Lila - A Choreographer's Divine Play

“There is an old Sanskirt word, lila, which means play.  Richer than our word, it means divine play, the play of creation, destruction, and re-creation, the folding and unfolding of the cosmos. Lila, free and deep, is both the delight and enjoyment of this moment, and the play of God.”

-Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play

There is no statement that better defines what we as choreographers get to do.  We get to PLAY! And through that we get to be imaginative and create.  When we don’t like something, we get to destroy it then try again. But the sole act of choreography is DIVINE PLAY, lila.

The beautiful thing is that there is no right or wrong when creating. You, as the creator, get to call the shots as to what you include and what you don’t.  

But sometimes we get so wrapped up in our mind that we forget the root of why we choreograph- to play. To think creatively and imaginatively. To develop new ideas and concepts and to tell and re-create stories through movement. 

How can we get out of our own head and start to have fun with the creation process?

 I have put together a list of five choreographic elements that can help you start thinking outside the box and allow you to begin playing with your creation.

First, I want to you to develop a phrase (or take one you’ve used before). 

phrase is a series of movements that creates a structure similar to a sentence. There is no “length of time” allotted for a phrase, but where movement begins then organically ends. It could be five seconds, thirty seconds, one minute, the choice is yours! 

Once you’ve established your phrase, it’s time to play!  

  1. Play with the tempo:Tempo is the speed of which you are moving. If you’ve been moving fast, try slowing sections of the choreography down.  Or visa versa, if you’ve been moving slow, try speeding certain sections up. 

  2. Play with the direction:Take your phrase and try facing different directions. Just repeating your phrase facing a different angle of the room can create an entirely new element to your piece.

  3.  Play with retrograde:You know how you press rewind on your remote, and everything on the TV starts moving backwards? You can do that with your movement, and it’s called retrograde.  Start at the end of your phrase and begin replaying it backwards!

  4. Play with the levels:  The parts of your phrase where you’re standing, what would those movements look like on the ground?  The parts of your phrase where you’re on the ground, what would those movements look like standing? Try it. 

  5. Play with the dynamic: Qualities of movement dynamic include sustain, suspend, vibrate, swing, collapse, and percussive. Can you incorporate two or three of these into your movement phrase?

These are only a few concepts you can incorporate into your movement phrases that allow you to start playing with your creation. They allow you to think of your movement in ways that you wouldn’t typically, which can lead to a deeper process of your movement innovation.

Enjoy your freedom of creation, your divine play, your lila.

Written by: Kaitlyn Hardiman

Posted on January 7, 2019 .