How To Create A Choreography

Even If You Never Made Up a Dance Before

"For Beginners" (reprinted from ZAGHAREET! Jan/Feb. 2002)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

Last issue I shared how to prepare "behind the scenes" (in your subconscious) before you create a dance piece: Intention (writing down your goal), and Conscious Listening (with no distractions).

Now take your Dance Notebook (containing your music breakdown or M.B.), and head for the studio (living room, bedroom, garage; wherever your personal dance space is). By now you KNOW the music intimately inside & out - that's good, because you two are going to "get married" and "have a baby" - your dance!

If you don't have a clue on where to start, then play your music and...

  1. make notes on your M.B. about how it makes you feel - section by section (A1, A2, B, C1 etc., as I explained in the Sept./Oct. issue - look here for an M.B. example: www.kawakib.com/Zeina.html)
  2. now just get up and dance - pretend you're a child again and "play" at dancing those feelings. Imagine how a child would dance "something happy", "something big" or "something swoopy." Your body knows how to interpret the feelings in the music before your head does, so try it and see what happens. You'll probably catch a few good steps that way - jot down the steps you like on your M.B.; you can clean up the notes later.
Be prepared to take some time creating your dance piece. It can take hours to choreograph just a few minutes of music (and sometimes it seems like figuring out how to write it down takes longer!).

To go back to the "baby" analogy, does a woman have to know biology in order to have a baby? Of course not, but it would be helpful if she did. The same is true when one creates a dance, so let's run through some basics of choreography:

The absolute worst way to create a dance is to pull out your class or workshop notes and go, "Hmm, I guess I'll put 4 'Nadia hips' here, then do 8 'mayas' and 1 'paisley turn'. Please!! It's OK to look through your notes for inspiration or to help remember a nice step you learned, but don't "mix & match" out of your combination repertoire and call it choreography. If your music isn't unique enough to deserve it's own representation, then maybe you need different music.

Pay attention to your music breakdown and you'll avoid the dreaded "4 on this side, 4 on the other" kind of "choreography" some dancers fall into. You know the music is more complex than that. If the music repeats, your steps can repeat - but is it REALLY exactly the same? Listen and see if anything is different - changing even just a single beat in a repeated sequence can save it from mediocrity.

Next time: More compositional devices choreographers use... (but for now, get up and dance!)  

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