Ursula: How I Like to Choreograph

Ursula Perry shares her views on choreography, a little insight into her piece Femme from EMERGE 2019 and lesson based of her work.

Femme by Ursula Perry

I try to be the most authentic I can be while creating. I truly believe it is a gift to be able to do what I do and I feel the only way to honor that is to be honest. Honest with myself. With the dancers I have chosen. Most importantly with whatever the intention or the story I am trying to create. By doing so, it helps me stay focused and not deviate from the task at hand.

That being said, I also try not to take the process so seriously. Yes, the products end result is important to me. I want a polished mood to be set. The story can be vague to the eye, but what is imperative is that anyone who watches feel something. A laugh, a cry, anything… just something!

I’m Ok, I Am Okay… I’m Still Here by Ursula Perry

To generate movement, I typically go to writing or print for inspiration. If there is a sentence that stands out from my journal writing, or photo that speaks to me I like to figure out how to convey that through movement. I then generate as much movement as possible, and move on to the next photo or writing I have for inspiration and repeat. After I feel enough movement has been generated, I begin to cut and paste. Some things go well into others and sometimes the beginning you thought would work is better as an ending. I also like to take into account what feels easeful to the dancer performing the work. If one thing does not feel right in the body, or flow from one movement to the next I try to work out something that feels more cohesive for the dancer and the specific work.

The choreographic process is unique to each individual creator. I think what is most important is that you keep trying. The more you do it the more clear your own process becomes.

Lesson Plan

For my most recent Emerge piece “Femme”, I really wanted to focus on the power of female relationships, and all of the positive ways they have impacted my life and growth in the last few years. It was important to me that the audience saw strength, care, and compassion through our movement on stage.

For this lesson, I would like to explore conversation through movement improvisation.

Each person should think of a story. It could be a simple one:

  • What you did when you woke up this morning 
  • What you saw on a walk you took
  • How you went from the kitchen to the back yard and what you do to navigate

Have each student start very literal (i.e. mime walk, or act out picking something up). Then have them take each movement into a more full body representation of their given story. After that is complete, then have them abstract each of those enlarged movements. By this time they will have filtered the frivolous movement and got into the depth of what they are creating. Have them solidify phrase. Once it is clear, pair them up. Each partner should create a dialogue by doing their phrase, and finding moments that are best to pause so that the other can “speak” with their movement. You could also have them play with space, time, and different energy qualities.

Feel free to share these videos, embed them for your students, or link to this page. New online educational resources are being developed every day. If you have suggestions for what you’d like to see let us know: rdt@rdtutah.org.

Ursula Perry was born in Houston, Texas where she began her training at the Houston Ballet Academy. Since then she has studied under various schools including those at the Boston Ballet, Joffery Ballet, Alvin Ailey, and the Edge Performing Arts Center. She then made the journey to Utah and attended the University of Utah’s Ballet Department. Since graduation, she has performed with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, Prism Dance Theatre, and River North. Since her return to Salt Lake she is proud to have performed with RawMoves, Movement Forum, and Influx Dance. Ursula also peformed as a guest dancer in RDT’s April 2013 show, Women of Valor…In the Spirit of Service.

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