Choreography usually comes about from one of two avenues. You either create inspiring movement and then find a song to fit, or you find an inspiring song and then create movement to fit. Today I thought we could chat about the latter of the two...When you find an amazing song and then have to choreograph a piece...
Tip: Devise a Plan
Before getting started, ask yourself some important questions:
What message/emotion will I be conveying? (story line, happiness, sadness, equality, etc.)
Where will this piece be performed? (recital, competition, showcase, small studio, etc.)
What parameters (if any) do I have? (style, number of dancers, deadline, props, time retrains, etc.)
Trick: Do a pre-analysis of your music
Everyone has their own style, but I personally will listen to my piece and make musical notations ahead of time so if I'm on a roll with a section of movement, I do not have to stop or replay the song a billion times to make sure it hits in the spot I want.
Here is an example of my scribbles. Each line represents a measure of eight counts, each space represents the end of a phrase, and my squiggles let me know when something dynamic happens in the music.
I will often times break it up into verse, chorus, etc., especially if I'm dealing with a lot of dancers and/or multiple rehearsals.
Next...Get to Work!
Take your favorite section of the music and see what starts to flow out of you, or turn off the music and try to express you message through the silence.
Trade Secret: Hang onto your cards!
If you have multiple dancers in your piece, why start them all off at the same time? Put on your poker face and keep the audience engaged as you use the dancers to show transitions and emphasize dynamics in your music.
Tip: Shake it up!
Keep it exciting by changing timings, levels and positions. Throw something unexpected in there (a tango dip in a cha cha, a tap or stomp section in a contemporary piece). And don't be afraid to play! Part of the enjoyment for the dancer is being pushed physically and mentally. Change it up on your dancers, or have a short improv session to see what feels natural for them.
Just like writers, choreographers get stuck too! If this happens, DO NOT PANIC, you'll only make things worse. There are many things you can do to get unscrambled, but here are some of my favorites:
Video and watch back what you have done so far. (seeing it from a third party's perspective may spark an idea)
Grab a friend. (play the music and have an impromptu spitball session, do some shadowing, improv, weight sharing, see what comes about)
Watch or listen to what first inspired you to create the piece. (was it a memory? a movie? a picture? another choreographer?)
And finally, step away. Sometimes when nothing seems to be clearing the block, you just need a time out :) I find I'm most inspired by things I see everyday when I'm away from the studio or from random dreams I have...
When it comes down to it, choreography is suppose to be an opportunity to creatively express yourself or your message through movement. Let your piece have a life of its own. Keep growing, changing and challenging yourself, but most importantly HAVE FUN!