Jennifer Jackson is a lecturer at Surrey University and teaches choreography at the Royal Ballet School. She is a former dancer with the Royal and Salders Wells Royal Ballet, and co-founder of the Ballet Independents Group (BIG). Her choreography includes commissioned work for ballet companies, fringe theatre, and vocational students, including In the Reveal (2007) and Retrieving the Sylph (2005).
In this paper I discuss the development of compositional methods in ballet and draw on my research into choreographic processes that have focussed on somatic awareness of ballet principles and their pedagogic underpinnings. Both Balanchine and Bournonville’s legacies offer compelling evidence of the symbiotic relationship between the development of academic and choreographic form in ballet (Crow/Jackson 2007). Sylvie Fortin (2003) contends that cross fertilisation between somatic and dance practice fosters individual creativity. Arguably ballet, which is defined by robust repertoire and principles, offers an apt model for investigating a choreographic pedagogy that also accounts for the somatic experience of the dancer. In the discussion, I use the example of a ‘shared’ solo from my recent choreography In the Reveal (2007) to consider the layering of personal and shared histories, multiple authorship and the somatic challenge to traditional methods of ballet creation. I reflect on a parallel approach in my teaching that draws principles of ballet spatial grammar, which I have conceptualised as frameworks for exploration of movement and expression. The ‘first person’ dimension and focus on principles shifts the emphasis in choreographic exploration away from the plastique or ‘what the body can do’, towards an inter-relational construct of the dancing as flow between sites of knowledge. The paper moves towards articulating the compositional methodologies emerging from the dancer’s personal dialogue with ‘objective’ ballet texts.