So for years I created pretty much every choreography with a method I like to call “The Shotgun Approach”.
Basically I would go into my practice space, put on my chosen music and dance to it. Over and over and over. After a few dozen attempts, some ideas would stick. I would write them down. Then I would lather, rinse and repeat until I finished.
This honestly worked pretty well for me for several years.
And then it didn’t anymore.
I found my combination ideas repeating themselves time and again, new concepts and movements I’d learned weren’t being utilized and worst of all… I was totally bored.
So I took action.
Over the past 6 years I’ve totally redesigned the way I create choreographies, and while there are many elements involved in the complete process, here are the six ideas that have made the most impact.
1. Create a framework through music mapping (this one is HUGE)
I took an amazing workshop at 3rd Coast Tribal several years ago with the director of Anahata Belly Dance (an incredible Texas-based tribal dance troupe). She talked about the process that she uses to create her troupe’s choreographies and it REVOLUTIONIZED the way I approached my own. Through mapping my music starting first with the counts, I can divide up the piece into phrases and sections, better recognize repetition and variation and create a framework with which to create my choreography.
2. Invent a “storyline” to drive the movement
While belly dance doesn’t often use a formal “storyline” like some other dance forms, inventing one helps me to approach choreography creation from this standpoint. If I create a loose storyline – anything from perhaps a simple idea such as “unrequited love” to maybe a more specific “I’m unsure of where I stand, I seek and find hope in the world and emerge victorious” I can approach movement from a totally different angle, resulting in more creative choreographic choices.
3. It’s not about WHAT it’s about HOW
This idea is hugely powerful for me and for my students. Stop worrying about exactly WHAT movement you should do for a specific phrase and start looking and HOW you do it. I have news for you… there is no RIGHT or WRONG move. Stop for a second and think about it. Almost any movement you are drawn to can work provided that you use the music to inspire it.
4. Emotionally driven content
Along the lines of our storyline idea but slightly different. Try approaching your choreography through a series of 2-3 emotions. For example – sorrowful, comforted, hopeful – and see where this takes your movement. Allow yourself to use ANY KIND of movement in this exercise and don’t limit yourself to traditional belly dance moves. You may be surprised where this takes you.
5. Traveling vs. stationary moments
The first time I got on stage a soloist ever, it was with a live band at a Greek restaurant. I was subbing last-minute for my teacher, and had probably performed a total of three times in my entire life (doing a class choreography with an entire troupe). I thought I would be sick. She gave me just one piece of advice before I got out on stage. “Sometimes the music will encourage you to move around the stage and sometimes it will make you want to be still. Alternate between those two ideas.” Simple, but it worked and I use this ideas in my choreographies to this very day.
6. The shotgun approach (yes…it’s still there!)
I haven’t done away with my shotgun approach. In fact, after I map my choreography it’s often still the first method I use when starting to choreograph. By combining this with the ideas above and a few more choreographic techniques, I’ve been able to create pieces that keep me, my dancers and the audience engaged and excited.
So – do you choreograph? How do you go about creating your dances? I would love to hear what inspires your creativity!