As instructors, it can be easy to forget the necessity of breaking down skills and concepts to our students. After all, we have been working in this industry for a while, so a lot of the elements feel like second nature to us, but that does not mean that it comes as easily to our students. In fact, in my experience, it seems that teaching the art of teaching performance is much more difficult than teaching technique.
With our students, we always like to explain the choreographic concept prior to teaching the actual movement: music, story, interpretation, characterization, purpose, etc. In some routines, it can be incredibly helpful to have the students create their own backstories and characterizations for their track within a routine. A character backstory encompasses everything that has happened in a character’s past: name, age, physical attributes, job experience, extracurricular activities, family type, psyche, motivations, education, clothing preference, career aspirations, and anything else that contributes to the being of the character.
When students participate in this activity, it makes them think deeper about the character they are portraying, and the results are noticeable. Try it!