Are you new to choreography, or are you a choreographer looking for new ways to freshen up your choreography?
In this Countdown to Choreography we will explore the 6 following choreographic techniques to aid in the development, expansion and improvement of your choreography.
Let’s begin. Start with a short phrase of movement (1-2 counts of 8). For the purpose of this article I will use a shoulder roll back as the movement I will be modifying.
Got your choreography ready? Good! Let’s begin!
- Original Phrase: single shoulder roll back
Step 1. Repetition: Take one movement in your phrase and repeat the movement at least once. You may repeat a simple arm movement, step, or gesture, and you may choose to repeat it more than once.
- Shoulder Roll Phrase #1 w/repetition: single shoulder roll, double shoulder roll
As you add on a choreographic technique run through the phrase with the newest addition, keeping the original movement. Simply add the new movement to where you think it will fit best. For the most part I will be adding the new movement to the end of my original phrase.
Step 2. Size: Take another movement in your phrase and change the size in which it is performed (tiny, small, medium, large, gigantic). The size of each of these examples is up for interpretation so just play around until you decide which size you like best.
Shoulder Roll Example: I can make my shoulder roll larger by bringing my shoulder up to my ear, or make it smaller by trying to roll my shoulder in such a small circle that it is barely noticeable.
Once you have selected the size in which you want add the movement to your phrase.
Shoulder Roll Phrase #2 w/repetition and size: single shoulder roll, double shoulder roll, one extra large shoulder roll
Run through the updated phrase with the newest movements from Steps 1 and 2.
Step 3. Stillness: When creating choreography we often get wrapped up in making more movement, and often times stillness is the choreographic technique we most commonly overlook. Stillness can be used to emphasize an upcoming movement, to add suspense, or bring closure. Try adding a moment of stillness into your phrase at this point. Hold for any amount of time, and then continue on with the rest of your phrase.
Shoulder Roll Phrase #3 w/repetition, size, and stillness: single roll, double shoulder roll, one extra large shoulder roll, pause for 3 seconds, repeat phrase
Now you should have a phrase with repetition, size variation, and stillness. Perform your new phrase a few times to ensure that you have the order of your movements.
Step 4. Tempo: Like size, movements can be changed by simply playing with the tempo in which they are performed (slow, very slow, fast, very fast, moderate, etc…). By modifying the tempo you can easily change the look, emphasis, intensity, or intention of the movement.
Shoulder Roll Example: If I speed up the tempo it will look more like a twitch, hinting to a bit of uneasiness or impatience. However, if I slow it down it takes on a more leisurely feeling adding to a sense of comfort or time.
Now you try changing the tempo in which a movement in your phrase is performed, then put the whole phrase together with the changes you’ve made (repetition, size, stillness and tempo).
Shoulder Roll Phrase #4 w/ repetition, size, stillness, and tempo: single roll, double shoulder roll, one extra large shoulder roll, pause for 3 seconds, one quick shoulder roll
Step 5. Levels: By playing with various levels you can add depth to your choreography instantly. There are different planes in which movement can be performed (high, mid, or low range). The best choreography plays with a variety of levels because it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Right now your phrase may have movement in all three of these planes, so pick one movement and simply change the level in which it’s performed.
Shoulder Roll Example: So far I’ve been doing the shoulder roll in a standing position (high range). To add a level change I can stand in a deep 2nd position and perform it in plie (mid range), or I can take it down to the floor and perform the movement in a kneeling position (low range). You will notice in the modified phrase below that I have added the level change within the phrase itself in comparison to at the end.
Shoulder Roll Phrase #5 w/ repetition, size, stillness, tempo and levels: single roll, double shoulder roll in 2nd position plie, one extra large shoulder roll bringing my legs back in, pause for 3 seconds, one quick shoulder roll
Step 6. Transposition: The act of transposing is when you take one movement and perform it with another part of your body.
Shoulder Roll Example: I can take the backward shoulder roll and transpose it to a hip, elbow or head roll back. Transposing can be tricky so start off simple.
Shoulder Roll Phrase #6 w/ repetition, size, stillness, tempo, levels and transposition: single roll, double shoulder roll in 2nd position plie, one extra large shoulder roll bringing legs back in, pause for 3 seconds, one quick shoulder roll, right elbow roll back
The order in which I introduce these steps is not set in stone; you may experiment with these choreographic techniques in any order. You can also layer these techniques throughout your choreography, and although for the most part I added them at the end of the phrase, you may choose to add the new additions anywhere in your choreographic phrase. When you begin to set your choreography on dancers playing with these choreographic techniques becomes even more fascinating. Consider setting the original phrase on one group of dancers, while another group plays with the modifications you have made. Here you’ll truly see how much your choreography has developed.
Remember that developing choreography is all about experimenting, and not all movements will work with these techniques, so if you find that none of these work on a particular movement leave it alone. You’ll be surprised when 1-2 counts of 8 turns into 6-8 in a matter of an hour. So go ahead, be creative, be inventive and discover your inner rhythm!!
Share your thoughts. Tell us what choreographic techniques work for you!