On Stage: Diary of a Young Choreographer

I’ve been following Luke Murphy years before he graduated from Point Park University in 2009. He always seemed like One To Watch. (Search his name on CrossCurrents and check out a feature article at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

Now that he’s coming back to Pittsburgh to perform at the Kelly-Strayhorn this weekend (see Listings), it’s definitely time to update, which is a rather difficult subject right now.

Certainly it’s tough enough to sustain a dance career in New York City. But when you layer monster Hurricane Sandy on top of things…

So Luke has good and bad news. Yes, he’s alright — “my area wasn’t hit hard.”  But the hurricane “brought the city to its knees. I really see the vulnerability.” Also, Luke is healthy. But so many people that he knows were hurt or killed. He’s glad to have the upcoming Pittsburgh performance, because so many performances and residencies were cancelled. Artists couldn’t work for a week, “which is a big deal financially.”

Photo: John Altdorfer

Up until then, he was working with a number of “name” choreographers. We caught up last December while he was performing with the off-Broadway hit, Sleep No More, a reinvention of Macbeth.

Luke is still there, but has the freedom to do other projects. So he successfully finished dance theater icon Martha Clarke’s Angel Reapers, which the New Yorker called one of the “top ten shows of the year” in 2011. He called her “amazingly talented,” but an artist who allowed her dancers to craft “every individual character, almost like a play. Then we created an arc for that character.”

On the heels of that project came a stint with Kate Weare, whose work has been called a “combination of sophisticated movement invention and high-caliber movement delivery.” Luke calls it “hard-hitting, really physical dancing,” a total difference from Angels.

Add to that The Painted Bird with performance artist Pavel Zušciak, who did a trilogy on Jerzy Kosinski’s novel of the same name and which recently appeared at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio. And he’s concurrently participating in a solo project with choreographer Jonah Bokaer and filmmaker Alan Brown.

Photo: John Altdorfer

Luke is modest. He says he is simply “going, going, going, going, going…” And he considers himself “lucky” to have worked with much more experienced dancers and choreographers who “wanted to work with me.”

But what it’s really done is given him a crash course in what a dance career really means.

So he ruminates on the idea of professionalism, something he has created for himself and a formula that he thinks is pretty simple: Use common sense. Show common courtesy. Show up on time. Don’t be rude. Be kind. Be really present. Be as patient as you can.

“It’s almost as much a craft as an art form,” Luke says, who also works hard to keep himself in good shape. “To be an effective person in the world is what it takes to be an effective professional.”

That attitude seems to be paying off as he brings his latest choreography to the Kelly-Strayhorn, where he will give the U.S. premiere of a duet, Drenched. Luke has created what he terms an installation, working with partner Carlye Eckert and video artist David Fisher.

Photo: John Altdorfer

He will be toying with “the distance between expectation of romance and the reality of it,” something he and Carlye explored for about 18 months by researching pop culture’s iconic songs, movies and poems that form a part of our subconsciousness. David focused on the dramaturgy and a strong editorial sense until they came up with a script and, finally, an overall arc.

It’s been a learning experience for Luke, dealing with the business side of things such as traveling to various venues, renting equipment and creating lighting.

It also meant learning “how I think I would like to work with people and how I actually do. Or where I can make myself comfortable and where I can be less comfortable. What my voice really is and what I want my voice to be.”

It’s been challenging in the finest sense of the word for the young choreographer — constantly challenging and “always for the best.”

I’ll bet it’s just the beginning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: