance performance to communities in Johannesburg, Capetown and Pretoria. He co-choreographed Pretending to Be Something, Now Coming From Nothing with Aghulas Theatre Works (Kiltown and Johannesburg), a mixed abilities dance company.
McKinney is the recipient of the Jerome Foundation’s Travel and Study Grant for Emerging Choreographers with which he traveled to Israel to research the effects of borders on communities, to work with Beta Dance Group, an Ethiopian-Israeli Contemporary Dance Company and to create dances with young men who were maimed in the attack on Bar Noar (2009).
McKinney is a member of the inaugural cohort of School of American Ballet’s National Visiting Teacher Fellowship, an opportunity for teachers to study, teach and engage in conversations about diversity in Classical Ballet. Named one of the most influential African Americans in Milwaukee, WI by St. Vincent DePaul, McKinney is the Co-Director of DNAWORKS, an arts and service organization committed to healing through the arts and dialogue (www.dnaworks.org). DNAWORKS currently tours HaMapah/The Map, a dance theater work in which McKinney traces his lineages of African Native and Jewish American ancestries and histories.
He is the recipient of a National Artist Teacher Fellowship, whereby McKinney traveled to the U.S./Mexico border to create a series of dance events and performances that confront border and immigration issues, researching the histories and effects of borders, how they are constructed, who profits, who suffers and why.
He holds a BFA in Dance Performance with high honors from Butler University and an MA in Dance Studies with concentrations in Race and Trauma theories from NYU-Gallatin for which he received the President’s Service Award. His Master’s work looked at the use of dance to combat the effects of transgenerational trauma in relation to racism, slavery and drug use in New York City.
He is currently in his first year as an Assistant Professor of Dance at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. McKinney was the inaugural Chair of the Dance Department at New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe for six years during which time he was a member of the first cohort of LEAD:NM, an educational fellowship for teachers and leaders of color who think about and create change through charter school education in New Mexico. He is the author of Dance and Social Justice on HowlRound.com.
We hope you enjoyed reading a little about Adam’s unique voice and interesting story! We are very excited to present his new work in our 2016-17 Performance Series at the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech on March 24th and 25th!
Buy your tickets here!
As always, we want YOU to join the conversation! Comment, share, and subscribe! What is your first memory of choreographing? How do you approach partner work? How do you notate choreography? Thanks for reading!