Choreographing in action


Having a good, attractive choreography requires many elements go into the play before it presents in front of the audience. Not only music, spacing, or dancer quality are the definite aspects for the set to be wonderful, but also ideas and emotion behind the movements. Speaking of ideas, to innovate new dance sequences seem to be an obstacle to many choreographers because of its creativeness. Every artist must have been to one of those moments where ideas just don’t kick in. As a dancer myself and have been performing choreographed dance throughout the years, I’ve found a few methods are useful to spark up routine ideas when my brain is blanked in a giant bubble.
*Note that these tips can be modified and used non-sequentially.

Instead of creating the movements from the music, sometimes do it in plain.

Contrary to many believe that music boosts creativity when it comes to choreographing, and while it is not wrong, thinking of movements to fit in certain notes or particular parts of a song will limit the sprouting of creativity. For instance, a theme is ‘hate and love’ of 6 minutes long as a dance. The songs will be Lost by Phaxe and Morten Granau and Sol by Static movement in the set. (You can go ahead and listen to the songs before returning back to the rest of the article.) After having the music in your head, you will create some movements out of the emotions that drew from the songs. It’s a natural thinking process of our brain to connect our emotional feelings to physical movements. However, such emotions are created before your natural instincts can fully react to the theme itself. It takes time to arouse a side of emotions to the imagination. Let’s suppose I did not give you the selected songs. Coming back to the theme ‘Hate and Love’, you need to use your own interpretation of the theme to come up with ideas of steps for composition. It’s only now the musical boundary does not exist and therefore It does not limit your own perception to the theme. After translating your own ideas to rough routines of dance movements you can alter them through the music, it is another way to work around with choreographic process.

Ask the participated dancer(s) to drop one of his/her sets on the spot.

It’s always good to have someone else to help you. Expect the dancer is a novice, he or she can offer a small set during the creating process when you’re still stuck with the traffic congestion an hour ago. Two advantages are included,

A) you will know the regular natural body movements of that dancer by watching them doing the set. It helps you to produce movements that aren’t out of their physical range for execution.
B) watching their set simulates your brain for generating more various pictures to the dance piece you’re inventing. Whether you would integrate their set later to the creation or not, it’s good enough for you to provoke ideas.

Verb in scenes

Depending on the subject that you’re choreographing, it’s always better to have at least one action verb in each scene for better ideas as well as the overall comprehension. Verbs help identifying the central meaning of the scenes while providing some vague guidelines for discovering new movements.

To illustrate, I’m using ‘hate and love’ as the theme, four dancers are involved with the length of choreography for 15 minutes. I mentally divide the dance piece into four parts before I write it on a piece of paper for a better and clear organisation. And if I use friendship as my main topic upon the meaning of the theme that offers, the paper will look like this:

The theme: ’Hate and Love’

Chosen topic : friendship

– First scene

-second scene
execrate, break

– third scene
Realise, discover

– end scene
Open, share

With verbs in place, you can start wondering what action or movement can fit in the scene?
Take push for example, any pushing movement can convey anger or hatred?
By keep on asking questions and think contemplatively, you can develop moves contemporarily.

Spacing method

A technique that shared by Mui Cheuk Yin, a renowned local choreographer, in a choreographing dance workshop a week ago I would like to reference it. She created a nine grid exercise that allowed the participated dancers to associate the spacing through imaginary of nine grids in the surrounding.

These grids can be as big as nine bears size or as tiny as nine chihuahuas squaring on a spot. Visualising the grids from your left or right shoulder to above your head or down on the floor, different facing and size of the girds are matter.


Now use your phone number for a number pattern and design what movements you will do to connect the numbers. If 98432341 is the code, then you will start from 9 and finish the set at 1, though it does not matter either you’re hitting the right shoulder side of 9 or the above head of 9. What matter is that you can come up with ideas and convert them to the dance while completing the number sequence. During the process, conceptual elements can be added into; pause, changing the size of the movements, emotion, power, angle, speed, or abandoning a part of the body to dance etc.

Photo source: Pixabay

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