It reminds me of when a choreographer I know was creating a ballet. He was stuck, and he asked me to come help.
I said, How could I help you choreograph a ballet?
He said, I’d like you to come and sit there while I’m doing it. You’re so judgmental I would find it helpful.
So I went to his studio several times while he was making the ballet. I saw the only job that was worse than writing. My idea of pure hell. The dancers sit there waiting for him to come up with something. It would be as if the letters were sitting there, or the words, smoking cigarettes, staring at you, as if to say, Well? OK, come on.
Plus they are paid by the minute. And a piano player is sitting there as well. Twenty-five people sitting in the room staring at you while you are thinking. I can’t believe anyone has ever made a ballet.
Were you expected to criticize what was going on?
I was expected to sneer. I did sit there several afternoons in a row, kind of sneering. I don’t know why he needed me, because the dancers were doing that. They were finding it hard to mask their contempt, which was: why is it taking so long for him to think this up? Now, whenever I sit at the desk, I imagine the words sitting there sulking against the wall, waiting for me to think something up. He gave me such admiration for choreographers you can’t imagine. It’s just like the way I write a sentence. I write a sentence a thousand times, changing it all the time to look at it in different ways. He has to do that with living people. Human contact at its absolute worst. When people say certain choreographers are mean to their dancers, I think, Not mean enough! If I were a choreographer the thing I would most need would be a gun. Every time someone gave you one of those looks, you could just shoot them.
Isn’t it the same situation with a David Lean or a Steven Spielberg?
No, because they are movie directors. To me there are only four kinds of artists: choreographers, writers, composers, and painters. What they do is make whole inventions. A movie director is part of a corporation. All things associated with movie-making are so collaborative. There are so many things that directors depend on. I wouldn’t have initially included a choreographer. I didn’t realize how they did it. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I had always thought that writing was the worst. But choreography is definitely worse. Plus there’s noise, there’s music, they have to tell the dancers to start and stop, and there have to be a certain amount of breaks to let them rest. You can’t keep them dancing forever. You might have a good idea and not be able to try it because they’re tired. It’s horrible, horrible.
I suggested to him that he get a computer. This is the only time I’ve ever suggested someone get a computer. I said, Why don’t you get a computer that has little people on it? You can make them move around and never have to give them a break.
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