CONCEIVING A PIECE: CLARITY, TACT, AND PRECISION IN CHOREOGRAPHIC STORYTELLING
I had a quote published for the 2012 StarQuest Calendar that statea:
“Creating a dance is a lot like writing a book in that the pre-planning phase contributes enormously to the final product. I believe it is imperative to cast your dancers, establish a concept, determine the style, and a select a costume before setting the piece.”
This quote reflects the way I operate in setting a piece or constructing a show. I have a very methodical mindset that stems from an academic background that was centered on writing, theatre, and film. When creating a written piece of work (whether it be a blog article or a thesis), you must collect your thoughts and organize the presentation of your ideas. When directing a show, you must know the blocking, set design, actors, stage directions, and cues. When working on a film, you must conceptualize your storyboard in order to film each scene to tell an entire story. And, in dance, you must treat the planning process similarly to the way you would treat a paper, theatrical event, or film. While methodologies may vary, there must be a creative process.
When I watch dance competitions, I see a lot of routines that are lacking in conceptualization. When creating a piece, challenge yourself to answer the following questions:
- What is the choreographic concept?
- Is the choreography purposeful? Does it motivate the story or intent of the routine?
- Do the dancers understand their purpose within the piece?
The routines that consistently stand out are the ones that incorporate concise storytelling/intent and showcase dancers’ technical aptitudes. I believe that this methodology should be the status quo in your routines. The technical movement should match the music, style, and story, and students should have a firm knowledge of their characterization and purpose.
As dance instructors and choreographers, we have an awesome opportunity to let our artistic concepts impact our dancers and our world. Be an author of dance and take the time to really make your artistic mark. It will undoubtedly make a lasting impression on your dancers, your reputation, and your creative fulfillment.