Tips for Choreography

Bellycise Dance Troupe performing at a charity show.

I have been writing choreography and performing for over 15 years. It definitely gets easier with practice. The best bit of writing a solo is the sense of freedom and being able to express your personality. Duets are lovely when you are attuned and well-matched, and group dances are the best for that feeling of team work and sisterhood.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started on writing that solo, duet or group dance.

Music

  1. Try choosing something that you love and have to dance to as soon as you hear it – ideas should then flow naturally.
  2. Find a piece which your audience can enjoy listening to as well – nothing too obscure or repetitive. Powerful pieces that raise goose pimples or catchy pop tunes which are upbeat are always good choices.
  3. For your first piece, it might be a good idea to choose a shorter track to get started on: no more than 3 or 4 minutes. Also a pop tune is much easier to write for than a complex percussion number.

Getting Started

  1. Before you start writing anything down, listen to the entire track and both visualise moves and experiment in a lighthearted way – certain bits will stand out, that you instinctively create moves for, and mess around with trickier bits. It will really help get it started.
  2. As you start nailing bits of choreography, write a note of the time code ( ie, 1’15 Chorus) so that you don’t have to constantly go back to the beginning.
  3. If you can, set time aside when you will have no interruptions (including notifications from your phone!) as once the creative flow begins it can be really frustrating to have your thought process broken.
  4. Try not to get worried or frustrated that you just cant seem to choreograph. Ignore the tricky bits and just write for the sections that come more easily. Its amazing how often things slot into place when you next work on it.

5. There is nothing wrong about copying great ideas from other dancers. If you are stuck for ideas, browse free material like youtube for inspiration. Once you start dancing it, you make it your own.

6. Watching yourself. I personally like to rough through the choreography first, dancing through instinct, then when I feel I’ve got some moves down its nice to polish them by looking in a mirror or watching back a recording. Im surprised how often a ‘boring’ move looks actually quite impressive, or how unimaginative my arm positions are.

7. Its good to ‘perform’ to the mirror or recording device so that you are accustomed to smiling naturally at the same time as dancing the routine. So often people think they are smiling when actually their faces are serious with concentration.

8. Don’t think you have to include a massive variety of moves in your routine. If the moves go well with the music and you are able to perform them well, then that will make a much more enjoyable performance for you and your audience, than if it is difficult and contrived.

9. Try to include plenty of travelling moves. The audience like a good look at you, it makes the dance more dynamic and can be adapted to the performing space. If you have a limited space, then use travelling moves with tiny steps and travel round on the spot more. If you have a larger space then go for it! Include some showy turns if you can.

10. I personally like to use the ‘travelling’ bits as a bit of improvisation, so that you can easily adapt according to the venue space available. It also looks more natural. Its nice to really smile and make eye contact with your audience when you travel. I call it the ‘meet and greet’.

Writing with others

Quite a tricky one! Firstly its hard to find the opportunity to work on it all together and secondly there is often a conflict of ideas. What I recommend:

For duets. When the music has been chosen, divide it into sections. Perhaps open the dance together then take turns to peform certain sections as solos, giving each other the opportunity to use their own style and taste, and unite for other sections. Duets are also a great opportunity to experiment with mirror moves or contrasts.

For group dances. Best to nominate one or two people with the most experience and skill to co ordinate and finalize moves, but with a democratic imput from others; its important that the moves are accesible to all participants so that everyone can perform well, rather than a few look good. Again its nice to divide the music into sections and have different people work on their own little solos/duets. Groups can also experiment with formations or have different choreographies being performed simulataneously before reuniting in a group choreography.

Good Luck!