"Damien Simon's The Collaboration is an elegant and entertaining book, introducing those in the know--and those who may not know very much--to the sometime quicksand process known as collaboration.
Simon has a solid background in composition, having received his bachelor's degree from SUNY Purchase Music Conservatory and his master's degree in Musicology from University College, Dublin. He returned to the United States, making his home in Orlando, Florida where, in his own words, "there is something to be said for not having to shovel snow." Since then, he has worked with many choreographers, so his advice, based on years of experience, is compassionate, practical, and humorous. A work of art is something to be cherished, but the preparation that goes into its creation can be daunting. Simon explains this in easy to read prose, showing his readers how to approach the creative process without undue stress, As strange as that sounds, applying some of his rules to the art of collaboration can alleviate unnecessary angst and mental tap dancing.
Simon's professional look at collaboration is never pedantic, but lucid and refreshing. You don't have to re-read a sentence three times to understand its meaning. He is direct and straightforward but never simplistic. You want to continue reading. That's an excellent compliment for a how-to book.
People might think that collaboration is effortless: a choreographer and a composer meet, exchange pleasantries, and get to work. Choreographers who work in large companies might have a more accessible avenue to composers, as there are commissions and money at hand. It doesn't mean the production of a masterpiece, or even something lasting beyond a season. But it is something.
For other choreographers, either freelance or directing a small company, it's not so simple. Where does one go? Which comes first, the choreographer or the composer? What if the composer chosen for the dance died 200 years ago? Canned music? Musicians? Venue? Royalties? Will the show go on?
It can. Simon lays everything out in each chapter: choosing the music, communication, editing, canned music, royalties. The choreographic/music alliance is full of pitfalls. If history is a good barometer, many promising collaborations have gone askew, owing to temperament, money, or the kind shield of goodwill by a member on the artistic team. Simon has already navigated his way through all these obstacles, and his advice is crisp, constructive, and free of nonsense.
As I continued reading, I kept saying to myself if only things could proceed as laid out in the book. A dream is only that.
In these times, with companies and dance schools closing, with rents hitting the roof, his introduction to problems of collaboration are meant as a guide. Of course, things go wrong in the process, but Simon, very subtly and with authority, tells us to keep a relaxed mind, but one that can jump to attention if warranted.
The book includes a glossary of musical and ballet terms. I found it interesting to go through these terms--I know them all but how much fun it is to look at them and just think how many we use daily--if not outright, then somewhere in the back of our brains, where they remain embedded and easy to reclaim." Barnett Serchuk - Broadwayworld Dance Magazine.
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