Picture this: You are in the supermarket, it’s a week night after a very long and busy day. You are at the cash register waiting in line for the person in front of you to load all of their items onto the conveyor belt when all of a sudden, your toe starts tapping to the beat. It’s that song you haven’t heard in quite a while but every time you hear it your heart starts beating fast and you recall that funny memory that you and your friend have together of when you both heard this song for the first time. “This song could have the best dance to go along with it” you think, and your mind starts to race. You see it all laid out in front of you, the dancers, the lights, the costumes! The dancers are hitting every count perfectly in time with the music, and in perfect unison! The song starts to BUILD, the dancers are joining together in the middle of the stage for the big finale when…..
“NEXT!”, the cashier yells in front of you, letting you know it’s your turn to put your items onto the conveyor belt. All at once the dancers, the lights, the costumes …. fade away. That dance must wait for another day.
If you find that this has happened to you more times than you can count, then my friend, you are a choreographer! Growing up I would imagine scenarios like this all the time; in the car, at the grocery store, walking my dog, etc. Imagining dancers on the stage moving to the music that I had picked and that I had choreographed was my dream! I made that dream a reality as I got older but it took plenty of practice and trust in myself and others along the way! I am going to outline some tips for choreographing that I find helpful so YOU TOO can become the choreographer you’ve always wanted to be. Those days of toe tapping in the supermarket, wondering “what if?” can soon be in the past.
Step One: Choosing a Theme
When starting to choreograph a new piece, I try to come up with a theme for the dance first. Will this piece be happy? Sad? Which points am I trying to get across in this dance, if any at all? Should my emotional state be reflected in the piece? By asking yourself these questions, you can start to see the makings of the piece come to life. I always find that my best work comes from listening to my heart, and if my heart is sad at that point in time, then my dance will reflect that emotion on the stage to the best of its ability.
Step Two: Music
Choose the music that will best fit the THEME of your dance! This does not always mean that happy music must go to a happy dance. Of course, dancing is an art and there is no right or wrong, but when I choreograph I always find it helpful to match theme and music.
Step Three: Dancers
The dance cannot become a reality unless there are dancers to make it come true! When choosing dancers for your piece, whether you have volunteers or are holding auditions, choose dancers that are going to best bring it all to life. A.k.a. maybe dancers with more ballet training are going to fit the Swan Lake music you have picked out, or your dance may have a section where there will be tumbling so dancers with acrobatic training would be needed. Whatever your dance calls for, there are dancers who would love the opportunity to perform!
Step Four: Choreography Process
Choreographer’s techniques during this process vary, but I find the best way to choreograph is to go into the studio with a plan where each dancer will be at each part of the music. I don’t necessarily have everything choreographed when I step into the studio, but a general outline of where the dancers will stand at certain parts. This way, I do not overthink or judge my own work before I see it on the dancers. Others work in a different way, having every single phrase choreographed to a specific beat in the music. Writing everything down as to not forget what they have just thought of. Both processes work for different kinds of choreographers! Again, there is no right or wrong, it’s your masterpiece! Do what feels best for you!
I utilize these steps every time I choreograph and they have never failed me. I hope that all of these tips can help you to become the best choreographer that you can be!
Alyssa McIntyre; Choreographer Exhalations Dance Theatre