This is the final article of a series about choreographing tips. I focus on some practical as well as tactical suggestions on how to improve your creative process.
Share your work-in-progress and explore the advantages of having a third-person perspective. It can be your teacher, dance colleague, or a friend. You may even consider getting a private class in person or via Skype with some dancer you admire, in order to hear their feedback and suggestions about your choreo. Be open and ready for what they may tell you. I would even say, be willing to hear the critique. In this situation, you are not looking for someone to praise your choreographic skills, but to indicate what can be improved. Give them full permission to be honest and straightforward because at the end it will benefit YOU. The preparation process is a safe time to be vulnerable and face your own weak points. It means that later you’ll be more prepared to the main presentation of your dance. Also, always remember that the final decision is in any case up to you. You don’t need to blindly follow whatever your mentor suggests. At the same time, the opportunity to hear the other person’s opinion can give you huge advantages because they are treating your dance creation from the audience’s point of view, and may see things that you as a creator don't notice.
Practice the way you are planning to perform.
If you are planning to perform your choreography with loose hair (which we do in 90% of belly dance shows), choreograph it with your hair down right away. Later, during your practice sessions, you can put it up in a comfy pony tale, but here are are some reasons why you should start with your hair loose.
First, you won't limit your movement vocabulary. If your hair is fixed, and you don't feel its natural flow, most likely you'll cut off all potential hair moves, though it may be good if that's your conscious intention. I do so sometimes on purpose - or at least try - knowing my love to certain hair accents, lol, but otherwise I don't see reasons why limit yourself?... Hair is a part of your body, the same way your arms or legs are. Use it wisely and to your benefit!
Second… have you ever seen a dancer fighting her own hair during a performance? Or simply letting it be messed up all over her face for almost the entire duration of the show? This is a common issue for less experienced dancers who don’t understand the value of rehearsing with a loose hair, as well as not building in some “recovery” moments that can help you to manage your hair battle gracefully and without distracting the integrity of your dance. For instance, if during your choreographing process you notice that a specific movement or a combination always causes your hair to finish all over the place, maybe you can think about following up with a movement that would help you take it away from your face. This way, it's already build in your actual choreography, and you don't need to worry about it afterwards. In fact, this can be applied not only to hair, but any unusual or tricky elements of your dance, like short or open skirt, super silky veil, long sleeve on one side, etc.
Think about your costume in advance.
Of course, we often don’t limit our artistic souls to performing a specific dance in just one costume again and again, but you should remember that dancing in a narrow skirt is completely different from a wide one, with entirely separate set of possibilities and limitations. Sometimes, depending on the complexity of my idea, I will work even on my very first draft already wearing a costume, or at least a skirt. I prefer to check if my dress will let me do what I actual intend to. Costumes also can be a great inspiration for your choreographies, because you can see how to incorporate it into the dance to your best benefit.
Most impressive parts of your dance.
Although every moment of your dance is important, there are some parts that will influence your audience’s experience the most: the beginning and the end of your dance.
Beginning is your introduction, opportunity to create a positive first impression, and either capture or lose people’s attention. It’s the moment when the audience is intrigued by the novelty of a new dancer on stage, but also where they unconsciously decide if they are gonna pay attention to the rest of your dance, or if it's just not very interesting.
The ending, or final part of the dance, is their last impression, the part that they most likely will carry home with them. I’m not talking necessarily about the visual aspect of it, but rather an emotional one. Even if you had some kick-ass moments in the beginning of your dance, but the rest of your presentation was monotonous and low in energy, it doesn’t matter what you did before. People won’t have that wow feeling after you leave the stage. The beginning of a dance sets the tone and expectations, but you need to develop your dance progressively, building up the excitement, and leave your audience craving more even after show is finished.
Repeat the choreography as many times as possible.
Once you are comfortable with a general sequence, and don’t need to focus too much on what’s next, then you can dive into the details. You’ll notice that with each run you’ll discover something new, and will want to add small things into your basic structure. Maybe you’ll spontaneously do a turn of your head, or place your arm in a specific way, or hear an extra drum accent that you didn’t notice before... Practice time is when you embellish your dance with those juicy details that highlight your unique artistic voice, and transforms any movement sequence into a live dance creature with its own character. ☺
Hope you’ve enjoyed these suggestions for your choreography process! Let me know which tip was your favorite, or which one you’ve found the most useful.
If you enjoyed this blog post, don't forget to like and share :)