Choreographers handbook︎︎︎
A Choreographers Handbook is a book filled with words of wisdom for art making (not just dance). Here are a few:

  • Useful if you can get it, but working is more useful

  • Work against them to make them conscious
  • Make a piece only with your habits

  • The difference between a repetition that is only filling time and a repetition that resists deliciously our desire for the new, without ever feeling bored or frustrated.
  • The smallest imperfection stands out like a punctuation

  • If I didn’t want to risk everything every time- I would have nothing to risk
  • It’s just a stupid dance
  • What performance changed everything for you and why?


"Our job as choreographers is to stay close enough to what we’re doing to feel it, and at the same time use strategies to distance ourselves enough to grasp momentarily what someone else might perceive."

  • The first thing the audience sees establishes how they read it.
  • Can be broken, which can be a way of communicating
  • You are teaching the language at the same time you are using it

Breaking the Rules:
  • The rules are only useful if they’re working
  • If it’s not working, drop it (on a need to break the rules basis)

  • It’s nice when people of a theoretical mind are interested in what we do. It blesses us with a different perspective, which carries a seductive sense of validation, that the mess we create can be grasped by a logical mind
  • The mess is also quite seductive

  • When you allow yourself to make a discovery, then there is something there for your audience to discover
  • When you try to agree too much with your collaborators, then there’s nothing new to discover, for you or the audience
  • Talking is only one way to collaborate
  • Talking shouldn’t become an easy escape from the frustrations which might eventually lead you somewhere

  • You can’t make a piece by trying to be original
  • What is going on around you? What is the historical context in which you jump? Can you know this and still work?
  • History is looking over your shoulder
  • Is there something you haven’t done you want to do?
  • Sometimes the thing we need is so close to us that we can’t see it, so we undervalue what we know, in favor of what we don’t know
  • Why you started doing this in the first place…maybe that has been buried under other people’s classes and performances
  • Contemporary performance has to establish its conventions and then stretch them. This is connected to the way in which creativity is seen as something which must involve a breach or transgression.
  • Burrows: the function of an artist is to evoke the experience of surprised recognition.
  • The challenge to subvert can be too strong, before something has a chance to reveal itself

  • What if there was nothing to improve?
  • How do you want to move?
  • The aesthetic agenda held within our bodies from a lifetime of training create perimeters that both enable and limit our ability to imagine what might also be possible; how might we hold onto these physical blessings, whilst liberating ourselves from the boundaries they sometimes set to our imagination?
  • It will do its job weather you focus on it or not
  • The audience enjoys skill, but anybody doing what they want to do, and doing it well, appears skillful

  • Squeezing movement into the wrong time frame can be quite gripping. The dancer is engaged in the attempt to negotiate the conundrum, and because they are engaged, the audience is also engaged.
  • It’s just a way to wake things up
  • The dance that goes all speeds is unpredictable; this then becomes predictable
  • Audiences like change
  • The tendency to dance without a beat (which led contemporary dance to establish itself as an art form) leads to longer works than can be sustained by a short dance form.

  • It’s often the attempt to so what you’re doing which makes us intrigued
  • As long as they know that you know you’re failing, if you’re uncomfortable about it they will feel uncomfortable        
  • Accepting self consciousness

︎︎︎from A Choreographers Handbook by Johnathan Burrows