Choreographing to Music or Without? Which is Better?

_MG_9957

Photo Provided by Dance Teacher Summit

As a Conference Manager of a Dance Teacher event, I am constantly looking at trends of other events, reading blogs/Facebook posts, and gathering one-on-one feedback that gives me insight on what dance teachers need to continue to improve their educational outlook.  One of the conversations that I keep seeing are requests on song suggestions.

It is an interesting concept to start with music before developing the choreography/movement phrasing.  Of course there are benefits to both creating with music and creating without. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons as well as what is really important in the choreographic process.

  1. Story line – If you have a theme for your recital or performances, having dedicated songs that have the story line built in could help in the creative process of setting the scene for your audience.  If you do not have a set theme, it could pigeon hole you to choreograph to the words of the music instead of developing unique and cohesive phrasing that fits with what your dancers are capable of doing.
  2. Phrasing – One of the greatest things I loved about going to college for dance was my composition classes.  In class, we developed our own choreography as well as learned how to develop work that could expand into more than just a small movement phrase or even longer than a 2-3 minute piece.  We learned about inversions, speed changes, repetition…etc.  Each step/phrasing doesn’t need to be different or a trick or connected to a word.  It needs to be intertwined to what already has been created.  Ask yourself what are your building blocks in the choreography?  This will help you to develop the work without music.
  3. Emotion – What is the emotional connection?   Music has the power to invoke feeling, but the real question is can the choreography stand on it’s own, or is every piece of emotion in the music?  When you are choreographing a piece, record and watch it in silence.  You will be surprised to see what affect a piece of music can do to your phrasing.  A song can help blossom your work to a new level, or it can carry your piece and be the only thing the audience remembers. Remember this!
  4. Dancer Connection/Artistry – Coaching and directing is an important part of teaching choreography to your dancers.  It is vital that they feel connected to the piece.  As discussed previously, music can draw emotions out of people.  A song can help dancers relate, remind them of a personal experience, or inspire them.  Can your choreography do that?  Have you explained the meaning of the piece to your dancers?  Have a discussion about this.  If you have choreographed to specific music, the music can be a guide for the dancers.  If you are just working with phrasing, explain the story to them.  Ask them how they can connect.  This in turn will drive a personal connection to the piece for your dancers and help them to invest in your vision.

Music verse no music?  At the end of the day it can be either.  It just depends on your approach.  How you choreograph as an individual.  It is about the four items above – story line, phrasing, emotion, and artistry.  Connecting your dancers is vital to the process.  Every movement, piece of music, facial expression, and dancer should be invested in the best interest of the performance of the work.

Open Letter to Mills College President

Dear Mills College President,

It is with great sadness that I have come to hear about Mills College fading out their undergraduate dance program.  I’m not writing this letter to yell, or cause a riot, but to make you consider a world where every major dance university decided to cut their dance programs to make their college “more contemporary and competitive.”  As a past college student at College at Brockport in upstate New York, the importance of a liberal arts college that encompasses a dance curriculum of technique, composition, and critical engagement is a rarity. Many programs focus on technique, style, and performance as they are more conservatory based, and push their students in the direction of becoming a performer.

College at Brockport taught me to have a passion in my choreography, to critically evaluate and analyze my performances, and to be able to utilize theory based arguments in my writing.  So, I have three questions for you.  One, are you going to deprive the next generation the option to receive this kind of education from your distinguished dance professors?  Two, are you ready to explain your decision of fading out the dance program to generations that you have deprived of the next Trisha Brown, Molissa Fenley, or Nora Chipaumire?  And three, how do you expect to continue to grow your graduate program if there is no undergraduate program to inspire, collaborate, and drive one another?

We need to change education.  To bring back the importance of the arts.  Dance is in numerous basic subjects that are studied such as anatomy, math, and english.  The impact dance has on individuals is more than just a class at a college, but prepares students to understand collaboration, creativity, and focus.  I urge you to reconsider your decision and think about your children, grandchildren, and other young people who are important in your life.  Would you deprive them of such a dance college program that has been around since 1938?  Remember that our lives are full of choices, our actions affect more than just ourselves, and dance is the closest thing we have to magic.

Sincerely,
Chantel

Sign the petition today here – https://www.change.org/p/mills-college-save-mills-dance-major

image image