Choreography – More than just a series of steps

There’s a process to learning choreography. When I’m working on something new I almost always begin with the footwork.  Without the feet – knowing where my weight is and how I am stepping – almost nothing else can fall into place.

After I understand where my feet are taking me I can begin to add in isolations and movement – hips lifts, undulations, chest circles, etc – all the real nitty gritty of the dance. This step is also where I have traditionally spent the most time both inside the classroom and in my practice at home.

After the movements or sometimes in conjunction with them I typically nail down arm paths and framing.

It would seem that once we make it to this point it would be a process of “later, rinse and repeat” until we know the dance like the back of our hand, right?

I would argue that right here is where the most important work begins.

Not until I have those movements in my muscle memory can I begin to add LIFE to the choreography.  It is at this point that I can begin to think about emotion, breath, texture and theatricality – the elements of the dance that make it really juicy.

Unfortunately I find that right before this critical moment is where many classes and workshops end.

To be fair, most choreography workshops just can’t incorporate the hours of time we would need to get really comfortable with the movements in order to add in this more esoteric emotive work.  And I find that sometimes even in weekly classes we are often trying to work through our movement mistakes long into the process so adding the
finesse gets left to the side.

Think back to the last choreography you learned and tell me – how far did you take it? Is it a series of movements that you know very well and can do in the correct order?  Or is it something more? Have you infused it with an emotional journey that you can take each time you perform?


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