Online Programming Field Notes:
ECD Choreography with Scott Higgs

By Wendy Clarke

Scott HiggsScott Higgs. Photo by Carrie Rose.During the pandemic, like many organizations, CDSS stepped into the world of online programming to support continued connectivity and engagement in our community. Shortly after starting as the Director of Programs, Joanna Reiner Wilkinson requested ideas for online classes that would augment or take the place of camps over the summer. I proposed the idea of a choreography course and worked with Joanna to make it happen this past August. Master caller and choreographer Scott Higgs was the perfect choice to lead this three week online class focusing on ECD choreography.

ECD Choreography was open to 12 people and met on three consecutive Saturdays for two hours each day. Class members ranged from experienced choreographers who wanted to expand their knowledge and collaborate with others to beginners with little experience writing a dance, with all levels in between.

Scott’s curriculum focused on giving participants time to create and road-test choreographies, augmented by hand-outs on what makes a good dance. Knowing that every choreographer works differently, Scott invited guest speakers Gary Roodman, Jenny Beer, and Jenna Simpson to share their experience, joy, and wisdom as choreographers and to answer questions posed by the class.

Vicki Swan and Jonny DyerVicki Swan & Jonny Dyer. Photo by Lucy Lawson.Part of each session consisted of a group effort to create a dance from one piece of music. In the contemporary English dance world, each dance is often tied to its own tune. UK-based musicians Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, who are two of the Purcell’s Polyphonic Party trio and regular musicians for the Atlanta ECD and Symmetry Zoom dances, graciously provided seven original tunes for the class to work with, each in its own mood and meter. The goal of this group project was not necessarily to create a finished product, but to highlight how music drives movement and how a dance often needs several iterations, time to marinate, and actual bodies to dance the figures and transitions before a choreographer can declare it ready for primetime.

In conversation after the final class and on their evaluations, participants shared that they would have loved for the class to last another three weeks!

Here is one of the original tunes provided by Jonny and Vicki for the workshop.

This tune is one of seven written for Scott Higgs’s ECD choreography course by UK musicians Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer. The tune’s name refers to a common peril of Zoom dancing!

Hear Vicki and Jonny play this tune and download a full-size PDF.

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