How To Create A Choreography
Even If You Never Made Up
a Dance Before
"For Beginners" (reprinted from ZAGHAREET!
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...
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!).
- 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)
- 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.
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:
- Where's your
audience? Yes, your dance has a "front" and a
"back"! Imagine your stage or performance area when you dance
so you know where you are in space.
- What's your story?
The most satisfying stories (whether in movies, books,
songs, or dances) have a definite Beginning, Middle, and End.
Dance Tips "Creating the Oriental Solo", I explain
that the usual "storyline" of an Oriental Solo is: "Hello
everybody, here I am (salutation). This is what the music
looks like to me (design) and how it makes me feel (emotion).
Goodbye, it was so much fun being here and sharing this with
you" (recap & finish).
Also remember that in stories, the chapters and even the
sentences have this same "beginning/middle/end" structure too
- in dance terms it's called a cycle, and the music also has
cycles, big and little ones; you can see them in your music
- Where are you going,
how are you getting there, and then what are you going to
do? Dance moves are either done IN-PLACE or
TRAVELING. They are DESIGNS (shapes, patterns) on your body,
in the air, or on the floor as you travel around the stage.
- And how does it fit
the music? Does the movement match the music in
feeling, or in shape, or in time? The best place to start
hooking your dance to the music is in time - the tempo and
rhythm. Try changing weight (traveling or in-place) in time
with the rhythm and let the momentum flow up your body to
affect your hips or torso.
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
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