What is a ‘visible choreographer’ and why does visibility matter?

Having been selected during my dance training as a student with ‘talent’ for choreography I placed myself in these shoes and abandoned the idea of following the route as a performer. Once I left college I followed the pathway of creating work and directing other dancers, developing further my choreographic and leadership skills and enabling my ideas to become embodied and performed. My place was now in the studio, being involved in the creative process in collaboration with the dancers but not on stage.

Sociologically speaking this means that in the studio the choreographer, or I, and the dancers become a social system where the dancers form a community and respond to conditions of authority. Martin explains, whilst the creative process progresses a shift happens from the choreographer’s ideas being embodied by the dancers with external impulses becoming internalized, concluding with

the dancers [shifting] from input to output (Martin, 1985, p.16)

For the choreographer this means a transition of loosing control and becoming less ‘visible’ as the work gets closer to the performance. The authority shifts from choreographer to dancers and whilst the choreographer is still visible in the choreographic structure of the work, the dancers bring the work alive, revealing themselves in the work. Once the performance starts

the choreographer’s loss is almost as sudden as the audience’s surprise
(Martin, 1985, p.17)


Different conflicts arise in these situations for me:

  • Is my ‘choreographic signature’, as Melrose explains (Melrose, 2006), enough to be present in the work? And is the ‘choreographic signature’ human enough?
  • Why does choreographing mean not being visible in the performance event? Can I be present as the choreographer (instead of dancing in my choreography)?
  • Would this finally allow me wearing different pairs of shoes at the same time? And no either or?


Terlingo states, in order to prevent a state of ‘structural looping’ or ‘unresponsive stasis’ we need to find

a new form of applied choreography that reveals the continuity between thoughts, our actions and the world around us: a choreography of changes (Terlingo, 2008, p.17).

The ‘visible choreographer’ applies exactly what Terlingo suggests by including the choreographer in the performance event and by making these connections clear and visible. I, as the ‘visible choreographer’, play an active part in the performance event, allowing the process of continuity to unfold between my thoughts and actions in response to the performance process and its setting – the dancers, the audience and the performance space.

Choreography becomes then, as Terlingo calls it, ‘a choreography of changes’ – playing an active part in the performance event makes new shifts possible, makes changes visible. The shift of authority (Martin) can now move in both directions and by working with improvisation it allows the social dynamics to constantly change – a state of flux between input and output. Furthermore, like the dancers I can reveal myself in the work and do not separate myself from my ‘choreographer-self’, my ‘fully’ self becomes visible – or as Klien states it:

A work practice that allows me to be human (Klien, 2008, p. 13).


Key points are:

  • Authority
  • Humanity
  • State of flux
  • Choreography as a social system
  • Challenging hierarchies


Klien describes choreography as a

dynamic constellation of any kind, consciously created or not, self-organized or super-imposed. [Choreography is an] order observed, an exchange of forces; a process that has an observable or observed embodied order.  [To choreograph therefore means to] recognize such an order, [which makes choreography an] act of interfering with or negotiating such an order (Klien, 2008, p. 1).

The ‘visible choreographer’ makes the order transparent, plays with different dynamic constellations and the shift between super-imposed and self-organized material. The layer of observation becomes visible and embodied by the audience witnessing the choreographer observing the performance process, interfering, directing and manipulating its progression.


The visible choreographer becomes:

  • A narrator,
  • An explorer,
  • An observer, manipulator, interpreter and mediator (Lehmen, 2004)

To be continued.



KLIEN, M. 2008. Framemakers, choreography as an aesthetics of change. Limerick: Daghdha Dance Company Ltd

MARTIN, R. 1992. ‘Dance as a Social Movement’. Writings on Dance: Living Dancing (8), pp. 8-21

LEHMEN, T. 2004. Funktionen. [online]. [12.07. 2010]. Available from: http://www.thomaslehmen.de/seiten/e/07_funktionen.htm

MELROSE, S. 2006. The body” in question: expert performance-making in the university and the problem of spectatorship. [online]. [28.05.2011]. Available from: http://www.eis.mdx.ac.uk/staffpages/satinder/Melroseseminar6April.pdf

TERLINGO, D. 2008. The choreography of changes. In: M. Klien, ed. Framemakers, choreography as an aesthetics of change. Limerick: Daghdha Dance Company Ltd, pp. 16-17


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