Flying Foot Forum and thoughts on collaboration


I had a meeting with Joe Chvala, artistic director of Flying Foot Forum on Friday, January 29th. Joe was my tap teacher from 2001-2004 and my director in Fireball. I went into our meeting hoping to persuade Joe to collaborate with me in creating this dancing structure and dance. His answer was surprising, honest, and in the end, a great step forward for me. So what did he say? He told me that he thought he would not be a good collaborator. “As an educator, I want you to make this the best thesis for you.” As a person with a strong creative vision, he knew that stepping back in order to let the project be driven by me would be difficult. I appreciated his clear-eyed view of the potential pitfalls of working together. But this account doesn’t end on a sad note.

The reason I am drawn to Flying Foot Forum’s work is way that Joe’s choreography actively engages with all sorts of props and the way his work engages with the full performance space, not simply the area inhabited by the dancer(s) at a given moment. The nature of Flying Foot Forum’s work is generally quite fantastical and doesn’t initially seem like a good fit for the level of abstraction that seems to be implicit in my thesis proposal. But Joe and I discussed several pieces from the Flying Feet-Percussion Project that seem like they may be a good fit for me to use as inspiration for my project–Flow, Serif and Trines.

It would be great to potentially get Joe and Karla Grotting and Peter O’Gorman, his cohorts from the Percussion Project involved in the final presentation of the project. Perhaps with some gentle persuasion, begging or bribing my reviewers and I could be privileged with an improvisational performance based on pieces from the Percussion Project as part of the final presentation.

Joe also put me in touch with Peter O’Gorman, the percussionist from the Percussion Project. Could the structure become an instrument for someone like Peter to make music upon as well as dance with? Acoustic qualities would become paramount. Oh the possiblities!

Not quite in sequence, but of consequence: scheduling was another issue contributing to Joe declining to be an active collaborator in this project. Several months notice is usually necessary. A similar scheduling question was asked of me by Chris Schlichting and is something to bear strongly in mind in establishing any future collaborative projects.

I am now watching these beautiful pieces on dvd to gather inspiration for the movement of the structure for ways it can complement and embrace these dances. Joe told me that it’s easier to consider my project as riffing on existing pieces rather than as a project requiring new work. This strikes me as completely logical. It also brings me back to Joe’s initial comments about his reservations about collaborating with me on a the project and his desire for this project to be driven by me. I think about this thesis project as being a way to develop skills to put to use again in the future. Will a collaborative relationship with a choreographer give me the freedom necessary to explore? After Chris Schlichting’s gentle warning about the nature of his creative process, I’m beginning to think not. I’d still like to talk with Peter O’Gorman to get his feedback on my proposal and gauge his potential interest in the project. But for now I will embrace work by someone I know and admire to use as a foundation for development of my project.


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