Tips for Choreographers

For most college students, it’s that time of the year when they go back for the spring semester. For me, that means it’s that time of the year where I have to get my creative juices flowing. That time of the year where I have to start thinking about all the pieces I am going to be choreographing this semester. Choreographing a new piece is a long, and most of the time, a stressful process. Alvin Ailey once said “choreography is mentally draining, but there’s a pleasure in getting into the studio with the dancers and the music”. When I choreograph, I always go through the same process, and maybe if you are trying to choreograph and get stuck then maybe this process will help you. Although there are plenty of times when I want to rip my hair out, at the end of the day seeing my piece on stage is the most rewarding thing. Here are some tips for you:
First things first, you need to get inspired. You can find inspiration in anything and everything. You can find inspiration in things happening in your life, the news, the weather, a daily chore. Literally anything can give you inspiration. Once you have that inspiration make sure you jot it down. Then I suggest you do some research on the subject. This can be as simply as gathering pictures about the topic or reading books about it. From this research you can get even more inspiration. Images you find can give you ideas for movement or shapes that you would like to incorporate into your piece. When I choreograph at school I am required to have an “inspiration box” which pretty much means I have to have a box and fill it with everything that has inspired me for my piece. This started out as something I was required to do for school, but now I do it every time I choreograph. It helps me to remain inspired and when I feel stuck and get choreographers block, the items I put inside my box help me to feel re-inspired. Being inspired and having inspiration is probably one of the most important things while choreographing.
The next step for me is picking a song I feel will best portray my story. I always choose to tell a story when I choreograph. I feel better connected to my dancers and to the movement as opposed to just placing movement on dancers. (Of course this isn’t always possible. When dancers are young sometimes the best thing to do is to just place movement on them while they are still learning.) Choosing the right song is probably one of the hardest things to do. You want to choose a song that compliments your movement. You don’t want the music to tell the story for you, you want the movement to do that. The music just enhances it. I must go through 50 songs before I choose the final song. I research a bunch of songs about the topic my piece is going to be about. You know that saying about soul mates, when you find the one you’ll just know? Well, that’s how choosing my songs are for me. Trust your gut, when you find the best song, you’ll know.
When I do finally choose that song, I listen to it over and over and over and over again. The reason behind this is because when I listen to songs I subconsciously choreograph in my head. While doing chores around the house I listen to the song and without realizing it the movement comes to me. I only realize it when after a week of listening to do song all the time, I’ll lay down put the song on and close my eyes. I’ll see the movement in my head and before I know it I’ll have some of my piece choreographed. What usually ends up happening is I’ll have pieces choreographed. Now, I’ll have to go back and fill in the gaps.
When you first get into the studio and have these dancers staring back at you. That might be a little intimidating. However, don’t let it. You’ll quickly realize these people are actually probably intimidated by you. The first thing I do with my dancers is shared to them what the piece is going to be about and show them the items that are inside my box. Then I’ll play my song for them and have them listen to it. Then I’ll have them do some improvisation as their characters. This allows me to see how my dancers move and it sometimes gives me inspiration.
Remember, choreographing is a process. It takes time and is long a stressful. Don’t get discouraged. Take this tips and make the best piece you can possibly make. You will feel so accomplished once you see your piece put onto a stage.