I’ve been dancing for a year now and I’m beginning to choreograph my own pieces. The biggest issue I’m facing at the moment is just the excruciatingly sluggish pace at which I am making progress. Hours seem to go by with only a handful of moves completed and by the time I finish one or two eight counts I’m already exhausted and my brain is fried.
I realize I have a long way to go and a lot to learn so I was wondering if you could offer any tips to make the choreographing process smoother and less stressful.
Dear New Choreographer,
That’s awesome that you’re starting to choreograph your own pieces! You may feel defeated after choreographing for hours with not much to show for it, BUT take it as a good sign! It shows that you care enough to put in the time and effort to really try to create something you’re proud of. However, don’t let your fear or insecurities take over to the point where it’s taking forever because you think everything you’ve come up with is ‘dumb’, ‘terrible’, etc.
Everyone has their own choreography process, but I’m going to share with you what’s helped me lately.
One of the things that’s really daunting about choreographing a piece is that you have to choreograph a WHOLE FRICKIN PIECE. There’s the old adage of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It’s obvious, but I think we tend to think that it’s typical to bang out an entire piece in one sitting. On top of that, we put the pressure on ourselves to create THE BEST CHOREOGRAPHY WE’VE EVER CREATED. Some people can do that, but I’ve found that it’s a lot less stressful if I break up the choreography into pieces (known as ‘chunking’) and just choreograph a little bit every day. For example, I’ll start with choreographing an 8 count on one day, then edit the parts I don’t like and add another 8 count the day after. Rinse and repeat until you have an entire piece!
Another thing that’s helped me in this process is to really limit myself to one 8 count maximum when I choreograph. When we’re in the research phase of listening to the song over and over again, we tend to skip around and have a rough idea of what we want to hit for certain parts of the song. We just don’t know what to do in between those parts. This is where chunking up the song and restricting yourself will come in handy. It allows me to focus on the present part of the song and helps the continuous flow of a piece. Also, it’s counter intuitive to stop when you’re on a streak, but it will motivate you and keep you excited to create more tomorrow. You might even think of new concepts and ideas you want to incorporate into your choreography after sleeping on it.
Another common tendency is to “get inspired” by watching a bunch of dance videos. If only it were that easy to watch a Keone video and be able to dance just like him. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be inspired! There’s value in being inspired with other videos, but don’t just use them as a reference. Remember, these online videos are only what choreographers and dancers decide to showcase. There are a LOT of pieces that I’ve learned that don’t make it to their accounts.
At the end of the day, time, diligence, and experience are the things that will truly help you become a better choreographer. It’s not an easy process, but there’s no quick fix or hack to getting there. All the best have spent YEARS perfecting their craft, but you’ll get there!
Hope that helps!
Do you have any additional tips that help you to choreograph pieces? Share them by commenting below!
Don’t feel dejected by the sluggish pace at which you are choreographing – it’s just helping you to develop grit – one of the valuable life skills we learn as dancers. Check out other life skills we learn as dancers here!