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Simple Guide To Choreography (karma: 53)
By MuffinHeadmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Nov 17, 2005 01:23 PM
Made sticky by pharmadancer (87219) on 2005-11-18 11:01:50

So, I'm in a choreography class in college and I took one throughout my four years in high school and I've also been to a few choreography camps. I feel that there are certain things that EVERY dancer should know about choreography... so I'm going to put together a little 'guide' here, so to speak. Feel free to add anything you'd like.

NOTE: I did not come up with this. These are things I have learned, things from my teachers, things from books, etc.

Seven Qualities Of Movement
- Swing --> Pendular.
- Sustain --> Even flow of energy.
- Suspend --> Momentary weightlessness.
- Explode --> Short burst of energy.
- Collapse --> Release of energy.
- Staccato --> Sharp, quick, non-percussive.
- Vibrate --> Quick rhythmic bursts of energy.

Three Elements Of Dance
- Time --> Tempo, rhythm, freeze/unfreeze, canon, call/response.
- Space --> five levels, spacial exposure, axial, locomotion, formations, dimensions, shape.
- Energy --> tension vs. release, seven qualities of movement.

Five Levels
-- Flat on floor.
-- Sitting/Kneeling.
-- Layout, hinge, squat.
-- Normal standing level.
-- Jumps.

Staging The Dance
-- Center Stage is the most important. But if overused can become boring.
-- The corner has a sense of privacy. As if the audience is looking in at something.
-- Diagonals are the strongest lines on the stage.
-- Symmetry can be lifeless.
-- Two dimensions are lifeless.
-- Eye is faster than the ear.
-- Movement looks slower and weaker onstage.
-- Dances are usually too long.
-- Good endings are necessary, they are 40% of the entire impact of the dance.
-- Monotony is fatal. Dynamics are important.
-- Don't be a slave to the music.
-- Don't intellectualize. Just move sometimes. Don't think as much.
-- Listen to qualified advice.

Choreographic Process
1. What images do you want to convey?
2. Write down ideas, words, statements that will help create the image.
3. Use video and audio clips to help portray your idea.
4. Create movement ideas to support your theme.
5. Combine and manipulate the movement material.
6. Revise the dance using recommendations and others responses.

1. Choose a subject matter.
2. Explore and select movements.
3. Coordinate music and movement.
4. Explore possibilities.
5. Refine and memorize dance.
6. Add finishing touches.
7. Perform the dance.

--AB --> The AB form has two parts-- generally constrasting parts. The A form may be large and up, while the B form may be slow and down.

--ABA --> Same as AB, except after B-- A is performed again.

-- Rondo --> (ABACADA, AEBACADA, ADADABAC, etc.) The A movement phrase is a repeating theme throughout the piece.

--Low --> Sleeping on floor. Slithering on floor. Rolling on floor.

--Low Middle --> Crawling. Sitting. Kneeling.

--Middle --> Standing. Walking. Running. Standing turn.

--Middle High --> Sliding. Galloping. Skipping.

--High --> Jumping. Body lifts. Leaping.

Things To Think About
--When in doubt, turn.
--What did you say the title of this dance was?
--If you're going to all the trouble of going to the floor, stay there awhile.
--It's balanced. It's too healthy. You're too healthy.
--It's very nice, but what does it have to do with the theme?
--Now squeeze the orange dry. Use your material. Beethoven made a symphony out of two different notes.
--Now if you could lift the other foot, you'd have something really interesting.
--Don't go jungle on me.
--I'm being strict as hell, but you have to be that way with yourself sometimes.
--I know it hurts. You didn't think it'd be easy, did you?
--Play with it. Where will it take you?
--You can't do it. It wasn't in the theme.
--Leave yourself sitting there. Get up and be excitable.
--You got there one count too soon.
--You must do the impossible.
--Move with audacity into space.
--Don't do that willow stuff. Slower and more coordinated.
--It's not bad. It's not good. Try it again for tomorrow.

Things To Try
--Find a poem you like. Make a dance out of the poem. It can be literal or abstract, it's up to you.
--Find a picture. Make a dance out of the picture.
--Make a garbage bag out of a paper bag. Put pieces of paper with your fears, doubts, and negative thoughts in the bag. Dance about the bag.
--Write down your most frequently felt feelings. Dance them all out. Seperately or together.
--List ten things that are important to you. Dance about each one of those things.

Polarities In Dance

What other polarities can YOU think of?

That's my *short* guide on choreography. There is much more to it than that. But those are main facts that anyone in a choreography class would learn about. :)

91 Replies to Simple Guide To Choreography

re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By barrefly
On Thu Nov 17, 2005 02:11 PM
Thanks MuffinHead, I haved saved it for reference.

...."TheWinged"...are you out there. I would love to add your input to my doc.

I have used the term "pulse". Especially for lyrical, or adagio
type choreo. Kinda like mixing up the speed of movement at a pulsating rate. The pulse itself may increase, decrease or even freeze momentarely during the routine. Is that a real term, or did I just make it up?
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By MuffinHeadmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Nov 17, 2005 02:13 PM
Pulse may go into like...staccato or vibrate. Probably more vibrate than staccato.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By barrefly
On Thu Nov 17, 2005 02:33 PM
Edited by barrefly (90848) on 2005-11-17 14:45:53 slight clarification.
Edited by barrefly (90848) on 2005-11-17 15:18:10 another example of pulse.
...staccato or vibrato perhaps, but I see those as being the trees, and pulse the forest. If that makes sense.
In the "popular" Polina Semionova video I felt a sense of pulsation to her movements/routine. Quite beautiful.

Have you ever seen a routine, be it modern, where the dancer(s) starts at
a slow/moderate "pulse" and gradually builds to a feverish "pulse" or crescendo at the end then stops/drops/freezes/locks (or other). The tempo of the music never changes, but the pulse of the choreo. does, and actually moves the real pulse of the audience.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By BallerineGlaceemember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Nov 17, 2005 04:51 PM
To add to the amazing list of polarities: hard/soft and romantic/harsh movements.

Great guide! I like the ideas for experimenting, and the list of polarities that can be used. Love contrast!
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By sezzy
On Fri Nov 18, 2005 03:43 AM
this is very useful
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By Kirsty_Pmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Fri Nov 18, 2005 04:44 AM
Thats really ace muffin. Im doing cheography at the moment so i've printed it out =) Im sure it'l help loads.

Thanks (Karma of course =P)

re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By calypsomember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Nov 18, 2005 09:53 AM

That was SUPERB. You pretty much just summed up an entire semester course for me. Karma for you, and thanks for the fresh summary/new ideas!

re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By pharmadancermember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:38 AM
I love you and want to have your children.

I haven't had any choreography theory - it's all been self-taught. And I've always felt like a bad choreographer. This is an excellent starting point for me to explore new ideas in motion.

I feel like dancing now!!

re: Simple Guide To Choreography (karma: 4)
By aprime
On Fri Nov 18, 2005 07:31 PM
Yay! I'm glad to see something like this on the board! I'd like to add, if I may:

start with a motif: a short phrase where nothing repeats

There are several ways to manipulate this phrase:
1. instrumentation: putting movement from the phrase into one part of the body, like turning a battement into an arm swing.
2. isolation: doing the phrase, but with only one part of the body.
3. accumulation: do the 1st movement, then do the 1st movement pus the 2nd movement, etc
4. augmentation: make the movement bigger or elongate it
5. diminution: make movement smaller
6. inversion: do the spatial opposite. what went forward must go backward, what went up must go down.
7. retrograde: running the phrase backwards, as if you were rewinding it
8. spatial arrangement: make the phrase travel in a certain direction, change your facings.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By MuffinHeadmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Nov 18, 2005 08:30 PM
Yep, this basically was this semester for me. I took things from papers I've gotten over the years and also-- papers I got this year. And just summed up the BASICS.

Maybe some other time I'll post a second guide-- adding more and going more in depth.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By KayEllePremium member
On Sat Nov 19, 2005 06:05 PM
You know I just got asked to choreograph a piece for a winter show, and lo and behold, a guide to choreography. It's a Christmas miracle! You rock, seriously, this is exactly what I'm looking for.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By rockinjamie
On Sun Nov 20, 2005 01:13 PM
cool! this is a great guide, really helpful to anybody who
is doing any coreography, i must remember all this!
awesome info
By tlodfx
On Sun Nov 20, 2005 11:53 PM
Wow, thanks so much for the wonderful guide to choreography. I haven't had alot of theory in the area either so it helps a great deal. One summer I actually held a class on choreography just so I could learn along with the kids and give them more knowledge and experience than I received when I was younger. Surprisingly, here we are 3 years later and one of my students who took that class back then is actually choreographing my Competition team's number this year, and WOW, she is doing a fantastic job! I will share this with her definitely, thanks again!
re: Simple Guide To Choreography (karma: 4)
By TamarinPremium member
On Mon Nov 21, 2005 03:29 AM
Edited by Tamarin (112432) on 2005-11-21 03:32:24
Edited by Tamarin (112432) on 2005-11-21 03:36:26
Thank you MuffinHead, that was a great summary of choreographic ideas. I’m sure it will be very useful for many people. I’ve got a few things to add.

Just clarifying that in a Rondo structure each time the A phrase is repeated (except the last) it will generally be manipulated in some way. Often you start with an idea for A, try the opposite for B, C will be related to A (possibly an abstracted part of the idea) and so on.

Some other ways to manipulate material:
- find ways of turning, jumping, travelling aking to the ground, etc different steps in your phrase.
- Do the phrase lying or sitting on the ground. Turn an upright phrase into floorwork or vice versa.
- Vary the tempo- you’ll be surprised how different a phrase can look when performed at the extremes of slow or fast. Normally we dance somewhere in the middle.
- If there is more than one dancer try changing their spatial relations, Often this will change the movement, especially if they are very close.
- Change the focus of the dancer.
- Use only one side of the body, or only the torso, only the legs, only the arms, only the head, etc. Try having the other half do something else (eg, walking backwards doing the phrase with only the torso, perhaps with another dancer doing it fully).
- Splice two phrases together, one movement from one then one from the second, one from the first
- Do one phrase with the arms from another phrase.
- Do the phrase maintaining some form of physical contact with another dancer/s.
- Make the movement as small or as expansive as possible.
- Travel it. Do it on the spot.
- Think about the dynamics. Maybe use imagery to change them.
- Develop a motif- it can be a movement, a facial expression, a phrase, anything. Try giving the motif a different background (change your level, add more dancers, do it while doing something else, with a different body part)
- Try some repetition.
- Our old friend- retrograde! Reverse the movement as if someone just pressed rewind. Go forwards for a bit, backwards, then forwards again.
- Invert the movement- do it upside down or mirror image.
- Instrumentation- perform the movement with a different body part.
- Embellish the movement.

Something I find helpful when I’m stuck is to map the dance. I draw two rectangles on a piece of paper and first draw the floor plan, as if watching the dance from above, in one rectangle. In other I map the vertical plane as if watching the dancer from the front with your pen tracing the path their belly button would take. This can give you a good idea of any levels or space that you aren’t using at all, or if you are overusing one.

Another good idea is to keep a choreography journal. Scribble random ideas into it (whether for a theme, development, steps, combinations of steps, lifts, floor plans images, props, whatever) and stick pictures that inspire you. While you are choreographing try to document the process. If you go and see a dance performance make some notes about it and the choreography, staging, your impressions, audience reaction, what worked and what didn’t. These journals can give you a way to develop an idea or to get ideas when you are feeling stuck. They’re also great to look back on,

Different forms of canon:
(A,B,C and D are different dancers. 1,2,3,4 and 5 are movements)
-Strict overlapping:
A: 1 2 3 4
B: ...1 2 3 4
C: …..1 2 3 4
D: ……1 2 3 4

-Non overlapping:
A: 1 2 3 4
B: ………1 2 3 4
C:………………1 2 3 4
D:………………………1 2 3 4

A: 1 2 3 4
B: 2 3 4 1
C: 3 4 1 2
D: 4 1 2 3

- Cumulative:
A: 1 2 3 4 5
B: ...2…...5
C:…...3 4

A:1 2 3 4
B: ..2 3 4
C:…..3 4

A: 1 2 3 4 5
B: …..3 7 1
C: 1 6 8 2
D: ...2...…7
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By understudy
On Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:38 PM
You are an angel! I'm working on a solo for my Comp. class right now...and I'm stuck. This is very helpful. Thanks!
great lesson
By dancindiva1980
On Mon Nov 28, 2005 03:54 PM
Thanks for this awesome "short" guide to choreography! I've been choreographing for years and learned these things along the way, but it's always good to brush up. This is a great guide to use when teaching my students exactly how to choreograph. Thanks so much i look forward to using this and other resources the rest of you have suggested.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography (karma: 3)
By MuffinHeadmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Dec 10, 2005 11:05 PM

So, last time I went into basics about things like the seven qualities of movement, elements of dance, staging a dance, the choreographic process, and much more. This time, I'm going to add a few more things that we didn't discuss, as well as try to go more in depth with the things I DID talk about.

NOTE: Some of this is NOT my own words. I did copy some of this directly from a pamphlet of handouts given to me by my choreography teacher.

"Art begins with resistance-- at the point where resistance is over come. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor."
-- Andre Gide


We discussed forms in my last guide to choreography-- but we just skimmed the surface. This time I'm going to try and be a little more clear with the way everything is worded so you get a better understanding of the different choreographic forms.

AB The AB form has two parts, two contrasting statements. For example, the A may be twelve, locomotor counts. The B may be twelve, nonlocomotor counts.

ABA The ABA form has three parts. The A is a statement involving one theme, and the B is a statement involving a contrasting theme. The A at the end represents a return to the original statement.

Theme and Variations (A1, A2, A3, A4, A5...) In the beginning of the theme and variations form, a theme is stated. The theme ideally has a clear, recognizable shape in space. The variations on the theme can be developed in a variety of ways, changing rhythm, intensity, dynamics, and so on.

Rondo (ABACA, DAEA, etc.) The rondo form has a strong repetition of A repeated at least three times, it CAN go on longer though. The A statement repeats over and over again as B, C, D, etc. is added to give and lend the unknown.

Round This form has a theme that repeats itself over and over again, introducing itself at equal distances so there is overlapping. For example.

A. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
B. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
C. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
D. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

There are four individual groups; for example, each does the same eight coutns. The first begins above the second. The theme is exactly the same each time it is danced.

Beware of Pitfalls

These are things to beware when choreographing. Things you don't want to get into the habit of doing. Things like this could break a dance to pieces.

--Compromises that fill space with ANY movement.
--Obsession with realistic 'acting out' or compromise movement.
--Too much or not enough contrast.
--Too much symmetry FOR NO REASON.
--Lack of exploration and wandering from the subject.
--Awkward or stereotyped rhythmic or space patterns.
--Movement beyond the performers ability, either in technique or expression.
--Dance that goes on ad on, long after it's point has been made.
--Undue reliance on accomaniment, costuming, staging, narration, or title.
--Movement or design too small to be seen.
--Avoidance of qualified criticism.

Things To Ask Yourself

Most people are their own worst critics. To avoid worrying about things that aren't supposed to be worried about-- go through a list like this to critique your own dance.

--Do you have a message to convey?
--Were you concerned with the audience?
--Is the message verbal or nonverbal?
--Is meaning in the dance literal or nonliteral?
--Are you expressing yourself? Reality?
--Are you concerned with a display of technical skills?
--Did you use pedestrian movements along with typical 'dance' movements?
--Did you get your point across?
--Are you onstage for too long? Or not long enough?
--Do you have to explain your dance?
--Did you use all levels? Forms? All your space?
--Is the dance entertaining to an audience?
--Were you creative?
--Did you think too much or just go with the flow of the movement?
--Were you too preoccupied with the music?

Use Of Space

We got a little into use of space last time-- but this may be a little more 'in depth' and easier to understand than the wording of the last guide.

Movement May Be Directed
1. Forward
2. Backward
3. Sideward
4. Diagonally
5. Circuarly
6. Up
7. Down
8. In combination of any of the above resulting in patterns like:
a. zig-zag lines
b. right angles
c. squares
d. arcs

[i]Movement May Be Presented[i]

1. On different levels
a. on the floor
b. sitting
c. kneeling
d. standing
e. in elevation (jumping)
2. In different planes
a. horizontal
b. vertical
c. combinations
3. In different dimensions
a. Small
b. Large
4. Unison
5. Opposition
6. Succession

Areas Of The Stage

--The diagonals of the stage are the STRONGEST lines on the stage.
--Center stage is both the strongest and weakest part of the stage. For a climax it can be strong, but spend too much time there and it becomes dull and boring.
--If you turn your back to the audience for too long, you may lose them.
--The very front part of the stage is comedic.
--Coming forward in a straight line at the audience may scare them. Can be good or bad depending on what the choreography is aiming for.
--The very sides of the stage are very weak. Spending time there is not reccomended.
--Circles are extremely strong and should only be used for a climax or a building up to a climax.
--Downstage corners are good for exits. Upstage corners are good for entrances.
--Middle of the side is the WORST place to enter or exit. Or really do anything at all.

More Things To Try

--Get a prop. Dance with the prop. Examine it's texture, weight, feel, quality, etc.
--Get a chair. Dance with the chair-- but remember, chairs are not meant to sit in.
--Pick a cliche. (by leaps and bounds, draw the line, make ends meet, in the long run, in good hands, on the spot, etc.) Dance to what you feel the cliche would look like.
--Create balance. Write out the things you feel you need to create balance in your life. Dance to what you need for balance.
--Find an object that is important to you. Dance out the meaning
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By The_Dancing_Emo
On Wed Jan 04, 2006 09:44 AM

Oh My Gosh!! You have no idea how much that has helped me!! Im sticking it in my Dance note book Asap! That really has made my day reading that, and im now excited to see how i can try your techniques/ideas... in the next challenge i recieve at college! Thanks ever so much!

sammy xx
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By The_Dancing_Emo
On Wed Jan 04, 2006 09:50 AM

Wow this really is a wicked page, its so helpful, thanks everyone! big thanks to muffinman obviously, and to tamarin and aprime, as there posts have helped me alot aswell!! cheers guys, you rock!!

sammy xx

tamarin aprime
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By jivebunnymember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:13 PM
Also like to repeat basically everyone else, thankyou for that i too printed it out put it in my book and kept reffereing to it when making up my solo. Thankyou it made it so much easier.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By HipDancer1on1
On Wed Jan 11, 2006 04:02 PM
Thanks, This is great. I will use this in the future. I love the way u wrote it. This is a great add.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By Jazmine10member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Feb 14, 2006 12:14 PM
It's not bad. It's not good. Try it again for tomorrow.

^my teacher says that when we learn new choreography of any sort.

that's was interesting to read. I'll keep it in mind as I choreograph my senior project
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By Liv19
On Mon Feb 20, 2006 10:01 AM
Now I really wish my dance teacher was more in depth. She puts you and groups says pick a song and go. And thats about it. She does teach the styles as a class first, but nothing like all the information you just gave. Thank you for posting that. It'll be saved and studied often.
re: Simple Guide To Choreography
By xXxstumblexXx
On Mon Mar 13, 2006 08:31 PM
OMg ur a life saver i needed that for a dance assignment thanx for the help
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