Curious about choreography? Get started with these simple methods and tips from New York City actor, dancer, and teaching artist Jasmine B…
Choreographing is an elusive art; sometimes we master it in moments, other times we can only sit in an empty studio with a pad of paper and our bodies in limbo. After learning how to choreograph a dance for myself, from some of the most innovative artists in the country, and witnessing some pretty phenomenal new pieces, I’ve noticed and starting practicing these pretty amazing, simple methods of creating movement and dance. I hope they’re helpful!
Find Music that Evokes Something in You
I find that music with a strong baseline OR no baseline at all really makes me want to move. Here are the different kinds of sound that friends of mine have used to much success when you’re working on how to choreograph a dance:
- man-made music (pop, jazz, r&b, electronic, world, soundtracks to movies, etc.)
- found sound (water dripping from a faucet, rumbling of a subway car, the rustle of leaves, etc.)
- nature (waves on a beach, seagulls, frogs, etc.)
- imagined sound (a pattern of sound you cant get out of your head)
Think of the Floor as Your Dance Partner
Use the floor beneath you the way you would use another person; the floor gives and takes. Use it to your advantage, not just as a place to land.
Breathe with Each Movement
Breathe in on a movement and out on another – let it come naturally. Also, try not to hold your breath; creativity flows through breath.
Try Different Points of Origin
All movement originates from the spine, so try to flow from spine through each of the outer limbs, including your neck and head. You can also try originating from the head, then maybe the chest, and other areas that aren’t as obvious, like the back of your left knee, an eyebrow, your ribcage, or the top of your head. Maybe even your chin!
Find A Personal Reason To Move
When I choose to move, choreograph, or just explore in a dance studio, more often than not I have a feeling that I need to express through movement. A lot of times I’m not sure how to articulate it through words. That’s ok. You don’t have to know exactly what you’re saying, but you’ll find out as soon as you begin to move. On the other hand, some dancers find that it’s incredibly helpful to be specific with the story they’re telling as they choreograph a dance, and some feel that it’s hindering to their creativity to put limitations on the interpretations of their mind-body relationship. Whatever works for you, use it.
Videotape Your Work
I do this so I don’t have to constantly try to remember what I did or did not do. If I find something I like, I have video proof and can remember it later. Let your body do the thinking, and give your practical brain a rest by using the video!
A good friend of mine gave me the idea of using dice as you’re choreographing. You use a set of dice, with one die representing different movements assigned to each number and the other die representing the order in which you do them. Try it out! It’s another way to get out of your head and in your body.
Need some extra motivation? Watch other dancers and choreographers to get ideas. Here’s a clip of me doing some choreographic work:
Merde, and happy choreographing!
Jasmine B. teaches speaking voice, stage performance, and acting in New York City. She’s studied acting from a young age, graduating from the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, and Wright State University’s Professional Actor Training Program. She currently serves as an educational outreach fellow for the Juilliard School. Learn more about Jasmine here!
Photo by Haags Uitburo