Creating a dance is a little like cooking. You need ingredients to combine in order to have something to eat by supper time. Students have been working on technique since September, learning steps and combinations (the ingredients), and how to perform them with dynamics and style. Last week we really got rolling on creating dance pieces for the show, which involves taking those ingredients (steps and combinations) and combining them into a delicious dish (choreography).
Unlike baking, where the recipe is very clear about what goes into the cake and in what proportions, there are no set recipes for creating a dance piece. Depending on the theme of the piece and the music or soundscape chosen, a choreographer might choose to come up with movement and structure first, and then set it to music, or look to the music to guide their movement ideas.
In this show, many of the songs we use have a verse-chorus, verse-chorus, bridge, chorus structure. By mirroring the song structure for some of our choreography, it limits the amount of material a student has to learn and perfect for performance, and also provides emphasis through repetition, allowing the audience to take in more of the message of the dance piece. Another benefit is that students learn about music by experiencing the structure of the song through their movements.
Once I’ve found the music for a piece (a journey in itself!) I spend time with pen and paper, listening to the music on repeat and mapping out the shape of the music and adding choreographic ideas. In the studio, we’ll try those ideas out, and adjust, add and subtract where necessary.
In other situations, I’ll come into the studio with some movement ideas to try with students. This can be a slow process, full of trial and error, but there can be a richness to the movement that is developed through this more collaborative process.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been working with each class to craft their movement vocabulary (ingredients) into phrases associated with particular musical cues. The rough outline is starting to form for each piece, and students are getting an idea of what the overall feel of the dance will be. Once they understand the current material, we’ll mix it up to create a more complex and interesting piece. It’s a sometimes labourious, occasionally boring, and overall exciting process.