I say it constantly. So do a lot of other dancemakers. “I’m headed to the studio to make some work.” “Looks like they’re making a lot of work lately.” “She’s making new work for so-and-so.” “We’re so busy making work that we don’t have time to….”

(Write a blog, for instance. Uh, yes … about that! Thanks for hanging in with me, everyone.)

I don’t know why it’s such a common phrase among choreographers, but I sort of like “make work.” “Make art” would be ridiculously pretentious. “Make dance” sounds awkward, like two verbs in a row. “Make a dance” is what Mark Morris says, but most of us aren’t as boldly confident in the humbleness of what we do as he is.

“Make work” has some unpackable corners and unfoldable curves inside it.

I hear…

Make it work. Make you work. Make work for myself, and for the dancers, and later for the seamstress and the printer and the stagehand.

It’s something that takes work to use, maybe, like a new set of skills or openness to new language and sensation.

Work. Not an object, but an unfolding event, a noun that moves and sweats. Hard to know when it’s finished, because it continues even after it’s done. The echo of effort that’s present in your rest.

“Makework” is busywork, of course, designed to ward off idleness, clamp down on daydreaming. But idling and the daydream are what make this work wake up; it’s got a quiet cell inside it, humming, wondering, whistling. This work knows how to wait.

Making work is making space for something to come alive. It takes muscles, and guts, and brains. It’s crafting the Rube Goldberg machine, the Versailles garden, the kayak run — the bed that the dream can flow through.

There’s work, and then there’s play. But the play is also the work. The effortful effortlessness.

Work means bodies, and bodies mean community. (Many hands make light work.) Work is to share.

The joy we feel when the work works. Wow, and whew, we say.

We made it.

(I’ll have lots to share about the work that’s being made in Tulsa this season in an upcoming post. For now … back to … you know….)

"Making work" for Tulsa Modern Movement.

“Making work” for Tulsa Modern Movement. (Photo by Nathan Harmon)

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