As a cloudy Sunday afternoon settled its weight across the rolling hills of our Purple Valley, I sat down with Darran Moore ’09 for a discussion that touched on topics from Bulgarian folk dance to the restrictions of defined artistic labels. He, neatly dressed and slightly shy, retained a quiet reserve despite the occasional outbursts from the usual occupants of Snack Bar. The depths of his interest in dance, however, apparent as he eased into a more casual conversation, spoke beyond the soft-voiced source to the intellectual vitality beneath. His previous performances, most recently in Dance Company’s Overexposed, have distinguished Moore as a notable force on the stage, but his presence outside of performance proved just as compelling.
I hear you haven’t had much classical training?
Classical in the sense of ballet – I have all of a semester’s worth of ballet at my previous school, where we did warm-ups and random combinations.
When did you decide you wanted to become more involved in dance?
Seventh grade. I’ve been going to performing arts schools almost all of my life, with the exception of college, and this one time when I went to a school that focused on aeronautics and engineering, and another that was focused on business and communication. Other than that, it was performing arts – I had done everything except for dance leading up to seventh grade. I figured I’d give it a try.
Before then, I had given a recital when I was three years old – I’d learned to turn like Michael Jackson and was determined to show my entire preschool. Then in fourth grade, I was really into Bulgarian folk dance. My elementary school had just lost a dance instructor, and one of the students, who had just come from Bulgaria, had a father who said he could teach Bulgarian dance.
What attracts you specifically to dance over other art forms?
I’m not incredibly good at painting or other visual arts. I have really cryptic and difficult writing skills, so poetry is either avant-garde or crap, to be honest. I had a very traumatic experience when my voice changed, and I’m not very good at speaking, so dance seemed to be a great way to express myself.
How do you see dance? Is it an art form, an energy release -?
I’m definitely going to lean towards a therapeutic art because I don’t pursue it seriously – I don’t aim – didn’t aim – no, don’t aim to be a professional dancer. I don’t know. It’s not something I’m focused and driven towards, just something I use for therapy, or really just to move, to learn how to do different things, to see what my body can do, what others can do, how you can move with other people.
I really got into different types of dance – going to shows all the time, always on the Internet – even before YouTube was YouTube, I would find videos of people dancing. I participated in the Japanese Obon Festival back home, and that was something where you could see another culture’s type of movement, their choreography, and I just got into how different peoples move.
Are there any particular places you derive your inspiration from?
Everything. As foolish and convoluted and general as that sounds, everything. I once choreographed a piece based off of stupid little phrases people were saying and other’s reactions. I originally was planning on basing a dance on people’s walks. I have really bad vision and I can’t recognize people from far away, so I’ve developed a really complex way of understanding and memorizing – well, not memorizing, being very aware of how people move and walk. I see someone from across the room, they may wave, but it’s not until they start to move when I’m like, “Hey, I know that walk.” I wanted to base a piece off that, but in the end it fell through. So then I started to pick up on the miniscule and mundane and everyday living.
Do you have a certain audience in mind when you choreograph?
Most of my choreography does not appeal to those who want something flashy or showy, because most of the time I’m working with mixed levels and I don’t really know what anyone can do and I don’t want anyone to feel out of place because they can’t do something I’m asking them to do. Instead of being that one person who requires everybody to work their way up to a certain level, I’ll go the exact opposite way and be like, “This is kind of what I want to do, this is kind of what I want to see you do. Just try it. Make the best of it.”
Is there a particular style of dance you especially enjoy?
Everything, because it all has a value. That’s incredibly broad and oftentimes criticized as idealistic, but everything has value. I don’t know where or how. I’m interested in seeing that creative urge, always keeping your eyes and ears open. There was a part of a dance I choreographed that was based off a meditation, where instead of focusing on an individual object like the instructor asked me to, I focused on an auditory cue.
A lot of the time, people will ask me, “What’s your training in dance?” Well, it was whatever I was allowed to do. From the Bulgarian folk dancing to the Japanese experience to the traditional fox trot, ballroom stuff you learn in school. I took a few belly dancing classes, that was interesting. I mean, you’re talking to someone who thinks it’s a good idea to base a piece off of how some people walk, or hey, let’s do a piece based on whale calls.
You can go from thinking dance is just visual to visual and auditory. They work under the same umbrella. That’s part of why it’s fun to be in biology – at first I wanted to be a mathematician, and then a physicist, then a chemist and then I was like, “Wait a minute, biology combines all of these things, and then you can get further into social interactions.” That’s also why I like biology with the social phase. You can interact in an environment – what happens? what can we do?
You mentioned that you don’t have any specific plans to pursue dancing. Do you know what you are doing next year?
Not at all. I’m a biology major and, depending upon the various responses from concentration heads, I’m either concentrating in global health and Africana studies or just global health.
I do wish I had had an opportunity to present my works, because that’s something that’s very based in the idea of dance in the academic world. More and more classes are beginning to reconcile that view and change it, which is wonderful, because I did this amazing project and I would love to share with people what I found. But there’s still a limited infrastructure, a limited atmosphere here for dance. A choreographer will come to speak once in a while, you can see a show, but there’s not much opportunity for students to present on non-theater [performing arts] academic research.