What is Mise en Dance?
Continuing the culinary theme of Small Plates, I borrowed from the term mise en place, which means to put in place or to set up. More plainly, when cooking, mise en place is getting everything cleaned, chopped, measured, and ready to cook. Mise en Dance is a made-up, fanciful way to say preparation to dance – or in other words, to choreograph.
At the Small Plates concerts, we see a little bit of work from each artist, and afterward we do our best to pick the audience’s brains about what they saw and how they felt, or what they thought about the dances. I have been trying really hard to get into the audience members’ heads for their feedback by using paper surveys, and anonymous online surveys, and just point blank putting them on the spot. What these surveys and Q&A sessions taught me was that choreographers like to talk about dance, but non-dancing audience members… it takes a little coaxing.
But, why? Maybe the act of commenting on dance is intimidating for non-dancers, as modern dance can be a little bit abstract and vague. A common criticism of modern dance work is “I don’t get it!” But all modern dance choreographers want to speak through their work to everyone, not just other dancers and choreographers. While most choreographers don’t want to tell the audience what to think, all choreographers want to know how their work affects those who see it. But it seems clear through the feedback experiences at Small Plates that there is a huge gap in the feedback loop. Choreographers want to know how their messages land, but audiences seem shy and humble about commenting on their experience of modern dance. Despite the fact that the best questions come from our non-dancing audience members, they somehow don’t seem to feel qualified to give an opinion.
What to do?
Part of the purpose of Mise en Dance is to de-mystify the choreographic process, and to allow the audience into the studio. Not only are we opening the rehearsal doors, but we want to open the dialogue, and even see what regular people, that’t right – you our audience, might do if you had the ability to influence the choreography. Maybe by opening the rehearsal doors, we will find audiences eager to come back to the Small Plates Choreography Festival concert and and see how the work turns out. Perhaps we will embolden non-dancer audience members with the confidence to openly speak to the artists about how the work affects them.
Mise en Dance will be led by Beth Elliott, who will be choreographing a piece using a codified process that she developed called Mosaic. Local artists – dancers and choreographers – will be collaborating on the work. All of your questions about the art of choreography will be answered!