DANCE ‣ Choreography Highlight - Hannah Knorr
A new year often brings new beginnings. Here at HVU we’d like to offer you something new, a look into the choreographic process. We spoke to Hannah Knorr, Dancer of the Month April 2021, to get more incite into her choreography as she emerges as an up and coming ballet choreographer.
In every great choreographer there is a place for inspiration. Some find it in nature, while others find it in the mundane tasks of daily life. For Hannah it is no surprise that her inspiration comes from music seeing as both of her parents are musicians and she herself took violin lessons from age 7 to 18. Having a professional trumpet player for a father and a pianist as a mother meant that Hannah also attended symphonies, her father’s air force band concerts, and other musical events. “I’m very grateful to have been raised with such an appreciation and inquisitiveness towards music and composition. I definitely think that influenced me both as a dancer, teacher and choreographer.”
One can easily see the influence of Hannah’s family even from in the first piece she ever choreographed. As a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma School of Dance, Hannah presented her first mainstage piece titled, “Everybody Swing,” a jazzy piece inspired in some part by her father the trumpet player. “...I grew up listening to a lot of jazz music and that influenced my music choices because it really spoke to my soul. Jazz music proved difficult to choreograph, yet at the same time incredibly satisfying because I could really hear what steps would fit and it felt so natural to choreograph the steps - almost like words to the rhythms.” Choreographing in a school setting can sometimes be off putting as there are often deadlines and reports to write, but Hannah still found this experience to be eye-opening as she told us, “...soon realized I loved choreographing just as much as performing!...I got great feedback from my director and was even asked to bring my piece to some events throughout the year. After that experience my love of it took off and has become an integral part of myself as an artist.”
Hannah has since choreographed much more and we wanted more insight into how she now, years later, defines her choreographic style and what her choreographic process looks like. The following is what she shared with us:
“My choreographic style is definitely heavily influenced by classical ballet and contemporary. I love to play with different movement dynamics and my movement is inspired by the atmosphere or vibe that the music gives me. I joke with my students I’ve been working with this year that my brain is full of endless silly analogies but it’s truly a tool that has helped me delve into my own voice as a choreographer. I love altering a movement with an analogy because that same movement can be done so many ways, spoken in so many voices, and performed so differently given the intent you place behind it.
The majority of the pieces I have created have been more abstract and held relation to the music and the feeling of the music rather than having a detailed storyline. I did create a piece for Confluence Ballet that had more of a storyline however, but even so I would still consider it to be somewhat abstract in the sense that there was a message that could be interpreted in various ways depending on the viewer. For that piece, ‘Mirrors Where She Lies’ each dancer embodied a different ideal or role in the soloist’s mental journey throughout the piece.
I like to create movement that naturally brings out the passion or emotion from the dancers so that the audience feels they can relate even though it may not have a strict story behind it choreographically. That’s why music choice is so important to me and often takes so long to find; the music has to speak to me in order for me to really feel a connection as I choreograph to it.
My choreographic process usually begins with finding the music that speaks to me, that makes me excited or interested in what it could become physically. Once I have found my music I listen to it a multitude of times, paying attention to every layer, various rhythms, and emotions that it evokes for me personally. As I listen, I can already see movements in my mind that make sense to me - almost like a blueprint. Once I know how many dancers I have, this visual experimentation can take further shape before I nail down the steps. I love working with larger groups, as I find it an exciting challenge to create formations, cannons, and partnering work. By the time I begin my first rehearsal I have an idea of the vibe I am going for. I have found repeatedly that I prefer the choreography I create on the spot in rehearsal, much more than if I try to come up with something outside of rehearsal. Now of course, I do have certain things I will plan out beforehand especially if I am working on a tight deadline, or classical corps work (for example, Waltz of the Flowers) but my preferred method is almost improvisational. I feel as though there’s some intuitive part of my brain that can come up with movements that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to if I were to try and plan ahead. This being said, I do work rather quickly as I access this “flow state” in rehearsal. It has been a pleasant exploration to see that when I let go and trust what my body feels with the music, the choreography comes together with ease and individuality - rather than choreographing from thoughts alone.
Sometimes I’ll come up with movement after listening to a certain phrase, catching its rhythm while other times (often within the same rehearsal) I’ll come up with movements to silence and then fit it into the music. This is always fun because it's like a visual/physical surprise and almost feels “collaborative” with the composer/musicians on the other side of the speaker.
Once the skeleton of the piece is set, comes the cleaning, altering, refining or icing the cake as the saying goes.
Probably my biggest goal as a choreographer is to create something that brings joy to my dancers and the audience. I love intertwining the music into the movement and the movement into the music and then watching how each dancer interprets the movement.
I can’t wait for the future opportunities and am grateful for the ones I've had so far on this journey!”
If you’d like to follow Hannah's journey as a choreographer you can follow her on Instagram at @knorrchoreo or if you’re in the area, she also choreographs, coaches, and is the Manager of Operations at DeCruz Ballet in San Antonio, Texas.
Upcoming Shows: A new work for Ballet North Texas in Feb (11 & 12th, 2023) it is a neoclassical pointe piece to female composed classical guitar. Tickets are available atwww.balletnorthtexas.org