How do you choreograph?

A student recently asked myself and Melusina this question:

“When you create a new choreography, what is your inspiration? What usually sets off the little creative seed in your head? A piece of music, a combination you stumbled upon, something on YouTube, etc?

How then do you create a whole piece? Improvise in the lounge room, watch some dvds/video clips, write it down?”

I prefer not to talk too much these days, so even most of these blog entries are brief, but reflection is good too, so here is my answer to her question, together with links to other ideas.

“It varies for me. The contemporary piece I’m doing now was inspired by the music. I started with that. I don’t directly watch youtubes then choreograph, but I do watch a lot of youtubes and the movement or styles that I see sometimes find their way into the choreographies.

Mel will agree I think that the Underbelly troupe members are all inspired by each other. We learn each others’ choreographies regularly so it is inevitable that we would be influenced by each other.

The khaleegi I had to choreograph for a gig that was to be learnt in a short amount of time, so I found some music and made it as simple to learn as possible with some hopefully dynamic formations to keep it interesting. Then because the drummers are available for the class I thought we may as well do it to live drumming.

The inspiration for the drum solo struck me at 2am and I made up the drum solo phrases and what movements would go with them, then organised a time with George, communicated the sounds to him. He had a few ideas of his own and we went from there.

I usually choreograph in my study. Sometimes I film it on my webcam. Usually body/footwork falls into place through repetition first, then I refine arms. Sometimes I watch the video back and realise it needs more work.

Often I am choreographing ‘last minute’ before class and I know intuitively what the movement is and the process of teaching it makes me understand it better and therefore refine it.”

The other aspect of choreography that is useful to be across when you are choreographing is the elements of dance : space; time and dynamics.

A few months ago I posted a series of Choreography tutorials on my facebook page that discussed these elements and applied them to belly dance, illustrated via YouTube videos: Belly Dance with Trisnasari.

Here is another good summary of these elements.

Finally, like all acts of creation, there are outside influences. I struggle to choreograph if I’m too tired, sick or too bored of dancing. I need external inspiration and good friends, laughs, good health, time to appreciate other art or other people’s dancing are all very important.

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